Year in review: Trans Mountain expansion gets green light, again

Approval of expansion comes with eight new accommodation measures to address First Nations concerns

As expected, the Trudeau government has once again approved the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline, although it is now likely to cost a lot more to complete, thanks to a year-long delay.

“Today I am announcing that our government has newly approved the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project going forward,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced today, June 18.

He added his government is open to First Nation ownership in the expanded pipeline, anywhere from 25% to 100%, and vowed that all profits from the pipeline – either through its sale or in future tax revenue from future owners – would be invested in “Canada’s clean energy transition.”

“Additional corporate tax revenue alone could be around $500 million per year, once the project is up and running,” Trudeau said. “We will invest this money, as well as any profits from the sale of the pipeline in the clean energy projects.”

Whether the government can make a profit on the sale of the expanded pipeline once complete is doubtful, however, given that the project could cost $2 billion more to build than the last estimate.

Today’s announcement was reliably slammed by environmental groups, and praised by business associations. It came one day after the Trudeau government declared a climate emergency, and environmental groups were quick to point out to the government’s apparent hypocrisy.

“Approving the Trans Mountain Pipeline is inconsistent with our government’s declaration of a climate emergency,” said Tzeporah Berman, International Program Director at “Oil and gas emissions are the largest and fastest growing component of Canada’s emissions. If we are going to fight climate change in Canada, we need to face the fact that we can no longer expand fossil fuel production and infrastructure.”

Trudeau said Canada’s cap on oil sands emissions addresses concerns about increased emissions from oil production in Alberta. He also addressed concerns that not all First Nations have given their consent to the expansion.

“We recognize and understand that there are people out there for whom no amount of accommodations or conditions or changes to the plan would have made the … approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion acceptable,” he said. “Those people will not be convinced by the argument that we put forward. We accept that. And they will use the legal means at their disposal to advance that argument.”

The First Nation with the most at stake is the Tsleil-Waututh of Burrard Inlet. Additional negotiations with them failed to get their approval of the project. The Tsleil-Waututh were among the First Nations that succeeded in a federal appeal court challenge that halted the project, and forced the government to hold additional negotiations with First Nations.

Tsleil-Waututh Chief George-Wilson vowed more legal action against the project.

“Tsleil-Waututh is prepared to use all legal tools necessary to ensure that our rights are protected for our future generations,” she said.

Whether work will substantially start on the expansion in time for the federal election campaign in October remains to be seen. Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer expressed doubt it will.

“I don’t believe that we’re at the point where we can talk about this expansion getting completed under this government,” he said. “The reason why I say that is because this is not the first time that they have announced this decision. We should not be celebrating a re-announcement of an approval. We should be demanding Justin Trudeau to establish a clear timeline on actually getting this built.”

“We’ll believe this project is moving forward when the shovels are finally in the ground,” said Paul de Jong, president of the Progressive Contractors Association of Canada. “While today’s decision is the right one, it’s far from a ringing endorsement when the government is working so hard to kill major resource projects through legislation and regulations designed to make energy development less likely in the future.”

“The company plans to have shovels in the ground this construction season,” Trudeau insisted.

“We are ready to re-start the project,” said Ian Anderson, CEO of the Trans Mountain Corporation.

But eight new accommodation measures to address First Nations concerns are now part of the approval, and there is some question over how much those new measures, which might even include some rerouting, may delay some of the construction.

The Coldwater Indian Band, for example, has concerns about the pipeline’s impacts on their water supply, and in a government technical briefing, it was suggested that the pipeline could be rerouted in that section, which would cause delays for at least that section of the pipeline.

Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi said “we are exploring options with them on the routing issues.”

The announcement was presaged by the arrival by rail of tonnes of steel pipe at strategic locations along the pipeline route a week earlier. Trans Mountain confirmed about 30% of the pipe has been delivered to sites along the route, including the Lower Mainland.

Jody Wilson-Raybould, the former high profile Liberal Attorney General, now running as an independent, expects a whole new round of protests and legal challenges.

“The immediate response to this decision will be the filing of multiple lawsuits against the government’s decisions,” she wrote in a blog post, adding more protests like the ones that resulted in dozens of arrests in Burnaby last year, will also likely occur.

“As a result, Canadians will be further divided. While there will be photo-ops and talk of ‘getting shovels in the ground,’ no one will be able to say with certainty when – or if – actual pipe will be laid and if any product will ever flow through it.”

There have been at least 18 legal challenges to the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, almost all of which have failed. The one that succeeded was a federal appeal court challenge by First Nations and environmental groups, which successfully halted the project and required the federal government to go back to the drawing board on First Nations consultations and addressing marine impacts from oil tankers.

