Indigenous tribes and green campaigners were angered but not surprised Friday when Canada's National Energy Board (NEB) recommended that the government move ahead with its planned expansion of the Trans Mountain Pipeline—despite acknowledging that the project will negatively affect the environment.
The decision paved the way for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's administration to increase fossil fuel emissions, endanger wildlife, and threaten the lives and livelihoods of the eight million people who live in the pipeline's path.
The NEB argued that the pipeline is in the public interest and provided the government with a list of 16 conditions that it must meet as it prepares to expand the 1,150 kilometer (714 mile) pipeline, tripling the amount of oil the tar sands pipeline will carry from Edmonton, Alberta to Burnaby, British Columbia—but critics including Burnaby mayor Mike Hurley argued that the NEB has no intention of protecting the environment or wildlife by enforcing strict regulations on the construction.
"This is the problem with drinking the Kool-Aid served by politicians who are masters of progressive symbolism but evade substance. Once in power, they can be counted on to do substantive harm." —Naomi Klein
The conditions will not "prevent significant public safety risks and harms to marine life and other environmental impacts," Hurley told the Vancouver Sun.
The board noted that the Trans Mountain pipeline is likely to have a significant negative impact on the Southern resident orca, whose population in the Salish Sea off the coast of British Columbia is rapidly dwindling; on the Indigenous population in the area, especially in the event of an oil spill; and on the environment, with fossil fuel emissions rising as cargo ships carry the oil after it travels from Edmonton.
Outcry from First Nations and campaigners ensued when the NEB initially approved the project in 2016, and opponents rejoiced last summer when the Federal Court of Appeals temporarily blocked construction. The court argued that Trudeau's administration and Kinder Morgan, which sold the pipeline to the government for $4.5 billion last year, had not sufficiently considered its effects on Southern orcas and indigenous tribes.
But Friday's approval—which came after what one campaigner called a rushed process with a "compressed hearing schedule" that allowed for little input from the public—was not unexpected among critics.
"This entire process is a joke," Peter McCartney of the Wilderness Committee told the Sun. "I don't think anybody's surprised to see the NEB green lighting this pipeline—it's what they were designed to do."
Kwikwasut'inuxw Haxwa'mis Chief Bob Chamberlin, vice-president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, said Trudeau has indicated his government will stop at nothing to complete the project.
"The troubling part for me and First Nations concerned about their water and their territories is the fact that Trudeau has stated this pipeline will be built, full stop. It makes an absolute mockery of the consultation process that was court ordered and has been accomplished today," Chamberlin told the Sun.
In a press conference, Grand Chief Stewart Philip also said indigenous tribes will not relent in their "deeply entrenched opposition" to the pipeline, which will threaten food sources of the 29 tribes that live in the path of the proposed route.
"We are proud British Columbians and we have a duty to protect what we've all been blessed with in British Columbia in regard to the pristine beauty of the environment," Philip said. "We will rise to the challenge."
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, Union of BC Indian Chiefs pres., is asked if there will be lawsuit re: #TransMountain: "In the aftermath of today's so-called decision, we will be... deciding where we go from here", nothing has changed w/ "our deeply entrenched opposition." #cdnpoli pic.twitter.com/fFksScw5w7
— CPAC (@CPAC_TV) February 22, 2019
"I understand in British Columbia, this pipeline will provide a way of having an income," said Noel Purser of the Suquamish Tribe, which joined four other Northwest U.S. tribes in challenging the project in 2013. "But is it worth the potential of a spill, that risk? Is it really worth that? Because that will impact everybody, not just here in British Columbia. It will impact us in Suquamish; it will impact our relatives in Alaska."
"Once again, Canada's NEB has sided with short-term Big Oil profits instead of the long-term health of the Pacific Northwest's people, climate and orcas," said Marcie Keever of Friends of the Earth. "Shame on Prime Minister Trudeau, his government, and the National Energy Board of Canada for ignoring widespread opposition and serious concerns in favor of this destructive pipeline. Canada's decision will likely bring about the extinction of the Northwest's iconic killer whales and drive us further towards the brink of climate chaos."
Author Naomi Klein argued that the Trans Mountain pipeline project should offer a lesson to voters who have been convinced by politicians who exude "progressive symbolism" while campaigning "but evade substance" when asked how they will initiate a bold, ambitious agenda to protect the planet and human rights.
This is the problem with drinking the Kool-Aid served by politicians who are masters of progressive symbolism but evade substance. Once in power, they can be counted on to do substantive harm. On climate (and much else) we do not have even 1 more year to waste on these imposters. https://t.co/7mDUnhoKCa
— Naomi Klein (@NaomiAKlein) February 22, 2019