Trans Mountain pipeline would cross 1,309 watercourses

Council of Canadians organizer Brigette DePape at the Burnaby Mountain protests against the Trans Mountain pipeline, November 2015.

There is growing speculation that the Trudeau government will approve the 890,000 barrel per day Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline on December 19.

That speculation suggests because 1) the government wants to approve at least one pipeline in their first term, 2) Trudeau has previously expressed support for Trans Mountain, 3) the pipeline has already been approved by the National Energy Board, 4) the National Energy Board is not scheduled to make its recommendation on the Energy East project until March 2018 at the earliest, 5) China says an approval of an export pipeline is a pre-condition to starting 'free trade' negotiations, 6) the federal deficit is growing and the Liberals see revenue in the pipeline, 7) the Liberals are high in public opinion polls and have political capital to burn, and 8) Trans Mountain would have a lower electoral impact than Energy East, given there are more Liberals seats in Quebec, than British Columbia, that it's likely Trudeau will say yes to Kinder Morgan.

The National Energy Board began its review of the pipeline in April 2014 and recommended its approval in May 2016.

That means it took place after the Harper government gutted the former Navigable Waters Protection Act and other environmental protections in 2012. Harper's omnibus bills removed pipelines from provisions of the Act and meant that 31,000 lakes and 2.25 million rivers are no longer protected by federal scrutiny.

Those amendments were lobbied for and literally written by industry seeking to expedite major energy project approvals.

While the National Energy Board acknowledges that the pipeline would potentially cross 246 watercourses in Alberta and 1,063 watercourses in British Columbia, it demands little more of Kinder Morgan than for the Texas-based company to file an inventory of these waterways along with a safety plan for navigable waterways.

Given the oil spill we saw in the North Saskatchewan River this summer - that has impacted the drinking water supply for more than 70,600 people - a pipeline that crosses more than 1,300 watercourses carries great risks.

And while the federal government has launched a review of its environmental assessment processes, with the public hoping that this might modernize the National Energy Board and introduce safeguards to the Navigation Protection Act and Fisheries Act, that Committee will not be reporting until January 2017 - after the federal cabinet will decide on the Trans Mountain pipeline.

And even there, Liberal MP Kate Young, who is the parliamentary secretary to the minister of transport, suggests the focus of the review will be on the listed waterways and whether or not more "should be added". That seems like a retreat from their October 2015 election promise that highlighted: "Stephen Harper’s changes to the Fisheries Act, and his elimination of the Navigable Waters Protection Act, have weakened environmental protections. We will review these changes, restore lost protections, and incorporate more modern safeguards."

The Council of Canadians has launched an Every Lake, Every River campaign that says the protections that were cut in 2012 must be fully and immediately restored. We believe that the 31,000 lakes and 2.25 million rivers not now listed under the Navigation Protection Act must be listed once again. And we believe that new and more stringent protections must be put into place that would put water sustainability, water justice, water as a public trust and a human right above the interests of Big Oil and their desire to have their pipelines cross these waterways.

To make this demand of the federal government - before it decides on the Trans Mountain pipeline on December 19 - please click here.