When Mother Earth Has Nothing Left To Give, We Must Slow Down

When Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project review began in April 2014, it was on a fast track to approval. The 2012 changes to the National Energy Board Act established a truncated process that would have seen a decision on this massive project by fall 2015.

However, the project has since hit multiple snags, including a delay in any approval until spring 2016, unprecedented protests relating to Kinder Morgan’s drilling activities on Burnaby Mountain, and increasing community and First Nations opposition.

One of the drivers of this frustration is the NEB’s continued refusal to hold public hearings in the part of the country that will arguably be most directly affected by the proposal: Burnaby, the pipeline terminus and the point at which the bitumen would be loaded onto tankers to travel through the Salish Sea.

Thus, in 2014, First Nations and indigenous groups that wanted to give oral evidence to the NEB panel about their traditions, their worries, and their way of life were required to attend at other locations in the province.

In late October, representatives of four United States Tribes — the Lummi, Suquamish, Swinomish, and Tulalip Tribes — travelled up the Fraser Valley to Chilliwack to share their history, their concerns, and their worries about the Kinder Morgan expansion with the NEB. This is one of the lesser-told stories of 2014.

The four tribes have lived on the coast and relied on the Salish Sea for their way of life since time immemorial. Like the Tsleil-Waututh First Nation — whose lands and waters are in and around the tanker terminal in Burnaby — they are all Coast Salish nations. While most people recognize the Canada-U.S. border as the political separation between the two countries, for the Coast Salish, that border is simply a line on a piece of paper. Better than most, they understand that the potential environmental and cultural harms Kinder Morgan’s project could inflict won’t stop at the border.

Along with their representatives from Earthjustice — Ecojustice’s sister organization in the United States — these tribes are taking a strong stand with Canadian First Nations to oppose this pipeline. The importance of place is such that these tribes are dedicating time, resources, hearts, and minds to opposing Kinder Morgan’s proposal.

The reason is simple: The way they see it, Mother Earth has nothing left to give.

One by one, indigenous elders, leaders, youth, and fishermen stood before the NEB panel. They spoke of their connection with the sea and its resources and how any expansion of tanker traffic would further harm their lives, their economies, the ongoing practice of traditional ways of life, and the tribes’ continual efforts to protect the health of the Salish Sea. They expressed their deep concerns about increased threats to the Salish Sea, such as the risk of a catastrophic accident and oil disaster — something that seems inevitable with the large-scale pipeline expansion.

The testimonies shared by these Tribes and other Coast Salish Nations are a potent reminder that deep knowledge and connection to land and sea is something that we all need to develop.

From the fur trade, to forestry, to oil and gas development, Canada’s industries have a long history of drawing down resources and moving on — showing little concern for the finite capacity of the natural world or respect for connection to place. But that pattern cannot continue indefinitely. Tar sands extraction is more extreme than previous resource grabs. Not only are we running out of oil to extract and forests to log, the atmosphere is hitting the point where it can no longer absorb our carbon emissions without grave climate impacts.

We must learn from people who have a deep connection to place and accept that the earth has limits that must be respected. We must recognize that the harmful impacts from this pipeline will not respect international borders.

Communities like the U.S. Tribes and Canadian First Nations that have been here since time immemorial remind us that we who live here now have a duty to protect our home. Unless we do, we will continue down the path laid out by multinational energy companies, where nature and the opposition of local communities are seen as mere logistical challenges to be overcome by re-routing pipelines through mountains and writing fat cheques. And eventually we will still have to come to terms with the reality that Mother Nature has no more to give.

This piece was written by Ecojustice staff lawyer Karen Campbell. Ecojustice is one of Canada’s leading charities using the law to protect and restore Canada’s environment. Learn more at ecojustice.ca.



From ‘Dumb to Dumber’ — More Oil Spill Risk and Less Coastguard


More Oil Spill Risk and Less Coastguard Means Moving From ‘Dumb to Dumber’

MEDIA CONTACT: Ben West, Tar Sands Campaign Director, ForestEthics Advocacy, 604-710-5340

VANCOUVER — Yesterday, the Kitsilano Coast Guard station was abruptly shut down. Vancouver residents have repeatedly voiced their concerns about this proposal since it was first announced by the Harper Government, but no date for the closure had been announced.

“With Kinder Morgan’s proposal to massively expand exports of diluted bitumen through Vancouver’s already bustling harbour, this is an irresponsible move,” said Ben West, Tar Sands Campaign Director with ForestEthics Advocacy. “It was already really dumb for Prime Minister Harper to consider turning Vancouver’s harbour into an export terminal for dangerous tar sands oil, but to simultaneously close Vancouver’s Coast Guard station is a move from dumb to dumber.”

The Vancouver Coast Guard was called on over 300 times a year to respond to emergencies and has saved hundreds of lives. Kinder Morgan’s proposal would increase traffic from the current 80 tankers a year to over 400 tankers should it be approved. Each one of these tankers would carry three times as much oil as was spilled by the Exxon Valdez.

“When it comes to oil exports, more oil means more risk. It’s not a matter of if there will be an accident, it’s a matter of when and how prepared we will be to protect human health and our precious coast,” said West.

The Vancouver Harbour is currently the only location that tar sands oil is being exported via oil tankers. This practice has already increased from approximately 20 tankers a year to the current level of approximately 80 tankers a year in the time since Kinder Morgan bought the Trans Mountain pipeline in 2005. Before Kinder Morgan bought the pipeline it was primarily used for local oil consumption.