Martin Olszynski, associate law professor at the University of Calgary, expects environmental groups and the Tsleil-Waututh First Nation will again challenge the governor in council (GIC) order approving the expansion at the federal Court of Appeal and argue that the second approval, like the first, was somehow deficient.

Whatever legal challenges are launched, it won’t stop work on the pipeline expansion, unless a court grants an injunction.

“Without prejudging that, it’s a pretty hard test, as a general rule,” Olszynski told Business in Vancouver. “And I think, in this context, where we’ve already had one approval that was struck down, and we’ve had this additional consideration and consultation, I do think that we would expect that to be a relatively high hurdle at this point.”

The B.C. government plans to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada a decision by the BC Court of Appeal that ruled the province doesn’t have the constitutional authority to regulate what goes through a federally regulated pipeline.

“I think most of us expect that to go nowhere,” Olszynski said.

The Trudeau government originally approved the expansion – then expected to cost $7.4 billion – in 2016. The approval came with 157 conditions attached by the National Energy Board (NEB.)

The project, which would see the existing pipeline twinned to nearly triple its capacity, was originally to be financed by Kinder Morgan Canada (TSX:KML).

But now Canadians are footing the bill for the expansion, thanks to the John Horgan government.

While opposition by environmentalists and First Nation opposition has been blamed for delaying the project, it was the Horgan government’s attempts to halt the project that ultimately led Kinder Morgan to throw in the towel, resulting in the Canadian government taking on the project.

One of the issues for Kinder Morgan was B.C.’s plans to try to restrict the flow of diluted bitumen from Alberta through B.C. to current volumes, on environmental grounds.

Kinder Morgan said it could deal with First Nations, legal challenges and opposition from cities like Burnaby and Vancouver, but that it could not resolve what amounted to a dispute between two levels of government over jurisdiction.

“The uncertainty created by BC has not been resolved but instead has escalated into an inter-governmental dispute,” Kinder Morgan Canada CEO Dave Kean said in April 2018, after it announced it was halting all work on the expansion until it could get clarity from the Ottawa on whether or not it could proceed.

It never got that clarity, so the company pulled the plug.

The Trudeau government ended up buying the existing Trans Mountain pipeline, Westridge Marine Terminal, and Puget Sound pipeline for $4.5 billion. The sale price included $1 billion already spent on the expansion.

The Trudeau government announced it would finance the expansion itself, and then try to sell it.

Kinder Morgan shareholders had no sooner approved the sale in September 2018 when, on the very same day, the federal Court of Appeal brought the expansion project to a grinding halt.

The NEB had failed to properly assess the impacts of increased oil tanker traffic on the marine environment, the court ruled, and the federal government had failed to properly consult First Nations.

That sent the NEB back to the drawing board, and the federal government to the negotiations table.

Once it had assessed the marine impacts, the NEB once again recommended the expansion could take place, but added additional conditions for addressing marine impacts.

Meanwhile, the Parliamentary Budget Office came out with a report in January 2019 that estimated delays in completing the expansion could increase the final capital cost by as much as $2 billion, pushing the capital costs from $7.4 billion to as much as $9.3 billion.

Despite the escalating capital cost of the project, several First Nations groups in Western Canada are angling to take an equity stake in the expanded pipeline.

“It would sure help the proponents’ optics if the prospect of First Nations investment in the pipeline is real,” University of BC political science professor Richard Johnston told Business in Vancouver. “That just alters a whole bunch of equations, it seems to me.”

Some of the First Nations groups that are lobbying the federal government on taking an equity position in the pipeline were in Vancouver today, June 18, for a rally in support of the pipeline.

Dale Swampy, president of the National Coalition of Chiefs, which represents 62 chiefs across Canada, said three indigenous groups seeking equity stakes in the pipeline will be brought together June 26 at the Indigenous Resource Council meeting in Calgary to promote a unified effort.

“As soon as it’s approved and starts to move forward, that’s when we start working with the government to look at purchasing equity,” Swampy said. “We’re not concerned whether the purchase occurs during construction or after construction, only that it does occur.

“There’s a lot of work to do. They have to get all the communities that signed onto the project, the 43 communities, to agree to work together on this. That may take some time.”

Swampy added that there were 20,000 self-identified indigenous oil and gas workers in 2015, and his group now represents 12,000.

