Trudeau approves Trans Mountain, Line 3 pipelines, but rejects Northern Gateway

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  • Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on November 29 that his government has approved Kinder Morgan’s proposal to triple the capacity of its Trans Mountain pipeline from Alberta to Burnaby, B.C.

    Trudeau also said that his government signed off on one other major pipeline, Enbridge Inc.’s Line 3.

    The prime minister, however, said that his cabinet rejected the Northern Gateway pipeline proposed by Enbridge from Alberta to B.C.

    The two approved projects – Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline expansion and Line 3 of Enbridge, will pump nearly a million more barrels of oil a day from Alberta’s oilsands to global markets.

    The prime minister said production from Alberta’s oilsands is increasing, and current pipeline infrastructure will soon be at capacity.

    “The decision we took today is the one that is in the best interests of Canada,” Trudeau said in announcing his government’s support for the two major projects. “It is a major win for Canadian workers, for Canadian families and the Canadian economy, now and into the future.”

    Vancouver Mayor Robertson said he was “profoundly disappointed” by the decision about Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.


    “Vancouver’s work with the federal government on transit, housing, welcoming refugees and other shared priorities has been overwhelmingly positive, but approving Kinder Morgan’s heavy oil pipeline expansion is a big step backwards for Canada’s environment and economy,” he said in a written statement.

    Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

    Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

    In his statement, Robertson said an expanded heavy oil pipeline and more tankers will put Vancouver’s economy at risk, and did so at a time that was more appropriate to aggressively shift to a clean energy future. He suggested his campaign against the twinned pipeline was not over yet.


    “I – along with the tens of thousands of residents, local First Nations, and other Metro Vancouver cities who told the federal government a resounding ‘no’ to this project – will keep speaking out against this pipeline expansion that doesn’t make sense for our economic or environmental future,” he said.


    The government of B.C. Liberal Premier Christy Clark has repeatedly said that the Kinder Morgan expansion has so far failed to meet B.C.’s five conditions, which require world-leading spill response on land and ocean, First Nations consultation and an economic benefit for the province.


    B.C. Environment Minister Mary Polak said the province will continue to work to ensure each of its conditions are met.


    “Because we have taken that clear and principled approach to stand up for our province, we have seen the proponent and the federal government take actions, including Ottawa’s recent Ocean Protection Plan,” she said in a statement.


    Clark has said that if Ottawa approves Kinder Morgan, it will be Trudeau’s job to personally come to the British Columbia and justify himself.


    “If the federal government green lights Kinder Morgan, it’s going to be the prime minister’s job to come to our province and explain why the project is in the national interest,” Clark told reporters the day before Ottawa’s announcement.


    “That will be his job should they decide to approve it.


    “I think most people would say in our province the most important element of this is making sure that our coast is protected from a catastrophic spill. I think that’s what most people would tell you is the No. 1 concern. And I think that’s going to be the area where the prime minister is going to need to put most of his focus to convince British Columbians, if he decided to approve it, that they’ve met our expectations,” Clark said.


    Derek Corrigan, the mayor of Burnaby, called the decision depressing.


    “We’ve put so much work into trying to convince the Trudeau Government that this process was so deeply flawed that it’s unreliable and that the information they received wasn’t credible. To have them dismiss (that) as ‘politics’ is really offensive.”

    Alberta Oil Sands

    Alberta Oil Sands

    Corrigan said the next step would be “to exhaust all of our possible remedies through the courts.”


    He noted that court proceedings against the project are already pending and said more litigation stemming from the decision “certainly from First Nations if not by the cities” was likely.


    The mayor expected Burnaby would continue to be a centre for public protest against the project and hoped if there was civil disobedience it would be done peacefully.


    Corrigan estimated that the decision may have eroded confidence in the Trudeau and his government. “He has presented himself as an advocate for dealing with climate change, for taking action on issues surrounding energy, and instead he’s shown us that he’s no different than the conservative government that he followed.”


