Recently I attended the government hearings in North Vancouver on the proposed Kinder Morgan Transmountain Pipeline that is apparently close to sealing the Liberals’ and Prime Minister Trudeau’s approval. Some say it could even be ratified by the end of this year. At the hearings, I registered as number 84 on the speaker list and unfortunately they only made it to about number 40 with half an hour left. I, therefore, submitted my comments online to the panel who unfortunately are not even meant to be advising the government on the matter; rather they are just collecting opinions and listening to public discussion.
I feel very strongly that it shouldn’t go ahead based on macro and micro environmental and socio-economic factors. According to the Paris agreement, if we are to limit global warming to 1.5 degree Celsius and ‘safe’ limits to prevent irreversible climate change, we must keep at least 2/3 of all existing fossil fuels in the ground. This is especially true of unconventional supplies such as the Alberta oilsands that require intensive mining and treatment in order to make the oil usable. The per-barrel greenhouse gas emissions associated with oilsands extraction and upgrading are estimated to be around 3-4 times higher than conventional crude according to the National Energy Technology Laboratory.
We owe it to the next generations to invest and divest the Canadian economy into cleaner fuel sources such as solar, wind, and geothermal. In addition, increasing the oil tanker traffic in Burrard Inlet to 34 from 5 is an unacceptable risk to Vancouver’s thriving tourism industry that contributes $6 billion annually and provides over 66,000 full-time jobs, making it BC’s third largest industry by employment. Potential damage from a Metro Vancouver oil spill ranges between $2 to 5 billion according to an SFU study. Other factors that make the transmountain pipeline unappealing are the lack of sustainable job creation and long-term contribution to the economy.
At the current rate of usage, we will run out of oil in 55 years. Many companies and wealthy individuals such as Warren Buffett are divesting their investments away from fossil fuel industries. Are 90 direct full-time jobs stated by Kinder Morgan really worth all this risk? The biggest financial beneficiaries of the project will be oilsands producers who are over two-thirds non-Canadian owned according to a ForestEthics study. Only 2 percent of the economic benefit will go to BC according to another study by SFU’s Doug McArthur. Even the economic arguments for this very risky project do not add up without even drilling down into the ethical arguments. This decision is not only vital for the long-term future and health of Vancouver and Canada’s environment and economy but also for its democracy and social justice. This decision has the opportunity to restore the public’s faith in the federal government after the bias and untrustworthiness of the NEB process and hearings along with a lot of the invalidated claims made by Kinder Morgan about the pipeline’s supposed benefits.
Canada’s commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions at COP2015 was not addressed in the NEB hearing and review process. It is essential that Canada is at the forefront of the global fight against climate change and that we set a good example and lead this fight. Instead of increasing the daily output of the Alberta oilsands by around 3 times we should be scaling back extraction to a more sustainable and less risky amount. Only this brave and important action can help us really tackle climate change. How can an energy project that affects the world’s biggest industrial project in history not take into consideration the world’s biggest global problem? It beggars belief that climate change wasn’t taken into consideration by the NEB and it amounts to a serious dereliction of duty on behalf of this government appointed board.