“So there are some 8,000 indigenous oil and gas workers waiting to get work to build projects like TMX,” Swampy said. SOURCE

New climate election report delivers tough message to candidates: ‘None of your plans do enough to stop expansion of oil and gas industry’ report assesses platforms for Canada’s major political parties, reveals none meet level of ambition called for by UN IPCC report to avert worst impacts of climate change

Image result for burning earth


UNCEDED COAST SALISH TERRITORY (VANCOUVER, BC) — International environmental organization’s new report “A climate election guide for a world on fire” released Wednesday, October 9, assesses the climate plans for Canada’s major political parties. The report delivers a tough message to candidates that none of the parties’ platforms do enough to stop the expansion of the oil and gas industry.

Without adequate supply-side policies to stop new expansion projects, Canada will not be able to meet the level of ambition called for by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change landmark report Global Warming of 1.5ºC, which lays out the steps we must take to avert the worst impacts of climate change by keeping the world to 1.5°C of warming.

Read the report:

“After analyzing the climate plans for Canada’s major political parties, one thing is patently clear: elected officials, especially those who hope to lead the country, lack the necessary sense of urgency about climate change,” said Sven Biggs, Climate & Energy Campaigner at “Our politicians lack the courage to be honest with Canadians about the nature of the problem and the hard choices that have to be made to solve it. They are part of a new form of climate denialism, where they say say they understand and accept the scientific warnings about climate change, but they are in denial about what this means for public policy, and the measures necessary to reverse the effects of climate change before it’s too late.”

The report assesses the strengths and weaknesses of the climate plans for the Conservative Party, the Green Party, the New Democratic Party, and the Liberal Party, revealing:

  • The Conservative Party’s plan is merely a throwback to an era in which climate-insincere politicians try to trick climate-concerned citizens into believing they are taking action on greenhouse gas emissions.
  • The Green Party’s plan is a house-on-fire climate emergency action plan that honors Canada’s commitments in the Paris Agreement and keeps global warming to near 2°C, but is a little short on details and they do not explicitly communicate that much of Canada’s fossil fuel reserves will need to stay in the ground.
  • The New Democratic Party’s plan includes an aggressive emissions-reduction target that makes it clear they take the issue of climate change seriously, but it doesn’t provide enough details about carbon pricing and doesn’t include any supply-side policies to stop oil and gas expansion.
  • The Liberal Party’s climate track record is an improvement over the government that came before them, but it simply won’t get the job done. The introduction of a “net zero” target by 2050 is ambitious, but the combination of their track record and a complete lack of details on how they will meet this new target does little to inspire confidence.

The report also outlines what candidates can do to become true climate leaders by implementing policies that stop the expansion of the oil and gas industry:

    • No new fossil fuel projects: Stop approving, investing in, and building new fossil fuel projects — including no new or expanded pipelines, LNG terminals, coal mines, or tar sands mines.
    • Create an exit plan: Create an exit plan that breaks our economic reliance on the oil and gas sector, while supporting workers and communities impacted by the shift to a sustainable economy.
    • No tax breaks and subsidies: Stop giving tax breaks and subsidies to fossil fuel companies and invest that $3.3 billion of taxpayer money in renewable energy sources and other clean technologies.
    • Keep it in the ground: Acknowledge the world cannot afford to burn all of our fossil fuel reserves, particularly the oil from the tar sands, and acknowledge what’s left must remain in the ground.

“Every day we make it harder in Canada to fight climate change because we are expanding oil and gas production. If your house is on fire, you don’t add more fuel,” said Tzeporah Berman, International Program Director at “At this moment in history, we need leaders who will put in place an exit plan to stop the expansion of the oil and gas industry, implement a just transition by scaling up cleaner and safer jobs, and diversify our economy.”


Tzeporah Berman reveals what she’s planning to do with US$2-million in Climate Breakthrough Project funding

“Whether I’m talking to people in Norway or Argentina or Ecuador, they’re struggling with the same issue.”— Tzeporah Berman

Tzeporah Berman of is working with groups in Sweden and the United States on the feasibility of a fossil-fuel nonproliferation treaty.
Tzeporah Berman of is working with groups in Sweden and the United States on the feasibility of a fossil-fuel nonproliferation treaty.

In the same year that Parliament declared a climate emergency, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers forecast an increase of 1.27 million barrels per day of crude oil being extracted in Canada by 2035. And the Liberal government approved the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, which will triple shipments of diluted bitumen to the Pacific coast.

Berman attibuted part of the problem to international climate agreements.

According to her, governments have zeroed in on “negotiating the space in the atmosphere—who gets to pollute and how much”.

