The Gristle

Thumb on the Scales

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

THUMB ON THE SCALES: Canada’s Trudeau government will buy the Trans Mountain pipeline and related infrastructure for $4.5 billion, and could spend billions more to build the controversial expansion. Canada’s Finance Minister Bill Morneau announced details of the agreement reached with Kinder Morgan at a news conference with Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr this week.

“Make no mistake, this is an investment in Canada’s future,” Morneau told reporters.

The announcement and the federal government’s strong involvement strips away lingering doubts the pipeline project will be built, which will triple the amount of bitumen tar sands being transported from Alberta to the British Columbia coast. The financial guarantee was a requirement of Kinder Morgan to move forward.

Last week in Seattle, hundreds of “kayaktivists” took to the water to protest against the pipeline. They were part of a demonstration by the environmental groups like the Mosquito Fleet, Greenpeace, and Sierra Club that organized a rally in the city against Kinder Morgan’s proposed pipeline expansion.

The involvement of activists and the tribes made Kinder Morgan’s shareholders and private investors nervous. In the face of financial risk and uncertainty, Kinder Morgam gave the federal government of Canada a strict timetable to resolve outstanding financial and legal issues surrounding the pipeline. Last week, in order to appease the Texan oil company, Trudeau’s government announced that it will effectively give the Kinder Morgan a “blank cheque” “to indemnify” the pipeline “against any financial loss” suffered if they build the pipeline.

Morneau said the project is in the national interest, and proceeding with it will preserve jobs, reassure investors and get resources to world markets. He said he couldn’t state exactly what additional costs will be incurred by the Canadian public to build the expansion, but suggested a toll paid by oil companies could offset some costs and that there would be a financial return on the investment, Canadian news sources reported.

Kinder Morgan had estimated the cost of building the expansion would be $7.4 billion, but Morneau insisted that the project will not have a fiscal impact, or “hit.”

Morneau said the government does not intend to be a long-term owner, and at the appropriate time, the government will work with investors to transfer the project and related assets to a new owner or owners. Investors such as indigenous groups and pension funds have already expressed interest, he told reporters.

Canada’s aggression seems to emboldened everyone fighting the pipeline, building a growing awareness not only of the threat that the pipeline poses to the climate, but also to marine life as it would massively increase the tanker traffic up the West Coast of Canada and United States.

The worst-case scenario—a massive oil spill at the Trans Mountain tank farm in Burnaby or in Vancouver’s harbor entrance to the Salish Sea—is a potential catastrophe with unknown consequences.

“It’s not just about the spills, it’s not just about the orcas,” said Graham Clumpner one of the paddlers with the Mosquito Fleet: “The bigger issue that we are all facing is climate change,” he said. “We are going to not allow Kinder Morgan to finish this pipeline.”

Ben Smith from Greenpeace USA added “It would make climate change worse, it would trample indigenous rights, it would run over our clean water here, and it would decimate the final 76 remaining orcas, the Southern Resident killer whale in our waters.”

At the Seattle rally, one of the speakers was Cedar George-Parker from the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, who have been leading the community opposition to the pipeline in British Columbia.

“They want to bring that oil through here, but we say that we will stop Kinder Morgan,” George-Parker said. “It is not happening.”

Not only is the resistance growing from the local community, indigenous rights groups and environmental groups to the pipeline, but even the financial community warns the economics and changing energy market is stacked against it as the world continues to shift to a new energy transition. Critics say the promised investment would be better spent developing opportunities to adapt to a changing energy portfolio.

Canada’s Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said the decision does nothing to advance the project, since the legal questions and barriers still remain. He said the government has failed to take action to ensure certainty around the expansion by resolving jurisdictional issues.

“This is a very, very sad day for Canada’s energy sector. The message that is being sent to the world is that in order to get a big project build in this country, the federal government has to nationalize a huge aspect of it,” he said. 

Currently, two court cases pose the potential to delay or even derail the project, while the National Energy Board, responsible for the initial environment impact review, has since been stripped of those responsibilities for future energy projects by the Trudeau government.

Yet Canada’s role as financier, regulator and litigator places a large thumb on the scale in favor of the project.

While the conflict over the future of the Trans Mountain pipeline is centered in British Columbia, more than half of the pipeline’s flow currently goes to Washington, not British Columbia. Five miles north of the international border, a branch called the Puget Sound Pipeline leads south. It sends Alberta tar sands oil to four refineries in Whatcom and Skagit counties. Last year, that pipeline carried 60 million barrels of Albertan oil to Washington’s Andeavor, BP, Phillips 66 and Shell refineries.

An alternate route proposed for the pipeline could cut right through productive Whatcom County farmland. A threat percolating just across the border just got very local.

