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Land and water defenders criminalized, while Kinder Morgan gets $920 fine for violating the Water Sustainability Act

In August-September 2017, Kinder Morgan installed ‘fish spawning deterrent mats’ in streams they want their Trans Mountain pipeline to cross. One of those mats became a powerful symbol of resistance at a November 2017 protest in Vancouver.

The BC Oil and Gas Commission, an industry-friendly Crown corporation that regulates pipelines in British Columbia, has imposed a modest fine on Kinder Morgan for violations of the province’s Water Sustainability Act (which was implemented in February 2016 by the Christy Clark government “to ensure a sustainable supply of fresh, clean water that meets the needs of B.C. residents today and in the future”).

The Canadian Press reports, “The B.C. Oil and Gas Commission says it has fined Kinder Morgan Canada Ltd. $920 for four violations of the provincial Water Sustainability Act related to the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.”

“The commission says it issued tickets late last week for one violation related to non-compliance in the use of fish spawning deterrents and three related to non-compliance in water volume reporting – each of which carries a $230 fine.”

The article adds, “[Trans Mountain’s media relations department] says the water withdrawal charges are for not reporting zero usage of water after it didn’t withdraw water as it was permitted to do” while the other charges relate to their installation of deterrents to discourage fish from spawning in stream areas that would be affected by construction.

In September 2017, the Canadian Press reported, “[Trans Mountain] says its biologists had temporarily laid plastic fencing on the bottom of some sections of five streams through mid-August 2017 in preparation for pipeline construction there in early 2018, adding it had identified a total of 26 streams in British Columbia and Alberta where the mats would be used prior to spawning season.”

While the provincial commission has imposed this modest fine, the federal government has not taken action.

The Star Vancouver reports, “Kinder Morgan admits it repeatedly broke federal laws meant to protect marine animals from harmful noise during construction work [pile driving in Burrard Inlet exceeded noise rules multiple times from January to May 2018] on the Trans Mountain pipeline’s Burnaby, B.C., terminal… The Fisheries Act violations alleged by the ministry – which have not been tested in court – weren’t the only warnings the company received over construction work. On September 22, the National Energy Board ordered it to stop laying unauthorized anti-salmon spawning plastic mats in streams.”

Land and water defenders are taking action though. In November 2017, Warrior Publications noted, “Wild Salmon Warriors returned home yesterday after conducting a two week observation and removal of Kinder Morgan’s anti-salmon spawning mats that illegally disrupted four water ways in Secwepemc Territory. The mats were installed without any knowledge or consent of the Nation, just as the Kinder Morgan pipeline is continuing without the free, prior and informed consent of the Nation as well. Upon learning the exact locations of 4 of the supposed 7 installation sites, Wild Salmon Warriors, on the authority of the Secwepemc Nation, have removed all such mats in the area.”

The $920 fine to Kinder Morgan stands in stark contrast to the criminal contempt charges and fines being imposed on the 200+ land and water defenders who blocked the Kinder Morgan terminal gates in Burnaby earlier this year.

The National Observer reports, “Penalties for early guilty pleas have been as low as $500, with fines for unsuccessful trials as high as $5000, with the option of a corresponding amount of community service hours (ranging 25-240 hours) as an alternative. …The Crown has recommended fines of up to $3,000, or 150 hours of community service.”