    Although Ottawa announced new resources for B.C.’s coast guard and spill response this month, B.C. had said it was only good enough to meet the current ocean tanker traffic and not expanded pipelines.


    B.C. Finance Minister Mike de Jong said before the federal government made its pipeline announcement that environmental protection remained the key issue for B.C., even before figuring out a way to share the financial benefits.


    “First and foremost we want to ensure that the environmental protections are in place, whether they are terrestrial land based protections, or marine based protections,” de Jong said.


    “And yes we think, insofar as there is risk, there is always risk, we seek to reduce to the greatest extent possible the risk of any economic activity taking place on the land base. We think British Columbians deserve and expect a measure of fiscal benefit or compensation around that. We haven’t, the premier hasn’t, stipulated precisely what the mechanism for that is,” de Jong said.


    Andrew Weaver, leader of the B.C. Green Party, says Trudeau has betrayed the trust of British Columbians.


    “The approval of this project is completely contradictory to this government’s rhetoric at the Paris climate talks, as well as their commitments to finally embrace a new era of reconciliation. This government was elected with guarantees that change would finally happen – instead we see yet another Federal government steamrolling their pipeline agenda over First Nations and over B.C. communities,” Weaver said in a statement.


    North Vancouver’s Tsleil-Waututh Nation, a Coast Salish community of 500 members located across Burrard Inlet from the Kinder Morgan terminus, says they will not allow the pipeline expansion to be built.


    “I have to say that I am not totally surprised by the permit decision today but I am disappointed. There is a terrible history of the mistreatment of First Nations people in Canada. It saddens me because we hoped things might be different with Trudeau but today’s decision is a big step backwards,” Tsleil-Waututh Nation spokesperson Charlene Aleck said in a statement.


    The pipeline announcement earned praise from both the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade and the Surrey Board of Trade.


    “Here in Greater Vancouver, the project will generate more than a billion dollars in construction spending, create thousands of high-paying jobs, and help attract new investment to our region,” said Iain Black, President and CEO of the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade.. “Our organization applauds the Federal Government for approving this project, which has undergone a comprehensive scientific and technical assessment and is subject to conditions that will ensure it is built to the highest safety and environmental standards.”


    In Ottawa, Trudeau said Canada is still a “climate leader,” and pointed to Alberta’s plan to cap greenhouse gas emissions from the oil patch at 100 megatonnes of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions a year.

    Trudeau and Alberta Premier Rachel Notley later met on Parliament Hill after the federal cabinet gave the green light to Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain expansion and Enbridge’s Line 3.

    Trudeau said that if these projects aren’t built, diluted bitumen would be forced into more rail tanker cars for transport.

    “That is less economic, and more dangerous for communities, and is higher in terms of greenhouse gas emissions than modern pipelines would be.”

    The government has been laying the groundwork for approving a major pipeline, courting green-conscious voters with plans to impose a national price on carbon, phase out coal-powered plants by 2030, and overhaul the National Energy Board, the country’s regulator.

    Trudeau also announced that the government would ban crude oil tankers along B.C.’s North Coast, promising legislation in the new year to implement a moratorium.

    The Sierra Club of B.C. praised the oil tanker ban but condemned the Kinder Morgan and Enbridge Line 3 approvals.


    “B.C. will not be a sacrifice zone for the Prime Minister’s incoherent climate and energy policy and Alberta’s deluded demands for tidewater access,” said campaign director Caitlyn Vernon.


    “Let’s be clear, though: Prime Minister Trudeau has picked a fight with British Columbians by approving Kinder Morgan — and it starts now,” said Vernon. “The Kinder Morgan pipeline will not be built. Not on our watch.”


    The Heiltsuk Nation in Bella Bella praised the tanker ban and the federal rejection of Enbridge Northern Gateway project, calling it a “clear win for all coastal communities.”


    “We are very pleased the federal government decided to not go forward with this untenable proposal,” said Chief Marilyn Slett. “From the beginning, the mere idea of supertankers carrying crude oil in Heiltsuk waters was horrifying. Today, we celebrate that this project is no longer a prospect.”


