Nothing Divides Like A Pipeline (Part 2)

Nothing Divides Like A Pipeline (Part 2)

In the first half of this blog post, I explained the issue of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion, and why it has divided British Columbia and Alberta.  Now, I will talk about the major points for and against the project.

What Are The Points In Favour Of The Expansion?

1) Benefits for the economy.  As I mentioned previously, expanding the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline project would bring a significant amount of money to the Canadian government.  The Trans Mountain Pipeline website estimates that the expansion would inject $7.4 billion into Canada’s economy, and would bring an increase in revenues in the long term.  Not to mention, expanding the pipeline would bring more jobs for Canadians.

2) More opportunities for trade.  Having more Canadian oil to trade could open doors to future trade relationships with the global community.  According to Natural Resources Canada, Canada is the fourth largest producer and third largest exporter of oil in the world.  Most of our exports (99%) go to the United States, making up about 40% of petroleum imports in the U.S.  Supporters of Trans Mountain say that transporting more oil will allow us to export more to countries like the U.S. and build new trade relationships.

3) The oil will need to be transported anyway.  Some proponents of the pipeline are adamant that preventing the pipeline expansion will not “keep the oil in the ground”.  Instead, they say that it will continue to be transported to the coast by potentially more expensive infrastructure such as rail.  By this logic, without the expansion, taxpayers will end up paying more for transportation, while the Alberta oil sands will continue to operate as they always have (thus not reducing the environmental impacts of oil extraction). 

What Are The Points Against The Expansion?

1) Increased risk of oil spills. With the increase in oil flowing to the coastline, along with the increase in tanker traffic in coastal waters, there is a higher probability of an oil spill – which would be devastating for the environment.  A major spill in BC’s waters would kill unfathomable numbers of sea birds, fish, and other animals.  In fact, it’s worth noting that Kinder Morgan actually had an oil spill in Kamloops, B.C. just a couple days before the federal government purchased the project.  It was later determined that 4800 litres of crude oil were spilled at this time, 48 times more than the original estimates!  

2) Lack of appropriate spill management plans.  With this in mind, it is crucial that Kinder Morgan has plans in place in case an oil spill occurs.  However, B.C.’s government has outlined several areas where they feel that the government’s spill management plans are unsatisfactory, such as spill response times and regional marine-response plans.  A recent poll even found that only 41% of Canadians are confident that the government will be able to deal with a potential spill.  In the words of George Heyman, BC’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change, “The people of B.C. need to know that there is effective spill management across the province and, in particular, for our most environmentally sensitive areas, including coastlines.”

3) Lack of appropriate consultation with First Nations groups.  One of the largest groups against the pipeline expansion has been local First Nations groups.  Some Indigenous groups feel that the government does not have their consent to build a pipeline through their lands, and that the impacts of a potential oil spill would devastate their territory.  An open letter from the David Suzuki Foundation puts it this way: “Twenty-one municipalities, 59 First Nations, 91 per cent of people surveyed at town halls, and 210,000 petition signers say no [to the Trans Mountain expansion].”  This sentiment has spread to other First Nations groups across the country, with 133 nations in Ontario pledging their support to the cause.

**Disclaimer: there are certainly many more points on either side of the issue, but I have done my best to summarize three of the most significant in an impartial manner!**

So What Happens Now?

Well, in short: the pipeline will be built.  And while Albertans are largely in favour of the government’s purchase of the pipeline (about 60% support the pipeline), a recent poll found that 76% of British Columbians are uneasy about their tax dollars being spent on Kinder Morgan’s expansion.

Even now, over a month after the federal government purchased the pipeline, those against Kinder Morgan are still standing strong.  In fact, just a couple days ago, police had to remove protesters dangling from the Ironworkers Memorial Bridge who were trying to block the path of oil tankers!

Image Credit: Vancouver Sun

Well, reader, it’s up to you now.  Whatever your opinion is, I encourage you to continue to do research on the project, as well as the points on both sides.  It’s our duty and our responsibility to inform ourselves, especially when it comes to an issue as complicated and controversial as Kinder Morgan.

After all, nothing divides Canadians quite like a pipeline.

-Asha M.

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