I recently returned from Vancouver where I had the opportunity to visit frontline Kinder Morgan sites and connect with people involved in opposing the 890,000 barrel twinning of the tar sands pipeline.
All eyes on Federal Court of Appeals:
This past October the Federal Court of Appeals heard oral arguments on the 15 consolidated challenges to the federal approval of Kinder Morgan’s pipeline and terminal.
The challenges led by First Nations, including the Tsleil-Waututh, Coldwater, Squamish and Stk'emlupsemc Te Secwepemc First Nations and the Upper Nicola Band, have the ability to overturn the NEB or federal Cabinet’s decisions to approve the project. The challenges revolve around Aboriginal rights and the duty to consult and statutory issues and procedural fairness. For more details, I suggest checking out West Coast Environmental Law’s blog about the court hearings.
In an important demonstration of solidarity that many local groups participated in, the Pull Together campaign recently reached the fundraising target of $625,000 towards Indigenous legal challenges.
Given the potential to stop the project, there is a strong sense of anticipation for the court’s decision, expected in late Spring.
Indigenous Opposition Rising:
In addition to court challenges, Indigenous communities, both coastal and inland are mounting various efforts to stop the project. This includes the Tiny Houses Warriors project to stop the Kinder Morgan pipeline from crossing unceded Secwepemc Territory. It includes efforts to dissuade investors and public outreach. There is also an ongoing process helping organize grassroots Indigenous opposition in anticipation of Kinder Morgan taking construction efforts to the next level.
Construction update - tank farm under surveillance and terminal traffic slowed:
By all appearances, Kinder Morgan has started, or at the very least is preparing, for construction efforts at the existing oil storage tank farm and export terminal. When I recently visited Camp Cloud, described here as a media surveillance post & direct action support centre, currently floating around the KM tank farms on unceded Coast Salish territories, this became quite clear.
The project would see 14 new larger tanks for a total of 26 on Burnaby Mountain. This is a heavily populated area and would require blasting a hole through the mountain and expanding close to a local elementary school. The neighbourhoods nearby and City of Burnaby are legitimately concerned over the serious health, environmental and safety risks posed by the tank expansion.
At the terminal I witnessed the razor wire fence in the Coast Salish waters and large pile driving cranes at the ready. I understand it could be a matter of weeks before they take action.
Camp Cloud and the Justin Trudeau Brigade, a group of people joining together to stop/slow traffic into and out of the terminal on a regular basis (more here), represent the very real tensions that surround the state of waiting in the Courts and preparing for, and taking action to stop the project.
The construction has not begun on public land, something the NDP Green coalition government has said they will stop.
Burnaby and Provincial government opposition
The provincial government, while approving Site C dam to the wide condemnation of many (as well as pushing an LNG agenda, all in opposition to UNDRIP), has said it will oppose the Kinder Morgan pipeline. The NDP government has intervened in the Federal Court of Appeals proceedings. Most recently, it publicly spoke against the latest attempt to undermine local rules with the NEB’s decision initiating a dispute mechanism process for 'resolving' permit disputes within an arbitrary 3-5 week timeline.
The West Coast Environmental Law has outlined a legal toolkit the province could choose to use to further oppose the project. It will likely take the efforts of many people living in BC to ensure opportunities like these, are pursued.
The City of Burnaby recently participated in NEB routing hearings (which are ongoing) opposing the “"significant and unacceptable" financial, environmental and social risks of the company's proposed route through the city.”
The Council of Canadians Chilliwack chapters have also participated in these hearings determining the final route of the new twinned pipeline.
Grassroots, Community and NGO opposition
The long fight to stop Kinder Morgan has seen a number of coordinated efforts to challenge, slow and stop the project. From public forums, participation in the NEB process, lobbying governments to rallies, financial campaigns and direct action (including Kayaktivists). These efforts will increase as we march closer to major construction of the project.