“Accidents happen all the time, that’s why we have a coast guard. The closure of Vancouver’s coast guard station means we will be even less prepared to respond. The station should be reopened immediately and the proposal to bring more tar sands oil spill risk to Vancouver’s harbour should never be allowed to see the light of day,” said West. “Lives are at stake here, we need to be smarter and safer, not dumb and dumber.”

Sven Biggs | c: 778-882-8354


Sunshine Coast, Davis Bay – 11:30 am to 1:30 pm – Wednesday, October 24th, 2012On October 24, 2012 concerned British Columbians from 85 communities around our province will come together to express their support for our land, our rivers and to Defend Our Coast.  On the Sunshine Coast we will gather in Davis Bay from 11:30 am to 1:30 pm on Wednesday, October 24th to line 1,540 feet of the Sunshine Coast Highway with people and their signs to communicate our message that we are for a healthier planet and opposed to the construction of pipelines to transport diluted bitumen via supertankers along our coast.  We will be arranging for aerial photography and video footage to document our Defend Our Coast action in Davis Bay and communicate with the world via Youtube.  This in an historic opportunity to show your solidarity with people and communities up and down our coast and across our province that we care about our future, for ourselves, our children and our children’s children.  BE CREATIVE! BE BOLD! BE THERE!

What’s the problem?

Enbridge is pushing for approval of their Northern Gateway twin pipeline project from the Alberta tar sands to Kitimat.  Kinder Morgan is pushing for approval of a pipeline from the tar sands to their Burnaby loading facility in Burrard Inlet.  Both pipeline projects are designed to transport unprocessed diluted bitumen (dilbit) to the respective ports to be loaded into Very Large Crude Carriers – VLCCs – for shipment overseas.  These VLCCs are sea going behemoths up to 1,540 feet in length and 200 feet wide.  They are enormous and unwieldy and require speeds upwards of 19 knots to just to maintain navigation.  In good weather they have turning circles of 2 miles and take 5 miles to stop.  Should anything go awry and they loose navigation, all the tiny crew can do is ride it out and see where they end up!

Both the Enbrige and Kinder Morgan projects entail enormous environmental risks to our land, our rivers and our coast.  Unlike crude oil, which is very difficult to clean up despite the fact that it is lighter than water and therefore floats, dilbit quickly evaporates it’s dilutent, creating toxic clouds, and sinks below the surface of the water, making surface containment and recovery technologies useless.  Existing containment and recovery technologies are completely useless in fast moving rivers and turbulent seas. Dilbit spills are not only possible, they are inevitable!

It is important to note that Enbridge and Kinder Morgan are simply transport companies, moving product they do not own from point A to B so that the global petro-corporations, who do own the product, can reap a few  more dollars per barrel than they can obtain by selling the same product to overland markets in North America.  If they do, this will jack up the price paid in domestic markets and we will all be forced to pay that higher price at the pumps in addition to taking the environmental risk.  There are relatively few jobs involved in extraction and shipping out of unprocessed resources compared to refining the product here in Canada.  Construction of these pipelines will accelerate global fossil fuel consumption and add to global warming.  It will divert public attention and investment away from investment in energy conservation and renewable energy development, which would create far more family supporting jobs as we work toward a healthier planet.  It will postpone consideration of building land based pipelines to Central and Eastern Canada to replace currently imported crude. It is becoming increasingly clear that our increasing economic dependence on shipping out unrefined dilbit is overvaluing the Canadian dollar and is damaging our domestic manufacturing, exacerbating unemployment.  All in all, building dilbit pipelines to Kitimat and Burnaby are LOSE – LOSE PROPOSITIONS and cannot be allowed to proceed.  Dilbit pipelines are bad for the environment, bad for our economy and bad for our democracy.

Stephen Harper appears to be joined at the hip to global petro-corporations and appears bent on doing their bidding regardless of Canada’s long term interests.  Christy Clark is similarly prepared to sell out our people, our land, our rivers and our coast, if the price is right!  Campaign funding rather than Canadian interests appear to be in the drivers’ seat.  Harper and Clark are elected officials and are answerable to the Canadian and British Columbian electorate respectively.  They can and will be moved if Canadians make our voices heard. Now is the time to show you care!

What can you do?

Come to NO PIPELINES! NO TANKERS! NO WAY! DEFEND OUR COAST action in Davis Bay from 11:30 am to 1:30 pm on Wednesday, October 24th.  We will have letters of concern for you to sign.  Bring bold, creative, colourful signs to be part of this historic event and become part of what we expect will be an historic Youtube video available to the world.  Tell your family and friends about this important action in any way you can: face to face, over the telephone, by letter and by email.  Print out and distribute the attached poster in your communities. Help us financially by making a donation to cover our costs and advance our work – cheques should be made out to Alliance 4 Democracy – Sunshine Coast.  Check out our website alliance4democracy.ca.

Thank you in advance for your support.


Jef Keighley
Alliance 4 Democracy – Sunshine Coast
8580 Redrooffs Road,
Halfmoon Bay, B.C.,
V0N 1Y1
604 885-2290

The Alliance 4 Democracy – Sunshine Coast is working in cooperation with Leadnow.ca, The Dogwood Initiative and Defend Our Coast.

Defend Our Coast is organizing a major gathering in Victoria, BC at the legislature on Monday, October 22, 2012. Details can be obtained at defendourcoast.ca.