The approval of the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline makes it clearer than ever that BC is going to have to have to stand up for itself in the face of a federal government willing to impose unwanted projects despite overwhelming opposition – and the response of First Nations and British Columbians to the news this week has shown an unwavering resolve and an inspirational source of hope that we can win this fight.
Although Northern Gateway has now cleared another major regulatory hurdle, a combination of First Nations legal challenges, a citizen push-back that could range from a province-wide vote to civil disobedience, and (at least currently) a strong ‘no’ from the Provincial government mean that the pipeline is unlikely to ever be built.
When Enbridge first floated the proposal in 2005, no one could have imagined how controversial it would become: at the time such projects were usually nodded through without a great deal of interest. Now it’s shaping up to be a defining issue for many BC communities and a top voting issue in the 2015 federal election.
The campaign to stop Northern Gateway has also built a broad and strong coalition, and sparked a powerful citizen’s movement. We are grateful to everyone who has worked so tirelessly for so long, especially First Nations and non-indigenous communities on the front-lines in northern BC, and we want you to know that we stand with you, and are inspired by your leadership and resolve.
We are also grateful for the path that has been forged – the lessons learned and the alliances built – that those of us working on the south coast are now following in our efforts to stop Kinder Morgan’s pipeline proposal. This project too was once seen as a “slam-dunk”, and now struggles against “overwhelming opposition” (to quote the Financial Post, no less). Polls are showing rising levels of concern, at least two legal challenges are already underway, and the NEB’s review process has more people involved as intervenors and commenters than any project in its history. In other words, the Kinder Morgan pipeline is shaping up to be a battle royale too.
Protect Our Sacred Waters rally, Vancouver, June 2014
Photo: Alexandra Woodsworth
And for good reason. Kinder Morgan’s expansion poses the same threats as Enbridge – an oil spill that could devastate our environment, economy and coastal communities, and a yearly climate impact greater than the combined annual emissions of 90 nations – and the same negligible benefits for BC. Opponents of these projects aren’t NIMBYs. British Columbians don’t want risky tar sands pipelines or tankers anywhere in our province – we want to go in a different direction. Our investments should help us transition away from fossil fuels, not tie us to more resource extraction and increase our contribution to climate change.
In the days leading up to the Enbridge decision, Premier Clark came under immense pressure to say ‘no’ to Enbridge, and it worked: the province said Enbridge had not met their five conditions, and they would deny permits if necessary. Those same five conditions apply to Kinder Morgan, and we need to bring the same pressure to bear to ensure the province takes a strong stand on the southern tar sands pipeline.
Compared to the JRP’s Enbridge hearings, the NEB’s Kinder Morgan review has dramatically restricted public participation and speeded up the timeline. And this week we learned just how brazenly the federal cabinet ignored public concern expressed during the JRP. Together, this means we need to work even harder to generate public pressure outside the formal review process.
We need to talk to more people in our communities, make more noise on the streets, raise more money for First Nations legal challenges, and – whatever it means for each of us – step up to the next level of what we’re willing to do to protect our coast and fight for a better future. Here’s a listas some food for thought, and stay tuned for updates on our Save the Salish Sea page.