Washington

Lummi Nation, Washington Gov. Inslee join protest of Canadian oil pipeline approval

Canada has agreed to buy an oil pipeline that many fear threatens resident orcas

The Canadian federal government has agreed to buy Trans Mountain Pipeline from Kinder Morgan and expand it from Alberta to the B.C. coast. The expansion could pose serious risks for the critically endangered southern-resident killer whale population.
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The Canadian federal government has agreed to buy Trans Mountain Pipeline from Kinder Morgan and expand it from Alberta to the B.C. coast. The expansion could pose serious risks for the critically endangered southern-resident killer whale population.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has once again approved the contentious Trans Mountain pipeline expansion that would nearly triple the flow of oil from the Alberta oil sands to the Pacific Coast.

The approval Tuesday comes 10 months after the Federal Court of Appeal halted the project and ordered Canada’s National Energy Board to redo its review of the pipeline, saying the original study was flawed and lacked adequate consultations with First Nations peoples.

Trudeau’s government first approved it in 2016 and he was so determined to see it built the government bought the pipeline.

The pipeline expansion would triple the capacity of an existing line to ship oil extracted from the oil sands in Alberta across the snow-capped peaks of the Canadian Rockies. It would end at a terminal outside Vancouver, B.C., resulting in a seven-fold increase in the number of tankers in the shared waters between Canada and Washington state, the Salish Sea.

It is projected to lead to a tanker traffic balloon from about 60 to more than 400 vessels annually as the pipeline flow increases from 300,000 to 890,000 barrels per day.

The decision is a blow for indigenous leaders and environmentalists, who have pledged to do whatever necessary to thwart the pipeline, including chaining themselves to construction equipment.

Many organizations, as well as the Lummi Nation, expressed disappointment in the decision, saying it would hurt the marine wildlife, including the orca whales.

“Our hearts are heavy. Canada wants to proceed with a project that would hurt our salmon, our ihol mechen (the orcas), our schelangen (way of life) and our people,” said Lummi Nation Secretary Lawrence Solomon. “But our will is strong and we will stand with other Coast Salish Nations to protect our homeland.”

Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee is an opponent of the project.

“The Canadian government’s decision today to approve the Trans Mount Pipeline expansion is alarming and deeply disappointing,” Inslee said in a news release. “The costs to our environment and communities is simply too high.”

Stand.earth, an environmental organization that has an office in Bellingham, said in a news release the decision is inconsistent with the Canadian government’s declaration of a climate emergency and will like lead to more legal challenges and protests.

Canadian officials expect construction to start this year, but it faces stiff environmental opposition from the British Columbia government and from activists.

“The company plans to have shovels in the ground this construction season,” Trudeau said.

The pipeline would allow Canada to diversify oil markets and vastly increase exports to Asia, where it could command a higher price. Canada has the world’s third-largest oil reserves, but 99% of its exports now go to refiners in the U.S., where limits on pipeline and refinery capacity mean Canadian oil sells at a discount.

“It’s really simple. Right now, we basically have one customer for our energy resources, the United States. As we’ve seen over the past few years anything can happen with our neighbors to the south,” Trudeau said.

Trudeau said every dollar Canada earns from the project will be invested in clean energy.

Many indigenous people see the 620 miles of new pipeline as a threat to their lands, echoing concerns raised by Native Americans about the Keystone XL project in the U.S. Many in Canada say it also raises broader environmental concerns by enabling increased development of the carbon-heavy oil sands.

New Alberta conservative Premier Jason Kenney said his government appreciates the second federal cabinet approval of the project.

“We need to get a fair price for our country’s energy to create good jobs & pay for public services,” Kenney tweeted. “Approval is not construction. So now let’s get it built!”

Analysts have said China is eager to get access to Canada’s oil, but largely gave up hope that a pipeline to the Pacific Coast would be built.

Dave Gallagher has covered the Whatcom County business community since 1998. Retail, real estate, jobs and port redevelopment are among the topics he covers.
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