    The controversial Trans Mountain expansion project will nearly triple the capacity of an existing pipeline to 890,000 barrels a day.

    This $6.8-billion, 1,150-kilometre twinned pipeline will move a mix of oil products from Edmonton to a terminal in Burnaby, B.C., near Vancouver, where it will be exported to markets in Asia. Some of the product is also destined for Chevron’s Vancouver-area refinery.

    Kinder Morgan’s pipeline will move a mix of oil products from Edmonton to a terminal in Burnaby, B.C., near Vancouver, where it will be exported to markets in Asia.

    If constructed, the expansion will lead to a marked increase in the number of tankers travelling through the area — from approximately five to 34 a month — prompting concerns diluted bitumen could be released into an ecologically sensitive area.

    Trudeau said the government expects Kinder Morgan to “meet and exceed” the 157 conditions the NEB imposed on the project in April, including spill-mitigation plans. He also pointed to the a $1.5-billion ocean protection plan he announced earlier this month to improve responses to tanker and fuel spills in the Pacific, Arctic and Atlantic oceans.

    “If I thought this project was unsafe for the B.C. coast, I would reject it. This is a decision based on rigorous debate on science and evidence. We have not been, and will not be swayed by political arguments, be they local, regional or national,” the prime minister told reporters.

    Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr appointed a ministerial panel to review Trans Mountain in June — a process separate from the NEB — and commissioned Environment Canada to study the project’s upstream GHG emissions.

    The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency estimates that the new capacity will result in roughly 13.5 to 17 megatonnes of additional GHG emissions each year.

    When fully operational, the pipeline will produce 20 to 26 megatonnes of emissions, the report concludes, although, it also suggests those numbers could be lower if oil prices hover below $60 a barrel, as growth in oilsands production could be curtailed.

    “The approvals raise grave doubts how these and additional pipelines, including Keystone XL and Energy East, can fit with Canada’s commitment to the Paris climate agreement,” Patrick DeRochie, the director of Environmental Defence, said. “Much bigger cuts in other emission sources must be made to compensate for more oil-based emissions.”

    Activists have been lining up to oppose the project, with one B.C. First Nation near the project’s route warning its construction could threaten the community’s very “survival,” and it has not ruled out protests and court action.

    Other First Nations, including 39 in B.C. and Alberta, have signed “mutual benefit agreements” with the project’s proponent, U.S.-based Kinder Morgan. Those deals will deliver money and jobs to First Nations communities. The company said that it has reached agreements with all First Nations communities where the project crosses a reserve.

    Trudeau said he doesn’t expect all Canadians to agree with the decision, and indeed environmentalists lined up shortly after the announcement to denounce the approvals.

    Green Party Leader Elizabeth May said she would be “willing to go to jail” to stop Trans Mountain’s construction.

    “Apparently Justin Trudeau’s sunny ways mean dark days ahead for climate action and Indigenous reconciliation in Canada. With this announcement, Prime Minister Trudeau has broken his climate commitments, broken his commitments to Indigenous rights, and has declared war on B.C.,” Mike Hudema, a campaigner for Greenpeace, added in a statement.

    Community opposition has “never been stronger,” Jessica Clogg, senior counsel at West Coast Environmental Law, said. “As we’ve seen with Northern Gateway, that’s what will prevent this pipeline from ever being built.”

    There have already been 11 judicial reviews launched over the NEB review, and more court challenges are expected in the coming days.

    Despite the opposition, Kinder Morgan forecasts the expansion will create 15,000 jobs a year during construction, and a further 37,000 direct and indirect jobs for every year of operation. It also estimates expanded operations will deliver an additional $46.7 billion in government revenues for all levels of government in the first 20 years. The bulk of that money, $19.4 billion, would flow to Alberta.

    Construction of the expansion is slated to begin next September, with a tentative start date of December 2019.

