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Kinder Morgan forced to leave Burnaby Mountain: What's next?

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Photo: Mark Klotz/flickr

Months of grassroots action on Burnaby Mountain -- situated about 15 kilometres from our office in downtown Vancouver -- have just culminated in a week of non-violent direct action that saw more than 100 people arrested forcing Texas-based Kinder Morgan to leave before it could complete survey work for its proposed Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

Kinder Morgan is proposing to twin the Trans Mountain pipeline from northern Alberta to the British Columbia coast to increase the pipeline's capacity from 300,000 barrels per day to 890,000 barrels per day. This project would mean adding 980 kilometres of new pipeline alongside the existing 60-year-old 1,150 kilometres of pipeline. The pipeline would carry bitumen from northern Alberta through Jasper National Park, across the Vedder Fan aquifer and Chilliwack's Protecte‎d Groundwater Zone, then over Fraser River to the Westridge Marine Terminal on the Burrard Inlet. It is estimated that a supertanker could be loaded there every day with the Trans Mountain pipeline. The project would produce an estimated 270 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions over a 35-year period.

The National Post reports, "Kinder Morgan has stopped drilling on Burnaby Mountain and began moving out its equipment Friday [November 28]... An application by Kinder Morgan to extend an injunction keeping protesters away from two drilling sites for its proposed oil pipeline was rejected by a B.C. Supreme Court judge on Thursday [November 27]. It means the site must be cleared of excavation work by [Monday] December 1., the date when the injunction is set to expire." The company was drilling two 200-metre deep boreholes to get the geotechnical information it needs to make the case for the tunnel it wants to drill -- about 100 to 200 metres below ground -- for the pipeline to cut through the mountain and conservation area. It could not complete its survey work on the mountain so it is possible that it will seek another two weeks in the publicly-owned conservation area at a later date.

But with Kinder Morgan planning for construction of the pipeline to begin in 2015 -- and for it to be operational in 2017 -- what are the next steps that need to be taken to defeat the pipeline? That's not certain yet. The National Post reports, "On Friday morning, anti-pipeline activists were debating their next move in the battle to stop the pipeline expansion project." Part of the challenge is an industry captured National Energy Board regulatory process and a federal government that is backing the pipeline.

Given those realities, court action and direct action will likely remain key strategies.

- The Tsleil-Waututh Nation -- whose traditional territory includes Vancouver and Burnaby -- will be challenging the National Energy Board regulatory process in the Federal Court of Canada. The Canadian Press reports, "Tsleil-Waututh Chief Maureen Thomas says government and the NEB have entered into an unlawful process that doesn't respect the band's rights and title. ...The band claimed in court that the process can't go ahead because it hasn't been consulted about key decisions, including about the environmental assessment."

- Council of Canadians Vancouver-Burnaby chapter activist Eric Doherty is taking part in another court challenge, coordinated by Forest Ethics Advocacy, of the National Energy Board's review process for the expansion of the pipeline. The Vancouver Observer reports, "Of the 2,000 people who applied to the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion hearings, 468 people were rejected outright, while another 452 people were downgraded so that they could only submit a letter of comment. The NEB also stated that topics such as climate change and oil sands expansion should not be covered during the hearings."

- And Derek Corrigan, the mayor Burnaby, is pursuing court action to keep Kinder Morgan out of the city-owned Burnaby Mountain Conservation Area. He says, "It's not a place for a pipeline and not a place for these kinds of [survey] activities. ...By cutting down trees in our park [Kinder Morgan and the National Energy Board] are directly confronting our bylaws. If they think they've got that kind of authority then they need to … show the courts." The City is seeking to take this challenge to the Supreme Court of Canada.

- In terms of direct action, the success of this past week would indicate that non-violent direct action will very likely happen in 2015-16 should the pipeline be approved by the Harper government and construction begins. The Council of Canadians supports civil disobedience and applauds the courage and determination of those arrested resisting the survey work for the pipeline. Vancouver-based Council of Canadians organizer was one of the first arrested in the protests against the survey work.

The Council of Canadians is committed to stopping the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline. We have been opposing the pipeline since Kinder Morgan announced its planned expansion in 2011. We will see this fight through to 2017 or as long as necessary. We will continue to follow the leadership of First Nations, front-line communities, and local residents in Burnaby as this fight progresses.

Photo: Mark Klotz/flickr

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