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Trans Mountain pipeline threatens endangered southern resident killer whales

The Council of Canadians is opposed to the 890,000 barrel per day Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline for many reasons, including concern for the estimated 80 orca whales that live off the coast of Vancouver.

The British newspaper The Guardian reports, “Known as the southern resident killer whales the group has long had a fraught relationship with the urban sprawl they live alongside, leaving them on the knife’s edge of extinction. In the late 1960s and early 70s, dozens were captured and sold to aquariums and theme parks around the world. Those who remained were exposed to runoff chemicals used in local industry, making them some of the world’s most contaminated marine mammals. But now the orcas of the Salish sea face what conservationists say is their biggest threat to date: an expansion proposal for a pipeline that would snake from Alberta to the Pacific coast.”

That article adds, “Conservationists warn that the spike in tanker traffic [to as many as 408 tankers a year along with underwater noise] would be disastrous for the resident orca whales – a genetically unique population that is already classified as endangered in both Canada and the United States.”

Even the National Energy Board has acknowledged the Kinder Morgan project “is likely to result in significant adverse effects to the southern resident killer whale”. In May 2016, CBC reported, “[When recommending approval of the pipeline], the National Energy Board said it weighed the benefits of the project against its burdens.”

On December 20, 2016, Bloomberg reported, “The environmental law group Ecojustice filed a federal court case on behalf of Living Oceans Society and Raincoast Conservation Foundation seeking to block the [Trudeau government’s] decision [to approve the pipeline project]. The government failed to consider the fate of about 80 killer whales that live in the main shipping lane for the crude tankers that will carry Alberta’s oil, Dyna Tuytel, an Ecojustice lawyer, said in a phone interview.”

Significantly, given the southern resident whales are designated under the Species at Risk Act, there are federal rules against actions that would harm them or their habitat.

Bloomberg adds, “Ecojustice hopes for a hearing on its petition by the end of February, Tuytel said. A final decision could take a year or more.” The Vancouver Sun has reported, “Kinder Morgan continues to say it plans to begin construction in September 2017 with a completion date slated for late 2019.”

The Council of Canadians has been opposing the Trans Mountain pipeline since August 2011 by participating in marches, protests and civil disobedience actions, supporting chapter activism, petitions and a court action, writing blogs, and organizing numerous public events and a six-community speaking tour. We support the call for a 100 per cent clean energy economy by 2050.