Trans Mountain Pipeline

Climate activists use a mock oil pipeline to block the entrance to the Canadian Embassy on April 18, 2018 to protest the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion.

(Photo: Tolga Akmen/AFP via Getty Images)

'Economic Crime': Cost of Canada's Trans Mountain Pipeline Soars by Billions, Again

"Everybody warned Prime Minister Justin Trudeau if he bought this white elephant pipeline it would turn into a financial and political boondoggle," said one climate campaigner.

Climate, environmental, and Indigenous advocates in recent days condemned the skyrocketing cost of expanding the Canadian government-owned Trans Mountain oil pipeline, which is now expected to carry a CA$30.9 billion price tag—44% higher than last year's estimate and nearly a six-fold increase from the original appraisal.

Trans Mountain Corporation said Friday that the project—which will add more than 600 miles of new pipeline and will nearly triple existing capacity from 300,000 to 890,000 barrels per day—is currently close to 80% finished and should be completed by the end of the year. The company blamed the project's soaring cost on numerous factors, including floods in British Columbia, supply chain difficulties, inflation, and the discovery of major Indigenous archaeological sites along the pipeline route.

"Everybody warned Prime Minister Justin Trudeau if he bought this white elephant pipeline it would turn into a financial and political boondoggle," Peter McCartney, a climate campaigner at the Wilderness Committee, said in a statement Friday.

"I don't want to hear from any federal official that bold, transformative climate action is too expensive ever again."

In what critics called a betrayal of his purported commitment to tackling the climate emergency, Trudeau's government bought the pipeline from Houston-based Kinder Morgan in 2018 for $4.5 billion.

"Honestly, I really hate to say we told them so because there are far better things we should be doing with over $30 billion than exporting a polluting product the world has agreed to abandon as fast as possible," said McCartney.

"In the last year alone, the price tag for this pipeline—already the most expensive industrial project in Canadian history—has gone up almost $10 billion," McCartney added. "If the Liberal government doesn't abandon this pointless albatross now, how do we know taxpayers won't be looking at even more cost overruns and further delays a year from now?"

Keith Stewart, a senior energy strategist with Greenpeace Canada, toldReuters that the pipeline was "always a disaster from a climate change perspective."

"But this is now an economic crime that has stolen $30 billion of public funds from real climate solutions," he added.

According to the Wilderness Committee:

When Trans Mountain first proposed its expansion in 2012, American company Kinder Morgan estimated the construction costs at $5.4 billion. In 2018, when the federal government bought the pipeline it had a forecast price tag of $9.6 billion, on top of the $4.5 billion purchase. Last year, the company announced costs had risen to $21.4 billion, and now it predicts it will cost $30.9 billion in total to finish the project with about a year left to go. That means the price of this pipeline has ballooned almost six times.

"How deeply ironic it is for this fossil fuel company that climate disasters have led construction costs to spiral out of control," McCartney said. "I don't want to hear from any federal official that bold, transformative climate action is too expensive ever again."

According to the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, at least 58 Indigenous sites—including former villages and burial grounds—were destroyed during the pipeline's construction in the early 1950s.

Completed in 1953, the Trans Mountain Pipeline carries crude tar sands oil, often called the world's dirtiest, over 700 miles from Alberta to the British Columbian coast. Activists have urged the Canadian government to cancel the expansion, arguing that it will further fuel the climate emergency, threaten the environment, and desecrate sacred Indigenous lands. Additionally, pipeline workers sometimes murder, rape, traffic, and perpetrate other crimes against First Nations women, girls, and two-spirit people.

On the same day Trans Mountain Corporation announced the revised estimate for the pipeline's cost, Calí Tzay, the United Nations special rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous peoples, ended a 10-day visit to Canada and published a report linking the project to human rights abuses.

"A large number of megaprojects in Indigenous territories proceed without good faith consultation and in the absence of obtaining Indigenous peoples' free, prior, and informed consent as, in the case of Trans Mountain Pipeline," Tzay wrote. "I am also concerned about the ongoing militarization of Indigenous lands and the criminalization of Indigenous human rights defenders resisting the Trans Mountain and Coastal GasLink pipelines in British Columbia."

"I urge the government of Canada to end these violations," Tzay added, "and to adopt adequate measures to guarantee Indigenous peoples' right to consultation and free, prior, and informed consent, and their rights to lands, territories, and resources."

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