For environmentalists and Lower Mainland First Nations, 76 reasons to oppose Trans Mountain

One researcher says biggest risk to whales may not be oil tankers


A female southern resident killer whale breaches in the calm blue waters of the Salish Sea between Washington State and British Columbia, Canada. (Monika Wieland/Shutterstock)

There are no new protections for endangered southern resident killer whales in Tuesday’s latest approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project, say advocates, many of whom fear for the survival of the species.

“If the project goes forward as currently planned, it will further push the southern residents toward extinction,” said Margot Venton, a lawyer with environmental law firm Ecojustice.

“That’s what’s on the table.”

Last summer, the federal court of appeal struck down the proposed pipeline expansion project in part because the National Energy Board did not consider the impact that increased shipping from the project could have on the whales, which now number just 76 individuals in the wild, according to Orca Network.

The whales are protected by the federal Species At Risk Act, but their population has been in decline for years.

There are no new protections for endangered southern resident killer whales in Tuesday’s latest approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project, say advocates, many of whom fear for the survival of the species.

“If the project goes forward as currently planned, it will further push the southern residents toward extinction,” said Margot Venton, a lawyer with environmental law firm Ecojustice.

“That’s what’s on the table.”

Last summer, the federal court of appeal struck down the proposed pipeline expansion project in part because the National Energy Board did not consider the impact that increased shipping from the project could have on the whales, which now number just 76 individuals in the wild, according to Orca Network.

The whales are protected by the federal Species At Risk Act, but their population has been in decline for years.Those groups accuse the federal government of using half-measures to keep the species from disappearing forever.


Vessel noise can interfere with killer whales’ ability to hunt, navigate and communicate with each other, so researchers are looking into what impact it will have on them. (Elaine Thompson/AP)

Vessel noise has been found to interfere with their ability to hunt, and ship strikes can seriously injure or kill them. Environmentalists fear increased oil tanker traffic from an expanded Trans Mountain project could make these problems worse.

Canada’s fisheries minister says the federal government has acted to protect the whales, with a number of measures, including rules to reduce noise and traffic, but environmentalists and some First Nations are not convinced.

Those groups accuse the federal government of using half-measures to keep the species from disappearing forever. MORE

The power of community: How a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens felled a coal facility

Image result for ecojustice: The power of community: How a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens felled a coal facility
Photo by by Jim Maurer, via Flickr

There is a famous quotation often attributed to Margaret Mead that goes, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

The grassroots group Communities and Coal is proof of this.

When the Fraser Surrey Docks project threatened the health and safety of communities in B.C.’s Lower Mainland — and the climate —Communities and Coal stood up to the proposed coal transfer facility.

Members of the organization coordinated town hallsattended protests, and encouraged thousands of people to share their concerns about the project during a public comment period. With Ecojustice’s help, Communities and Coal and local residents Paula Williams and Christine Dujmovich also took their fight to court.

Against many odds, Communities and Coal brought people from across the Lower Mainland together and generated an impressive, sustained community opposition to this project, both on the ground and in the courts.

The project’s downfall is a testament to what can be achieved when community members come together to protect the places where they live, work, and play.

In February 2019, after a gritty, years-long fight, the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority decided to pull the permit for the Fraser-Surrey Docks coal project.

Only a couple months later, the Federal Court of Appeal ruled Ecojustice’s ongoing legal case moot. Here’s a look at what these outcomes mean, both in a legal sense and for the community: MORE