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VANCOUVER—British Columbia First Nations, environmental groups, and politicians opposed to the $6.8-billion Trans Mountain pipeline expansion are promising to continue their battle against the contentious project.
Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson said in a statement that he was “profoundly disappointed'” by the federal cabinet’s decision to approve the expansion on Tuesday, Nov. 29, calling it a “big step backwards” for Canada’s environment and economy.
“I—along with the tens of thousands of residents, local First Nations, and other Metro Vancouver cities who told the federal government a resounding ‘no’ to this project—will keep speaking out against this pipeline expansion that doesn’t make sense for our economic or environmental future.”
The project would triple the capacity of the Trans Mountain pipeline, from 300,000 to 890,000 barrels a day, and would add 980 kilometres of new pipe along the route from near Edmonton to Burnaby, B.C.
It would also increase the number of tankers leaving Vancouver-area waters from five to 34 per month, prompting fierce opposition from local mayors and First Nations who say any risk of a diluted-bitumen spill is unacceptable.
At a news conference Tuesday, Nov. 29, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the project would be approved with 157 conditions. He said he expects the decision to be “bitterly disputed” by a number of people, but said the project is in Canada’s best interests.
“If I thought this project was unsafe for the B.C. coast, I would reject it,” he said.
Premier Christy Clark has insisted her government would not allow new pipeline construction unless five conditions were met, including a “world-leading” marine spill response regime. Earlier this month, Trudeau announced a $1.5-billion ocean-protection plan.
Clark said Wednesday, Nov. 30, the federal government is close to meeting B.C.’s five conditions for its approval of the pipeline. She said her government is still working with Ottawa on spill response and it still wants assurances on jobs and the economic benefits for B.C.
Clark has invited Trudeau to come to B.C. to make the case for the decision.
John Horgan, Leader of B.C.’s Opposition NDP, said Clark had failed to protect the province’s coast. The project undermines climate change goals and threatens endangered orca populations, he said.
North Vancouver’s Tsleil-Waututh Nation and the City of Vancouver already have legal challenges before the courts.
Delegates from the Tsleil-Waututh Nation travelled to Ottawa on Monday, Nov. 28, to urge Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr to reject the project.
On Tuesday, Nov. 29, Charlene Aleck, a spokeswoman for the First Nation, accused Trudeau of breaking his promise of a “renewed, nation-to-nation relationship with indigenous peoples.”
“They are making a big mistake. We will not allow this pipeline to be built,” she said.
Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan said he was “disappointed and depressed.” He said his city remains adamantly opposed and was seeking legal advice on how best to continue to fight the expansion.
Sven Biggs of the environmental group Stand.earth said a new phase in the struggle against pipelines would now begin, with the movement escalating to the streets, the courts, and the ballot box.
Vancouver councillor Adriane Carr, former leader of the B.C. Green party, said she vows to rally fellow Greens to join the fight against the pipeline. “Clayoquot Sound will be like a picnic in a park compared to the protests against Kinder Morgan,” she said.
The business community in B.C. was pleased. Ian Black, president and CEO of the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade, said the project will generate more than $1 billion in construction spending and create thousands of high-paying jobs.
Kinder Morgan Canada called the approval a “landmark decision that affirms both the strength of the project and the rigour of the review process it has undergone.”
Trudeau also announced his government has rejected the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline and formalized a moratorium on crude oil tankers on B.C.’s north coast. The news was met with celebration from those First Nations opposed and environmental groups.
The West Coast Environmental Law Association said the rejection proves communities can stop pipelines.
From The Canadian Press