An investigative report released Wednesday by international environmental group Stand.earth details "fundamental problems" with Canada's Trans Mountain oil pipeline, outlines the long history of delays for its planned expansion, and highlights the anticipated social and ecological impacts at seven of the "most troubling hot spots."
"Canadians taxpayers... deserve to know the realities of these dangerous construction hot spots that could push the cost of this project even higher."
—Tzeporah Berman, Stand.earth
The report, Trans Mountain Pipeline: The Truth About Construction (pdf), is based on thousands of documents and interviews with experts and local residents tracking a proposed expansion. Along with warning of the project's expected consequences for local communities and ecosystems, the report calls into question the government's three-year construction timeline.
Under the leadership of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau—who is facing a tough general election next month—the Canadian federal government infuriated residents along the route, Indigenous groups, and environmentalists last year when it purchased the existing Trans Mountain pipeline and expansion project from Texas-based Kinder Morgan, after the company faced a series of delays.
"As detailed in Stand.earth's new investigative report, this project continues to face several permitting delays," Sven Biggs, climate and energy campaigner with the environmental group, said Wednesday. "This project is dangerously close to becoming financially unviable according to the Parliamentary Budget Office's own projections. It's time for the federal government to pull the plug."
BREAKING: New @standearth report reveals the #TransMountainPipeline faces bigger construction challenges than Canadian federal government admits, calling into question the 3-year timeline for the project. Read the report https://t.co/KDkpt69BmN
— Stand.earth (@standearth) September 11, 2019
In July, Canada's National Energy Board (NEB)—which was replaced with the Canadian Energy Regulator (CER) in late August—revoked all previous route approvals for the Trans Mountain pipeline and ordered a new hearing process for the entire route. No segment of the project currently has the full approval required.
"In addition to the outstanding NEB conditions, the project needs 1,187 permits from the Province of [British Columbia]," the report says. "As of June 2019, the province was still reviewing 658 of these permits and a further 243 have not even been applied for yet."
There are also ongoing appeals filed by six First Nations challenging the government's approval of the project as well as unresolved objections from the Coldwater First Nation and the City of Chilliwack in British Columbia, which have raised concerns about how the pipeline could endanger drinking water.
Last month, Trans Mountain CEO and president Ian Anderson announced that the project wouldn't be completed until mid-2022—which, the report notes, "is a six-month delay from the previous timeline released by the federal government."
Stand.earth livestreamed a press conference Wednesday featuring medical experts, Indigenous peoples, and local residents who shared their worries about the project. Watch:
Stand.earth's international program director Tzeporah Berman said Wednesday that "although this pipeline is now owned by the government, there remains an air of secrecy and lack of transparency about the dangerous risks at several construction hot spots along the route.
"Canadians taxpayers—who are the ones paying for this multi-billion dollar pipeline—have a right to know the impacts that construction will have on communities and the environment," Berman said. "They deserve to know the realities of these dangerous construction hot spots that could push the cost of this project even higher."
"We have a right to say no to these resource extraction projects which are a threat to Indigenous women. We do not consent to Trans Mountain building pipelines or man camps on our unceded territory."
—Beverly Manuel, Tiny House Warriors
"These construction risks include drilling under the Fraser River and through Burnaby Mountain, and the expansion of infrastructure at tank farms in Burnaby and Abbotsford," Berman noted, listing some of the hot spots. The report also spotlights concerns about the risks of the pipeline crossing the Coquihalla River at five different locations.
Another hot spot, the Westride Tanker Terminal at the Burrard Inlet, would see a seven-fold increase in oil tanker traffic under the proposed expansion. Residents are worried not only that the tankers would make the area unsafe for recreational use but also that a vessel carrying oil could collide with nearby bridges, leading to a spill. Citing a pair of local researchers, the report warns that if the expansion project goes through, there is a 79-87 percent chance of a spill in the next 50 years.
The final concern the report points to is the establishment of temporary work camps, or "man camps," in at least five communities in British Columbia during the pipeline construction. "Historically, these man camps have been strongly correlated with dramatic increases in rates of sexual violence towards women in the communities surrounding the camp," the report says, noting that this is especially true for Indigenous females.
As Common Dreams reported in June, the Canadian government concluded with a National Inquiry that violence against First Nations, Inuit, and Métis women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA (Two-Spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, and asexual) people "amounts to a race-based genocide of Indigenous Peoples."
"We have a right to say no to these resource extraction projects which are a threat to Indigenous women. We do not consent to Trans Mountain building pipelines or man camps on our unceded territory where we hold title," Beverly Manuel of the Tiny House Warriors said Wednesday. "We have six tiny houses built and ready to launch. Five are already blockading Trans Mountain's man camp in Blue River."