Pipelines

Nova Scotian environmental groups slam Kinder Morgan approval

Divest Dal says they are "disgusted"

Hannah Mills addresses the crowd at a Divest Dal vigil organized to protest Kinder Morgan, the week before it was approved.
Hannah Mills addresses the crowd at a Divest Dal vigil organized to protest Kinder Morgan on Nov. 21.   Faisal Ali

Nova Scotian environmental groups are disappointed after the federal government approved Kinder Morgan’s controversial Trans Mountain pipeline expansion and Enbridge’s Line 3 Replacement Project on Tuesday.

They are concerned the B.C. coastline would be irreparably damaged by an oil spill and say the government shouldn’t be investing further in the oil sands. Instead, they feel the government should moving towards renewable energy to combat climate change.

“Obviously we’re not happy,” said Stephen Thomas, the energy campaign co-ordinator for the Ecology Action Centre. “The approval … sends a very bad signal in terms of the willingness of the federal government to take meaningful climate action.”

Thomas pointed out the Ecology Action Centre has been actively opposing TransCanada’s Energy East pipeline, which would run from Alberta to New Brunswick. He said both fights are connected.

“We’re fighting these pipelines because we see the local risks to the folks along the pipelines routes … and (we’re fighting) to slow the expansion of the Alberta oil sands,” said Thomas.

The Trans Mountain expansion project will be a twin pipeline that will run alongside an existing pipe that runs from Edmonton to Burnaby, B.C. According to the federal government, it will increase oil production from 300,000 barrels per day to 890,000, while staying within 2030 climate change goals.

After conducting an environmental impact assessment, the National Energy Board issued a report on May 16, recommending the government approve Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline. The report outlined 157 conditions on the approval of the pipeline.

Justin Trudeau tweeted Tuesday that the project will “meet or exceed” those conditions.

Brendan Haley, with the School for Resource and Environmental Studies at Dalhousie University, said the basis of the report was outdated.

“These pipelines were approved under the old rules, under the previous government where we’re not considering the greenhouse gas implications … and also cabinet kind of gets the final say in it; cabinet is allowed to make a unilateral decision,” said Haley.

Haley also noted that this could impact Nova Scotia’s emissions goals.

“It’s no longer intellectually honest to say that a province like N.S. is just finished if it meets … the national reduction, because in fact, Alberta’s not going to be able to meet that,” said Haley. “And other provinces are going to have to do more.”

Divest Dal is an environmental group at Dalhousie University that has been campaigning for the school to remove their investment in Alberta’s oil sands and have been fighting against this decision. Laura Cutmore, a representative from the group, provided their statement in an email.

“We held a sit-in in Halifax MP Andy Fillmore’s office, we wrote letters, we held a vigil, some of us travelled to Ottawa and were arrested on Parliament Hill,” said Cutmore.

Cutmore said even though they are “disappointed and disgusted” by Trudeau’s approval, the battle isn’t over.

“This isn’t the end; we’re going to keep fighting in solidarity with the west coast First Nations that are leading the way to ensure this pipeline will never be built,” said Cutmore.

Elsewhere, First Nations communities have been especially vocal in their opposition. The Tsleil-Waututh Nation in B.C. started a Sacred Trust Initiative devoted solely to stopping the pipeline.

The federal government says the $6.8 billion project will result in $4.5 billion in provincial and federal revenue, plus 15,000 new jobs during construction and 440 permanent jobs.

In the same announcement, Trudeau also rejected Enbridge’s Northern Gateway Pipelines Project, which environmental groups have been rallying against for years.

He also announced plans to introduce a moratorium on oil tankers along British Columbia’s northern coastline, in order to provide extra protection for spills. The legislation for the moratorium will be introduced by the spring of 2017.