“So, they’re all focused on how much we burn,” she said. “And what I didn’t realize until I started deeply looking into the supply side of things was that the terms fossil fuel or oil and gas or coal don’t even appear in the thousands of pages of the Paris Agreement.”

But Berman pointed out that there’s no requirement on any of them to curb the amount of oil, gas, and coal extracted from the ground.

“We have no plan to cap or phase down the production of fossil fuels in the country—no plan,” she declared.

…Berman revealed that, the Stockholm Environment Institute, and the Washington, D.C.-based Centre for International Environmental Law have already convened a strong international working group.

It’s exploring the idea of a fossil-fuel nonproliferation treaty.

Berman has also given a great deal of thought about how municipal and county governments could do more to address the climate crisis.

She pointed out that local authorities played a key role in addressing the nuclear crisis and they’ve led the way in pushing the 100 percent renewable energy agenda.

Berman discussed the possibility of them passing land ordinances against the expansion of fossil-fuel infrastructure.

…the world is on track to see temperatures rise by nearly 4 C this century.

That could seriously disrupt food production and lead to famines.

This temperature rise would also cause huge numbers of deaths in heat waves, lead to longer forest-fire seasons, and intensify hurricanes, cyclones, and typhoons.

“I have made a decision that my work will focus for the next 10 years on trying to reduce the production of fossil fuels,” Berman said. “Quite honestly, at that point if we are still on for a four-degree and unsafe climate trajectory, then I plan to refocus my work on community resiliency and adaptation.” MORE



The campaign to silence Tzeporah Berman

Environmental activist Tzeporah Berman speaks at an event in Ottawa on Nov. 6, 2017. File photo by Alex Tétreault

She looked out at the crowd “with a tremendous sense of hope” and told them to prepare for arrest if they crossed the police line at the site of the proposed Trans Mountain oil pipeline from Alberta.

“It was a very powerful day for me,” she told National Observer. “It was the first protest on Burnaby Mountain.”

Five years later, a photo of Berman on that hopeful day on the outskirts of Vancouver is being used to foment hatred against her.

A poster showing the photo of Berman with a red circle around it, and a diagonal line through it, is labelled “TZEPORAH BERMAN ENEMY OF THE OILSANDS.”

A man representing a group called Oil Sands Strong held the poster and Berman’s CV up for the cameras and denounced her as he introduced Alberta Premier Jason Kenney at a June 7 news conference to announce a $30-million government “war room” against oil and gas industry critics.

Tzeporah Berman has received threats of violence and sexual assault over her opposition to the oilsands and pipelines. She worries the organized demonization of her and other activists is putting a chill on open dialogue in Alberta on climate change.

The next day, hate messages arrived on Berman’s Twitter account, phone and email. She received death threats, anti-Semitic messages and threats of sexual violence.

‘Un-Albertan activities committee’

Berman, international program director at, later watched that and another news conference “in horror.” At the other one, Kenney announced an inquiry into foreign funding of groups which criticize Alberta’s oil and gas industry.

Berman is among those who call it Kenney’s “Un-Albertan activities committee,” a play on the House Un-American Activities Committee and the anti-Communist witch hunts of U.S. senator Joseph McCarthy in the 1940s and ’50s.

Based in Vancouver with her husband and children, Berman is one of Canada’s most accomplished environmentalists. She was pivotal in landmark agreements to protect B.C.’s Great Bear Rainforest, Canada’s boreal forest and in the previous Alberta government’s climate change and energy policy development.

Today, Berman is concerned that the organized personal demonization of her and other activists is putting a chill on open dialogue in Alberta about climate change and fossil fuels.

Environmentalists are clearly targeted. Energy companies are silent, unwilling to “break ranks” and encourage dialogue about policies, such as a cap on oilsands greenhouse gas emissions, that they helped create under the NDP government of Rachel Notley. MORE


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IPCC authors urge NEB to consider climate impacts of Trans Mountain pipeline expansion

Scientists Kirsten Zickfeld and Mark Jaccard say oilsands expansion is inconsistent with Canada’s climate goals. Photo by Michael Ruffolo

A pair of experts on global warming have thrown their support behind a new legal motion urging the National Energy Board to consider all climate-related impacts from the proposed Trans Mountain oil pipeline and tanker expansion in its latest review of the project.

The motion was filed on Monday by environmental group The two experts have contributed to major international scientific assessment reports about climate change. Both of them warned that Canada needs to do its part by stopping the growth of emissions from the country’s oilsands deposits of northern Alberta. Oilsands companies would be able to expand well beyond current production levels if the project to ship more oil gets the green light.