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'This Is Why We Continue to Fight': Indigenous Leaders Outraged as Trans Mountain Pipeline Spills 50,000 Gallons of Crude Oil

"We cannot continue to have our land desecrated by oil spills."

An estimated 50,000 gallons of crude oil leaked from the Trans Mountain pipeline at the Sumas Pump Station in Abbotsford, British Columbia on June 13, 2020 (Photo: Trans Mountain Corporation)

Indigenous leaders are demanding that the Canadian government immediately halt the ongoing expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline after the leakage of an estimated 50,000 gallons of crude oil at a pump station in British Columbia on Saturday—a spill that once again confirmed warnings of the fossil fuel project's grave threat to the environment.

"The Trans Mountain pipeline has already spilled more than 80 times since it began operating. This is why we continue to fight the Trans Mountain Expansion in the courts."
—Chief Leah George-Wilson, Tsleil-Waututh Nation

Chief Dalton Silver of Sumas First Nation said in a statement (pdf) Sunday that "we cannot continue to have our land desecrated by oil spills."

"The proposed Trans Mountain expansion route would see an additional pipeline crossing one of our sacred sites, Lightning Rock, at two spots," said Silver. "We will do absolutely everything we can to prevent this from happening—an oil spill at Lighting Rock would be horrific for our people."

Leah George-Wilson, chief of Tsleil-Waututh Nation, said spills from the Trans Mountain pipeline—which the Canadian government purchased from Kinder Morgan in 2018 despite widespread opposition—are "inevitable, can't be fully cleaned up, and have devastating effects."

"This most recent spill is another reminder that the risk is too great to accept," said George-Wilson. "The Trans Mountain pipeline has already spilled more than 80 times since it began operating. This is why we continue to fight the Trans Mountain Expansion in the courts."

The oil spill was first detected in the early hours of Saturday morning. Trans Mountain Corporation, a subsidiary of the Canada Development Investment Corporation, claimed in a statement late Sunday that the spill at the Sumas Pump Station in Abbotsford, British Columbia has been fully contained and does not pose a threat to "the public or community."

The pipeline, which transports around 300,000 barrels of crude oil per day from Alberta to Vancouver, was restarted Sunday after it was shut off for just over 24 hours following the spill.

In a joint statement (pdf), the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) said the June 13 spill "occurred just south of the Lightning Rock site—a cultural site and burial grounds of great significance to the Sema:th First Nation and Stό:lō Coast Salish Peoples."

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of UBCIC, called on Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to stop "investing in old technology for a fossil fuel product that is toxic to our environment."

"The broken and aging Trans Mountain pipeline is a potent symbol of economic uncertainty at a time when Canadians are desperate for recovery from Covid-19," said Phillip. "This is a pivotal moment demanding strong leadership that understands the need for a drastic shift to clean energy development."

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