Here, Alberta, have another hurdle

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Appeared in the Calgary Sun, January 16, 2019
Here, Alberta, have another hurdle

According to news reports, the National Energy Board (NEB) is adding a new hurdle in the path of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project that it would require the creation of a marine mammal protection program to protect killer whale populations off southern British Columbia. This comes on top of the Trudeau government’s Oceans Protection Plan (OPP), a $1.5 billion plan to boost coastal protections over five years.

Bear with me for a minute, as the plan looks quite comprehensive. It calls for better information about marine traffic with “real-time awareness of marine traffic in Canadian waters, better communication with coastal and Indigenous communities, improved radar capability, improved hydrographic data to enhance navigation, toughened requirements for industry response to incidents” and more. The last requirement alone includes a strengthened polluter-pays principle with unlimited compensation, guaranteed touching up to the Canadian Ship-Source Oil Pollution Fund, and guiding those funds efficiently into the hands of first-responders and oil spill victims.

The OPP also creates 24/7 emergency response capability, gives Canada’s Coast Guard authority to take command in marine emergencies and would increase towing capacity by commissioning two new vessels capable of towing large commercial ships including oil tankers. The OPP will also improve the Coast Guard’s assets needed to respond to a spill (oil containment booms, smaller response ships, etc.). The OPP already calls for the government to “develop comprehensive response systems for spills on water” along with “preservation and restoration of marine ecosystems, monitoring cumulative effects of increased tanker traffic” and creating a fund to restore coastal habitat that might be vulnerable to increased tanker traffic.

Finally, the OPP includes new protections for whales and a real-time whale detection system to alert mariners of their presence.

One wonders then, what the NEB wants the Trans Mountain pipeline builders (remember—that’s me and you, if it ever goes through) to add to coastal protection? Let’s look back to another pipeline the Trudeau government disapproved—the Enbridge Northern Gateway oil pipeline. Enbridge pledged to require all oil tankers be double-hulled vessels. Laden tankers were to be tethered to powerful tugboats (equipped with firefighting, oil containment capability and towing capacity) when transiting coastal channels. Land-based radars were to be built before operating the pipeline, additional weather stations were to be built, and there’d be operational restrictions placed on tankers based on wind, wave and visibility conditions. Enbridge also pledged to deploy cleanup capability along tanker routes, adhere to the polluter-pays principle and use Canadian pilots familiar with local seas.

Does all that sound familiar? Was it enough to satisfy environmentalists in British Columbia? Not by a furlong. Will yet another marine protection study satisfy environmentalists in British Columbia? No chance.

You can’t convince people with any number of studies and plans if their minds are already completely shut. What you can do, is what environmentalists do already—delay projects and subject them to paralysis by analysis, and jack up costs to the point that projects prove non-economic and are terminated. Energy East, killed. Northern Gateway, killed. Trans Mountain, in limbo.

Killing pipelines by raising costs and dragging things out for years, if not decades—that seems to be the name of the game.

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