Canadian oil pipeline debate continues

The Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion is still in development following a decision by the Canadian Federal Court of Appeal to uphold the second federal approval. On Feb. 4, the federal court dismissed the lawsuit brought about by the Coldwater Indian Band, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations as well as the seven nations of Ts’elxwéyeqw Tribe in fall 2019.

“There is a lot in the Federal Court of Appeal decision that concerns us. The TMX Project continues to be a threat to our coastline and community in the case of a pipeline leak or tanker spill,” said Khelsilem, Squamish Nation Councillor and Spokesperson in a press release. “This project will harm our communities, our people, and the jobs our people rely on in the Vancouver area. Canada was ordered to try again at meaningfully consulting with our Nation, but treated us with the same contempt as the first time, when the Courts deemed that Canada’s attempt to consult ‘fell well short of the mark’.”

The lawsuit alleged that by approving the project, the country hadn’t adequately addressed shortcomings identified in an August 2018 appeal which remitted the approval back to Canada’s National Energy Board to consult the region’s indigenous communities. The Canadian government replaced the NEB with the Canada Energy Regulator in 2019.

The 710-mile Trans Mountain Pipeline transports diluted bitumen — a type of viscus petroleum mixed with lighter petroleum products to make it less thick and easier to transport — from Northeastern Alberta’s Athabasca Oil Sands to Burnaby, British Columbia. The current Trans Mountain pipeline can transport 300,000 42-gallon barrels per day. With the proposed expansion, the pipeline’s transportation capacity would increase to 890,000 barrels per day resulting in an increase of 34 additional oil tankers passing through the Haro Strait each month.

The original Trans Mountain Pipeline was built in 1953. The expansion to construct a twin pipeline was first proposed by former owner Kinder Morgan in February 2012. The company applied for a permit through the NEB in December 2013 with construction proposed to start in 2017. The NEB first recommended the Canadian government approve the project in May 2016.

Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau approved the expansion in November 2016, with the stipulation that the company must meet 157 conditions laid out by the NEB in its May 2016 approval. The Canadian federal government purchased the Trans Mountain pipeline from its Texas-based owner Kinder Morgan for $4.4 billion Canadian dollars in May 2016. The Canadian Parliamentary Budget Officer released a report in January 2019 that estimated the pipeline was worth between $3.6 billion and $4.5 billion CAD.

The pipeline is now operated by the Trans Mountain Corporation, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Canada Development Investment Corporation.

The Canadian Federal Court of Appeals overturned the country’s approval to move forward with the construction of the controversial oil pipeline in August 2018 and said the country failed to sufficiently consult affected indigenous tribes before making a final decision.

The Canadian government referred the decision back to the National Energy Board in September 2018. After hearing from more than 20 indigenous tribes in November 2018, the National Energy Board delivered its recommendation that the Trans Mountain Pipeline be approved in February 2019.

According to the project website, it was estimated to cost $7.4 billion CAD in construction fees to expand the pipeline, but that amount was raised to $12.6 billion CAD in early February. Ultimately projected to cost the country $17 billion CAD in total. It is forecasted to earn the country approximately $3.7 billion CAD annually.

Elizabeth May, a member of Parliament for Saanich-Gulf Islands and the leader of the Green Party of Canada, said the original estimate from Kinder Morgan was actually $5.4 billion dollars.

On Feb. 19, the Agnus Reid Institute, a Canadian nonprofit, nonpartisan public opinion research foundation, released the results from its latest study on the public’s option of the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project. For the first time in nearly two years, the public’s support is dropping. Last month, 55 percent of surveyed citizens supported the project but learning of increased costs, support has dropped to 48 percent in support — 45 percent oppose.

“British Columbians are now more opposed to the project than they are in support of it for the first time in five years,” Agnus Reid Institute researchers said in a press release. Read more about the institute’s data at

May and other opposition parties and environmental groups cited this increase as a possibility the pipeline may yet fail to find a buyer once completed and urged the government to cease the project.

“After many years of consultation and review we are pleased to be able to continue moving forward and building the Project in respect of communities, and for the benefit of Canadians,” said President and CEO of Trans Mountain Corporation Ian Anderson in a Feb. 4 press release. “The Government of Canada’s additional Indigenous consultation represented an immense undertaking by many parties. The Government was committed to a specific and focused dialogue with affected Indigenous communities to ensure Canada, and the Company heard their concerns and responded.”

According to Natural Resources Canada, the country is the fourth-largest producer and exporter of oil in the world — 96 percent of that export comes to the United States.

Parties had 60 days from Feb. 4 to appeal the court’s decision. Opponents to the project said they will continue to pursue legal appeals.