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      National Energy Board Ratifies Kinder Morgan Pipeline:
      Why is this a set back for working people & the environment in Canada?

      By Thomas Davies

      It was an announcement that didn't surprise anyone – the National Energy Bureau (NEB) released a decision “conditionally” recommending the federal government approve Kinder- Morgan's 6.8 billion dollar Trans Mountain pipeline project. If built, the pipeline would “twin” an already existing pipeline to move heavy tar sands oil from Edmonton to Burnaby for export. Indigenous, environmental and community organizations, many of whom were shut out of the NEB process, have vowed to continue organizing to ensure the dangerous pipeline is not built.

      Environmental Concerns Cannot Be Taken Lightly

      More than 20 municipalities and 17 First Nations along the proposed expansion’s route are in strong opposition to the project, and the majority of the 400 interveners and 1,250 commentators who participated in the NEB hearings for the Trans Mountain expansion argued against it.

      If built, the pipeline would triple the amount of oil being moved on the route to 890,000 barrels a day. This oil would cross approximately 900 watercourses between Edmonton and Burnaby. The pipeline would increase oil tanker traffic in the Burrard Inlet from 60 to more than 400 a year. These tankers would all have to navigate several narrow passages, three bridges, heavy boat traffic and strong currents before reaching more open waters.

      Kinder Morgan is a Texas-based oil company doesn’t exactly have a stellar environmental record. According to a report by environmental advocacy group STAND, Kinder-Morgan has been responsible for least 1,800 oil and chemical spill violations since its incorporation in 1997. The more than $2 million they have had to pay in international fines is certainly calculated as part of the “cost of doing business”.

      Beyond that, Oil Change International modelled the North American pipeline and refinery system, and found that even without oil spills the Trans Mountain expansion would release as much as 163 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions per year. That’s the equivalent of putting 34 million new cars on the road or operating 42 coal plants.

      All this risk and damage for less than 100 predicted permanent jobs, and less than one percent of profits returned from corporate taxes? Just like the export of raw logs which devastated the industry, the heavy oil in the Trans Mountain pipeline would be primarily unrefined as well.

      Is the NEB Really “Independent”?

      While the NEB bills itself as an independent economic regulatory agency created to oversee “international and inter-provincial aspects of the oil, gas and electric utility industries” its many scandals have left many thinking otherwise.

      - During the NEB review of the Trans Mountain pipeline it refused to consider a report from the National Academy of Sciences that found diluted bitumen sinks in water. It also refused to consider the effects of burning the heavy crude blend, which would account for 90 per cent of the project’s global climate impact.

      - Economist Robyn Allan quit the NEB hearings and wrote a scathing open letter stating, “the NEB has designed the scope of its review so narrowly, restricted participation so profoundly, and removed essential features of quasi-judicial inquiry—such as cross-examination— so completely, that it pre-determines an outcome that favours Kinder Morgan and puts the rest of us at risk.”

      - Recently the NEB also conditionally approved Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline despite the nearly unanimous opposition of all presenters at the Board’s hearings. 1,159 of 1,179 submissions were opposed to the pipeline, including almost every expert witness.

      - The “independent” NEB was forced to postpone the Kinder Morgan hearings when it was revealed that the Conservative government had appointed Steven Kelly, a consultant who actually worked for Kinder Morgan on the Trans Mountain pipeline file, to a seven year position on the NEB Board.

      - This January the annual report from federal environment commissioner Julie Gelfand “concluded that the board did not adequately track companies’ implementation of pipeline approval conditions and that it was not consistently following up on company deficiencies.” The audit checked 49 cases and found 24 in which key documentation was missing, inaccurate or lacked an analysis or conclusion about whether conditions had been met.

      Indigenous Self-Determination

      It is worth repeating that British Columbia is almost entirely unseeded indigenous land, with no agreements between the government and indigenous nations allowing their territories to be used for resource extraction or transportation. The Federal Liberal government has also recently promised to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.

      Article 32 of the UN Declaration reads: “States shall consult and cooperate in good faith with the indigenous peoples concerned through their own representative institutions in order to obtain their free and informed consent prior to the approval of any project affecting their lands or territories and other resources, particularly in connection with the development, utilization or exploitation of mineral, water or other resources.”

      Indigenous and Northern Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett has been avoiding addressing directly whether this would give veto power to indigenous nations regarding projects like the Trans Mountain pipeline, but there is no way they are going to be able to present federal government approval of the pipeline in the face of opposition from 17 First Nations in Canada (as well as 4 just across the border in the United States) as “free and informed consent”.

      The Tseil-Waututh nation has also already released its own report assessing the risks and damages of the Trans Mountain pipeline as part of its rejection of the pipeline being built on its territory.

      The Bottom Line

      Justin Trudeau has made the situation more complicated by announcing a second “parallel” panel of 3 people to gather information from the public and indigenous communities on the Kinder Morgan proposal. The Liberals says it’s part of an effort to restore public trust in the review process, which was undermined under the previous Conservative government.

      The government can commission all the new reviews it wants, but it won’t change the clear opposition of the indigenous nations whose land the pipeline would have to be built on.

      It also won’t change the clear scientific fact that the building of any new pipeline to transport tar sands oil will make it impossible to meet the climate change emissions targets the Canadian government has already committed itself to. Climate change targets that many scientists say were not sufficient to begin with.

      The opposition to the Trans Mountain pipeline isn’t just rooted in valid local concerns about the risks involved in its construction and operation, but in the larger questions of indigenous self- determination and the very real threat of climate change to our existence on this planet. The NEB is purposely out of touch with these realities and once again the Liberal government is promising to please everyone at once.

      As Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs said recently at community forum addressing the Trans Mountain pipeline, “This is not the time to be eloquent, or nice, or polite. This is the fight of our lifetime. It’s the fight of a generation. We have to be loud and proud. There have to be 10 times the number of people in the streets.” We agree. This is the time to come together to educate, organize and mobilize against Kinder-Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline.

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