    The Enbridge-backed Northern Gateway, a proposed 1,177-kilometre pipeline, would have carried oil from Bruderheim, Alberta to an export terminal in Kitimat, B.C.

    “It has become clear that this project is not in the best interest of the local affected communities, including Indigenous Peoples,” Trudeau said, describing the local area as the “jewel” of B.C.

    “The Great Bear Rainforest is no place for a pipeline and the Douglas Channel is no place for oil tanker traffic.”

    The Federal Court had previously overturned the Harper government’s approval of the $7.9-billion project, as it found Ottawa had not adequately consulted First Nations along the project’s route.

    Interim Conservative Leader Rona Ambrose said she was disappointed to see the government take the Northern Gateway project off the table and “kill 4,000 jobs,” suggesting the terminal could have been moved farther north toward Prince Rupert.

    “Today, what we saw was one project be rejected, and another project, sadly, be approved but with very little chance of being built,” Ambrose said.

    Although Enbridge’s Northern Gateway is effectively dead, Line 3, the largest pipeline project in the company’s history, will now move ahead.

    It has attracted considerably less attention, with fewer activists setting their sights on stopping the 1,659-kilometre project that will carry oil from a terminal near Hardisty, Alberta., through northern Minnesota to Superior, Wisconsin.

    The NEB signed off on a new Line 3 in April, but with 89 conditions for the segment that runs from eastern Alberta to Gretna, Manitoba, near the Canada-U.S. border.

    The $7.5-billion Line 3 project would nearly double the existing pipeline’s volume to 760,000 barrels a day. It would funnel oil into Enbridge’s crown jewel, the mainline system that collectively carries three million barrels a day into the U.S.

    The existing line, constructed in the 1960s, has been a source of spills in the past, and the company has voluntarily dialled back capacity to address mounting maintenance issues while it pushes ahead with a replacement.

    “We’re pleased by the federal government’s decision to approve the Line 3 replacement program, an essential maintenance project that will ensure the safe and reliable delivery of Canada’s energy resources to market,” Enbridge said in a statement. “We have strong support for the project from our communities along the route, including Indigenous communities.”

    Kinder Morgan Canada president and CEO Ian Anderson called the federal government approval a landmark decision.

    Proposed Enbridge Pipeline route

    Proposed Enbridge Pipeline route

    “This is a defining moment for our Project and Canada’s energy industry,” said Anderson in a written statement. “This decision follows many years of engagement and the presentation of the very best scientific, technical and economic information. We are excited to move forward and get this Project built, for the benefit of our customers, communities and all Canadians.”


    Under the 157 conditions, for the first time, the NEB is requiring the company to provide a plan, to be filed four months after the project’s start up, for offsetting all of the greenhouse gases generated from the construction of the pipeline.


    Enhanced tug escorts of oil tankers through Burrard Inlet and enhanced oil spill response are also conditions of approval.


    Kinder Morgan has said it will spend $150 million to beef up response from the industry-funded Western Canada Marine Response Corp. that will help build new bases, boats and add 115 staff.


    There are also numerous requirements to file protection plans for marine mammals, caribou and grizzly, as well as for old-growth forest and wetlands.


    Kinder Morgan must also provide updates to the regulator on its work with First Nations, including their participation in construction monitoring.


    The company must also file updated risk-analysis of the expanded tanker farm at Burnaby and spell out how it will detect leaks.


    Also, at least three months before construction Kinder Morgan must have signed agreements with companies for at least 60 per cent of the pipeline’s capacity.


    Kinder Morgan continues to say it plans to begin construction in September 2017 with a completion date slated for late 2019.


    Before then, the company says it needs complete a final cost estimate review with shippers, get a final investment decision from the board of directors of Houston, Texas-based Kinder Morgan and obtain permits.


    NDP leader Tom Mulcair says Trudeau broke the trust of many Canadians.


    “Many in B.C. and across the country voted Liberal because they were led to believe that this pipeline would not go forward under a Liberal government. It’s clear today that they were misled,” said Mulcair.



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