Anti-pipeline activists in the Fraser Valley are preparing to take direct action to try to block the twinning of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Pipeline through the region.
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced his cabinet had approved the expansion of the pipeline, which runs between Alberta and Burnaby and includes 30 kilometres of pipe across Abbotsford. The pipeline runs across Sumas Prairie, over Sumas Mountain, below Ledgeview Golf Course and the Sandy Hill neighbourhood and across Matsqui Prairie. Kinder Morgan also operates a pump station on Sumas Prairie and tank farm on Sumas Mountain.
Members of local anti-pipeline group PIPE-UP have already taken training on “direct action” to try to block construction, according to Abbotsford’s Lynn Perrin, who is a member of the group. More training sessions are planned, and Perrin herself says she’s prepared to take part in such a demonstration.
“Three years ago, I already made a decision that I will be in front of a bulldozer, if it comes to that,” she said.
Perrin says the project poses a risk both to the local and global environment. She said the risk of a spill along the route through British Columbia or off the coast is unacceptable, and that the project will also lead to greater carbon emissions, which are fueling climate change.
“It flies in the face of our commitments in Paris,” Perrin said, referring to Canada’s promise in the Paris Agreement signed earlier this spring to limit emissions. She maintained the Trudeau government failed to fulfill its promise to subject the pipeline proposal to more environmental scrutiny. Perrin said a ministerial panel that toured the province this summer and heard from locals failed to get a scientific environmental assessment of the project and didn’t adequately consult with First Nations groups.
“This ministerial panel was supposed to fill that role, and they didn’t at all,” she said.
Kinder Morgan says it hopes to begin construction in September of 2017 and complete work in late 2019. The project must meet 157 conditions set out by the National Energy Board in a decision released this spring.
But Perrin and others think legal actions by First Nations and environmentalist groups will stall plans to build the pipeline.
“It’s not going to get built,” she said.
That opinion is shared even by some supporters of the project.
Interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose suggested despite its approval, the Trans Mountain pipeline “will never get built,” because Trudeau didn’t have sufficient political capital to overcome local opposition.
The Conservative Party has been vocal in its support both of the Trans Mountain project and Enbridge’s Northern Gateway project, which the federal government announced it had rejected Tuesday.
Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun said the Trans Mountain project is needed if Canada hopes to diversify customers for its oil. Braun said the company has proven itself to be “very responsible and a good corporate citizen.”
He said Kinder Morgan has responded positively to the city’s calls to improve its spill response and prevention capabilities, pointing to the installation of a mobile spill response unit and a pledge to install more control valves along its line.
The pipeline expansion will also increase the annual property taxes paid to the city by $1.3 million, to around $3.5 million. The agreement also triggers a $1.3 million community benefits agreement signed between the city and Kinder Morgan earlier this year.
But Coun. Patricia Ross, who is also vice-chair of the Fraser Valley Regional District, was less enthusiastic about Tuesday’s Kinder Morgan announcement.
Ross, who has been an outspoken critic of Kinder Morgan, said she still isn’t confident in the company’s ability to safeguard the land it crosses from a spill.
“I am nervous about this project because there are significant risks,” she said.
Ross said municipalities and the FVRD will continue to push for more action and co-operation from the company.
“There’s a lot to be worked out yet,” she said.
In addition to the fear of another such spill, Ross is also worried that emissions from tanker traffic will funnel into the Fraser Valley and harm the region’s delicate airshed.
She also questioned whether the economic benefit of the project is overstated, especially as the world moves towards renewable fuel sources.
“I do wonder if they’re overly optimistic given the rapid advances in clean technology.”
Ross said she wasn’t satisfied with the process leading up to the pipeline’s approval, citing the inability to cross-examine Kinder Morgan representatives during National Energy Board’s hearings as well as public participation in those hearings.
Local farmers who have banded together to lobby for regular royalties from the project say they will continue pushing for a new financial arrangement with Kinder Morgan.
Peter Reus, the president of the Collaborative Group of Land Owners Affected by Pipelines, said the group – which represents dozens of Fraser Valley property owners whose land is crossed by the pipeline – isn’t opposed to the project, but continues to demand more compensation.
“We still believe we will come to an agreement with Trans Mountain for compensation.”
Reus said he hopes Kinder Morgan sees the group as being easier to work with than opponents in Burnaby. If an agreement isn’t reached, Reus said the group will pursue arbitration.
“We only think it’s fair as property owners that we get reimbursed for the yearly nuisance and harassment.”
The News has requested comment from Liberal Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon MP Jati Sidhu.