Pacific Trail Pipeline Protest

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I got a call from Ruth at about 7:45 pm. I was heading into a Mozart concert at the Chan Centre. Ruth said, “Come on down to the Chevron Refinery. Three people are chained to the gate, protesting Chevron’s part in dismantling the First Nations protest camps blocking the construction of the Pacific Trail gas pipeline.”

I sat through the Mozart Horn Concerto and the Ravel Mother Goose Suite. Then I had to leave.

I got to the Chevron Refinery on the Burnaby Waterfront (near the Kinder Morgan tanker loading dock) for the final act. Ruth told me that the police were going to cut through the chains and bicycle U-lock and arrest the three protesters.

There were about 30 protesters and around 20 RCMP. As I approached the gate a guard said “You’re trespassing on private property.” I could see that 30 protesters were already well onto private property, so I just kept walking, and joined them: in my suit and tie.

Long story short. The three got cut loose and arrested for breaking the injunction. As Betty Krawczyk points out, injunctions pit the prisoners against the court system, which was not the target of the protest. But that’s why Betty got a ten month sentence for sitting down in front of a bull dozer at Eagle Ridge Bluffs. Harriet Nahannee also went to jail, got pneumonia, and died soon after her release.

So what is this about?

The Pacific Trail is a pipeline route for fracked natural gas from B.C.’s northeast to Kitimat. Once this pipeline route, crossing the Rockies, is complete, it will be much easier for the Enbridge pipeline to follow the same, or nearby, pipeline right of way.

But isn’t natural gas the least carbon intensive fuel for the amount of energy created? And when it spills, it just evaporates into the air. All this is true, so natural gas has met with little opposition. But should it get a pass? I don’t think so because of the unresolved problem of “fugitive emissions” of methane in the process of recovering the natural gas.

What’s wrong with methane (CH4)? If you use the UN method of deriving CO2e, i.e. converting the Greenhouse Gas methane into CO2 equivalent terms, methane has about 23 times more powerful greenhouse effect than CO2 over 100 years. The problem is that during the first 20 years it has over 70 times more impact than CO2. I’m more worried about the next 20 years than the next 100, so I prefer the “70” over the “23” when comparing methane to CO2.

What is Methane?

Methane is the primary flammable portion of natural gas. Methane and natural gas are almost the same thing. Pure methane is odorless, and is abundant in coal. It’s the gas that causes the canary in the coal mine to croak. Fugitive emissions of methane in coal mining are also extremely high. There has been an academic tussle over fugitive emissions of methane in fracking since 2011. The latest report indicates that fugitive emissions of methane are still so high that the carbon footprint of fracked gas is about the same as coal. In other words, when you apply a full analysis of carbon intensity from production to consumption of fossil fuels, fracked gas and thermal coal are tied for worst.

Should the Pacific Trail gas pipeline get a free pass? No.

Thus the three people chaining themselves to the Chevron refinery gate. Chevron is a major partner of the Pacific Trail pipeline, and wants it built asap.

So the May 30 action deserves our support. The protesters were peaceful, and careful not to provoke the RCMP, when I was there. I believe there will be more blockades at the Chevron Refinery at the north foot of Rosser St., one block west of Willingdon.

I heard one of the three chained to the gate: “I am aboriginal, and this is aboriginal land. I am exercising my right as a First Nations person to sit on our land.” Nearby his wife nursed their baby.

All the best, Karl