Kinder Morgan submits pipeline plan

This originally appeared on the Canadian Geographic blog (here).

Kinder Morgan’s pipeline expansion would result in more tankers off of Vancouver. (Photo: Mat Hampson)

Kinder Morgan has submitted its plan for the proposed expansion of its existing Trans Mountain pipeline, setting in motion the National Energy Board review process that is expected to take about two years once the final proposal is in later this year. The company plans to add a new line to triple the capacity of the existing pipeline, which carries light and heavy oil from Edmonton to the Pacific coast in Burnaby, B.C.

This initial proposal lacks detail on the exact route the pipeline would take. The plan is to add to an oil pipeline in operation since 1953; the document released Friday says only that “most of the new proposed pipeline will be adjacent to the existing pipeline or along existing corridors.” But conditions aboveground have changed in the last 60 years, and issues such as aboriginal rights and title, landowner complaints and zoning restrictions are likely to cause issues for the construction.

Some critics such as B.C. MLA Andrew Weaver say that the larger concern is the increased tanker traffic on the coast, rather than the pipeline itself. Environmental groups and First Nations in Vancouver have expressed strong opposition to the proposal since it was first announced over a year ago.

The criteria for environmental reviews of similar projects were reduced in 2012 following Bill C-38, but in an attempt to satisfy the project’s opponents, Kinder Morgan has actually requested that the project be given a review under the brand-new Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.

This pipeline proposal represents the third current major proposal in Canada, joining the highly controversial international Keystone XL pipeline and the domestic Northern Gateway pipeline. Confused about which pipe is which? Here’s what you need to know:

Keystone XL
Proponent: TransCanada
Proposed in: 2008
From: Cushing, Oklahoma (Phase 3) and Hardisty, Alberta (Phase 4)
To: Houston/Port Arthur, Texas (Phase 3) and Steele City, Nebraska (Phase 4)
Fine print: There are two existing operational segments of the pipeline, with two more proposed. US President Barack Obama has yet to decide on whether or not to approve Phase 4. Stephen Harper recently made a visit to New York to promote the pipeline, while environmentalists rallied outside.

Northern Gateway
Proponent: Enbridge
Proposed in: 2006
From: Edmonton, Alberta
To: Kitimat, B.C.
Fine print: The pipeline has raised controversy because of the route, which will cross mountains, rivers, and the Great Bear Rainforest. Opponents also argue that the seas beyond the planned terminal are too dangerous and could cause a spill. The company responded by announcing additional tugboat escorts and tightened operational guidelines.

Trans Mountain
Proponent: Kinder Morgan
Proposed in: 2013
From: Edmonton, Alberta
To: Burnaby, B.C.
Fine print: The company intends to add a line to an existing pipeline, adding 590,000 barrels per day of capacity to the existing 300,000. The pipeline has been in operation for 60 years, but the route of the new expansion has not yet been announced; in the intervening years, land use aboveground has changed, and First Nations have filed land claims as well. Opponents also take opposition to the increased tanker traffic in the Burrard Inlet, B.C.

More British Columbians oppose Gateway pipeline after map controversy, ad blitz: poll

This originally appeared on the Tyee blog, The Hook, on December 11, 2012

A new poll suggests that 60 per cent of British Columbians now oppose the proposed Northern Gateway bitumen pipeline. And according to the results, controversy over Enbridge’s tanker route map — which omitted 1,000 square kilometres of islands in the Douglas Channel — didn’t help: 58 per cent of respondents who saw the map said that it worsened their opinion of the project.

Commissioned by the Gitga’at First Nation and carried out by Forum Research, the poll (hosted on this website) is the most recent survey of public opinion surrounding the pipeline project. Forum Research contacted 1,051 British Columbians, asking the same central question as in two other polls they have conducted on the issue: “Are you in favour or opposed to the Northern Gateway pipeline which would carry crude oil from the Alberta oil sands across the Rocky Mountains to the BC coast at Kitimat to be shipped by tanker to refineries in Asia?”

The poll comes six months after the start of a major, multimillion dollar ad campaign from Enbridge, which included TV and radio spots, and newspaper and online ads. It found that 86 per cent of respondents had seen some advertising from Enbridge in the last six months. Of those 86 per cent who had seen ads, 46 per cent had not changed their opinions, while 37 per cent said it made their impressions of the project worse.

“We don’t have the resources to fight Enbridge’s multi-million dollar advertising campaigns,” said Cam Hill, Gitga’at councillor, in a statement released with the polling results.

“What we do have is the truth, and the truth is that a single oil spill in B.C.’s coastal waters could wipeout the traditional foods that feed our people. We don’t want dead water.”

Last August, critics attacked Enbridge’s depiction of the Douglas Channel, minus the channel’s many islands, in a promotional video, accusing the company of misleading the public. An Enbridge spokesperson, Ted Nogier,told the Times Colonist that the map was for “illustrative purposes only,” and that it wasn’t to be taken as an accurate depiction of the channel.

Earlier polls from Forum have given similar results, but the trend in their results points toward growing opposition. Last January, opposition was 46 per cent, and by April it was at 52 per cent.

The Tyee has not yet been able to reach Enbridge for comment.

Jimmy Thomson is completing a practicum at The Tyee.

The legalization rally that was an Enbridge rally

Walking today towards a rally that I had looked forward to for weeks, I overheard a conversation between two middle-aged women at a stoplight:

“What’s that rally for?”

“Oh… marijuana legalization, I think.”

The rally was against the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline.

The thing is, I can’t blame the two ladies for having no idea what was going on; from what I saw at the rally, a good portion of the protesters didn’t know either.

Rallies make great media moments: they bring together, all in one place, hoisting signs and banners and shouting slogans, a representative number of people who care about the cause at hand. Reporters snap photos and record video, and that evening and the next morning, people will see images that symbolize the movement – in this case, the resistance to the pipeline.

The trouble with rallies is that they depend on energy. Education and well-balanced arguments are difficult to shoehorn into short, snappy statements that will hold an audience’s attention and inspire cheers. The result is a series of passionate, sometimes eloquent, and almost always somewhat fallacious statements from the stage. There’s no room for a thoughtful discussion of a very complex issue when you need to make a lot of people angry all at once.

One of the more on-topic signs, as the march began towards Centennial Square

Furthermore, because of the nature of this particular discussion taking place in Canada – that being our natural resource riches and how best to use (or not use) them – the issues people were bringing up were so wide-ranging that I am not at all surprised that the rally was mistaken for a pro-pot rally. In some ways, it was. I saw signs suggesting investment in solar power, demanding the prime minister’s resignation, pushing a ban on fracking, and, inexplicably, one that just read “WTF | LOL” with two pictures of the Earth from space. I was handed leaflets on food security and, yes, marijuana legalization.

To be sure, it was an event attended by mostly like-minded people who can find common ground on many of these issues, and many of them (such as solar power, oil sands, and fracking) are related, so I can see why people would take the opportunity to bring some of them into the mix. However, the feeling that I got was that besides a core of activists and political types, many of the thousands of attendees might as well have been at a rally protesting Corn Pops.

The take-away message for me was that this very significant, very controversial proposed project (and its cousin, the Kinder Morgan TransMountain pipeline) is not going to be beaten by rallies, marches, and drum circles. These are a good way to spread the message that there is an issue to be discussed, and to give the media a visual representation of the resistance, but not an effective tool for resistance. Rather, it will take the focused efforts of truly interested and educated groups who are willing to consider a multitude of sides of one issue, rather than one side of a multitude of issues.