Latest Trans Mountain greenlight unlikely to end pipeline paralysis

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Appeared in the Edmonton Sun, February 27, 2019
Latest Trans Mountain greenlight unlikely to end pipeline paralysis

Canada should celebrate the recent decision of the National Energy Board to recommend approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, with its promise of jobs and economic benefits.

According to Natural Resources Canada, the project as conceived before the federal government’s purchase of the pipeline, was expected to provide $4.5 billion in government revenues. During construction, it will create 15,000 new jobs in Alberta and British Columbia. Indigenous groups will also benefit from jobs and business opportunities due to more than $300 million in mutual benefit agreements they’ve signed.

In reapproving the project, the NEB imposed 16 new recommendations (on top of 156 conditions levied in 2016) on building the pipeline including (abbreviated list): development and implementation of a management plan to cover the Salish Sea and the Strait of Juan de Fuca out to the 12 nautical mile sea limit; annual reporting on the oversight process and status of initiatives and measures to address cumulative effects on the Salish Sea over the same area; implementation of a marine bird monitoring and protection program; development of a program to offset increased underwater noise and physical impact risk to all species at risk over the entire transportation area; establishing a regulatory framework for making enhanced tug escort mandatory in the Salish Sea; Indigenous consultation on the marine safety system; increased safety of marine vessels; and development of a formal complaint resolution program that gathers community feedback and diverse stakeholder inputs.

The new requirements are complex and seem fairly comprehensive in protecting marine species, and one would hope, would satisfy the concerns of those alarmed about a lack of marine protection. If one held that hope, one would have been wrong. On the day of the NEB’s announcement, condemnation poured in like a tidal wave.

“Without question there will be further lawsuits as we move forward,” Grand Chief Steward Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs told the Financial Post, adding he expects more rallies and protests to come. In the language of absolutism that riddles the pipeline opposition movement, there’s no ground for compromise, no analysis that will be sufficient. “This pipeline, as I’ve said on many, many occasions, will never see the light of day,” Phillip said.

Neskonlith Chief Judy Wilson is equally intransigent, stating that “Even if one community, one nation, says no, then that project is not happening.”

Environmentalist were quick to join in the condemnation, and were quick to discredit the process. “The fix was in from the start,” said Eugene Kung, lawyer for West Coast Environmental Law. “I’m not sure it’s news that a captured regulator likes pipelines.” Kung also once said “it’s hard to believe that any of the conditions or recommendations will properly address the concerns.”

The NEB acknowledges that the project poses some risk to marine wildlife including Orcas, but still deems the pipeline in the national interest. It should seem obvious that one can never have absolute safety, and that one sometimes must accept some environmental risk for economic gain. But once again, it seems the anti-pipeline absolutists will never accept any amount of analysis to gain their agreement to build a pipeline. Paralysis by Analysis will continue.