BoS
Past Columns
Halfway Houses

March 20, 2019

New Directions

March 13, 2019

Fire and Ice

March 6, 2019

The Big Short

February 27, 2019

Marina Lacuna

February 20, 2019

New Bites at the Apple

February 13, 2019

Coal Folds

February 6, 2019

Refocusing the Narrative

January 29, 2019

Old Town, Old Story

January 23, 2019

Ranker Unanchored

January 16, 2019

‘Alternative Methods’

January 9, 2019

Top Stories, 2018

January 2, 2019

Et Tu, #MeToo

December 26, 2018

Turn That Corner

December 19, 2018

Paradigms in Collision

November 28, 2018

Leftover Turkey

November 21, 2018

The Divisions Between Us

November 14, 2018

The Map is the Territory

November 7, 2018

Events
Today
Sue C. Boynton Poetry Contest

8:00am|Whatcom County

La Conner Daffodil Festival

10:00am|La Conner and the Skagit Valley

Essence of Bellingham Photo Competition

12:00pm

Imagine Convergence on Orcas Island

12:00pm|Rosario Resort

Peter Pan, A Musical Adventure

7:00pm|Meridian High School

Dyo Festival Plays

7:30pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

Bellingham Puppetry and Mask Festival

7:30pm|Alternative Library

SICBA Home & Garden Show

11:00am|Skagit County Fairgrounds

Tarnation, Ryan Stiles

7:30pm|Upfront Theatre

The Pageturners

7:30pm|ACT Annex

Pancake Breakfast

8:00am|American Legion Post #154

Honeywagon Runs

8:00am|Riverside Park

Nordic Roots Seminar

9:00am|United Methodist Church

NSEA Work Party

9:00am|Squalicum Creek

Native Plant Sale

9:00am|Whatcom Community College

Make It and Take it

9:00am|Garden Spot Nursery

WNPS Field Trip

9:00am|Breazeale Interpretive Center

Spring Studio Seconds Sale

10:00am|Blue Water Pottery

Quilt Museum Annex Open House

10:00am|Northwest Quilt & Fiber Arts Museum

Youth Ag Day

10:00am|Skagit Farmers Supply

Sumas Writers Group

10:00am|Sumas Library

Skagit Beer Week

11:00am|Skagit Valley

Dahlias Made Easy

11:00am|Christianson's Nursery

Free My Heart

12:00pm|Village Books

Tax Help Available

12:30pm|First Congregational Church

Fidalgo and Mount Baker Youth Symphonies

1:00pm|McIntyre Hall

Forest Bathing

1:00pm|Rockport State Park

A Family Immigration Story

1:00pm

Cheese Classes

5:00pm|Chuckanut Center

PechuKucha Night

5:00pm|Museum of Northwest Art

Contra Dance with the Alphabeats

7:00pm|Fairhaven Library

Manouche NW Concert Series

7:00pm|Mount Baker Theatre

Giovanni & the Camino of St. Francis

7:00pm|Village Books

Gabriel and Rebecca Manalac

7:30pm|Jansen Art Center

Skagit Symphony's Masterpiece Concert

7:30pm|McIntyre Hall

Trove Web
Tomorrow
Sue C. Boynton Poetry Contest

8:00am|Whatcom County

La Conner Daffodil Festival

10:00am|La Conner and the Skagit Valley

Imagine Convergence on Orcas Island

12:00pm|Rosario Resort

Essence of Bellingham Photo Competition

12:00pm

SICBA Home & Garden Show

11:00am|Skagit County Fairgrounds

The Pageturners

7:30pm|ACT Annex

Skagit Beer Week

11:00am|Skagit Valley

Rabbit Ride

8:30am|Fairhaven Bicycle

Langar in Lynden

11:00am| Guru Nanak Gursikh Gurdwara

History Tour

12:30pm|Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall

Audubon at the Museum

1:30pm|Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall

Legally Blonde, the Musical

3:00pm|Mount Baker Theatre

Murder & Mayhem

3:00pm|Everson Library

Poems for Peace

3:00pm|The Happy Place

Powerful in pink

3:00pm

Art of Jazz

4:00pm|BAAY Theatre

Classy Comedy

7:00pm|Upfront Theatre

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Monday
Sue C. Boynton Poetry Contest

8:00am|Whatcom County

La Conner Daffodil Festival

10:00am|La Conner and the Skagit Valley

Essence of Bellingham Photo Competition

12:00pm

Skagit Beer Week

11:00am|Skagit Valley

Community Soup Kitchen

6:00pm|Little Cheerful Cafe

Monday Night Pizza

6:00pm|Ciao Thyme Commons

Poetrynight

7:00pm|Alternative Library

Open Mic Night

7:00pm|Village Books

Guffawingham

9:00pm|Firefly Lounge

see our complete calendar »

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