Will new BC government stop the proposed pipeline?

Byy On

On Monday, May 29, our neighbors to the north, British Columbia, had a surprising and dramatic change in their government. With a parliamentary system, this can happen. Two minority parties cemented a deal to work together - and together they form a new majority in the B.C. parliament. A majority of one, but still a majority. Both parties are against the pipeline and against increased oil tanker traffic in our islands.

Wow. We wrote a short article linking to Michael Riordan’s report in Sightline on the impacts of this pipeline. Just days ago it seemed unstoppable. Now hope springs anew.

Joel Connelly has a good explanation of all this in the Seattle PI for us USA residents who are not always up on Canadian politics. ​And the Vancouver Sun has several articles in detail about this.

We expect more information on Tuesday about possible opposition by B.C. to the pipeline.

For perspective, the Liberal party in B.C. has controlled the government for 16 years. A key point is the Liberal party in Canada is conservative by our USA standards. All very weird and one reason we tend to give up trying to follow Canadian politics. The new ruling coalition is of the New Democratic Party and the Green Party. As Joel Connelly explains, this is quite historic for North America.

About John Servais

Citizen Journalist and Editor • Fairhaven, Washington USA • Member since Feb 26, 2008

John started Northwest Citizen in 1995 to inform fellow citizens of serious local political issues that the Bellingham Herald was ignoring. With the help of donors from the beginning, he has [...]

Comments by Readers

John Lesow

May 30, 2017

It is unlikely the B.C. government will cave on twinning the existing Trans Mountain pipeline from Alberta to Burnaby.   Even more unlikely  that the Liberal Trudeau government will change it’s decision this summer to approve this controversial pipeline.  Last fall, Trudeau withdrew support for the Northern Gateway Pipeline in Kitimat just before he approved Kinder Morgan in Burnaby, which was a prudent move, politically and environmentally.   The waters around Kitimat are, in fact, relatively pristine and an oil spill there would wreak huge damage. So approval of the Trans Mountain and rejection of Northern Gateway were a kind of political quid pro quo.

 The waters of the Burrard Inlet are not pristine and there are already large refinery facilities there, along with pipelines and storage facilities at the Lake City tank farm in nearby Burnaby.   Vancouver has plenty of ships entering and leaving  the harbour every day.  Cruise ships, bulk freighters and tankers.  Vancouver is, after all, a port.   Prime Minister Trudeau assured Canadians that the emergency response facilities in Burrard Inlet would be the most up to date, state-of-the-art recovery facilities in the world, in the extremely unlikely event of a spill. And who would ever doubt the judgement of our Liberal government?   Or our telegenic Prime Minister?  What could ever go wrong?

The biggest threat  from the Kinder Morgan/Trans Mountain project is a fire at the storage tank farm in Burnaby. These events occur more often than most folks realize. The implications of a petroleum fire could be devastating for the residents near  Burnaby Mountain and Simon Fraser University.  Although the new storage tanks for the Kinder Morgan bitumen will be “state of the art”—(there’s that catchphrase again)  the existing storage tanks for regular petroleum there are older and definitely not up to today’s safety standards.   Most tank farms are located outside large population centers.   Not the Burnaby tank farm.

Transmountain has operated a cross-border pipeline from Abbotsford/Sumas B.C.  south to Anacortes and Cherry Point since 1954. It is not unreasonable to suggest that even if the Transmountain / Burnaby connection  is stopped, the company  would propose twinning their existing pipeline and ship Alberta bitumen from Cherry Point.   Don’t be surprised if this alternative is proposed by Kinder Morgan if the B.C. government withdraws support  for the Burnaby connection.  Engineering-wise, this alternative is perfectly feasible.   And it would avoid the concerns about safety and environmental damage in the Vancouver area.  It would just be a matter of moving the threat to another location.  In this case, a different country.  Our country.  And most Vancouverites would approve of the move.  And breathe a sigh of relief.

Prime Minister Trudeau is a pragmatist.  Today, he affirmed his support of the Trans Mountain expansion, despite the anti-pipeline rhetoric from the New Democrats and Green Party of B.C.

Little surprise.  Name me one country that is sitting on 171 billion barrels of oil that would not want to export it.

Particularly when the revenues from that oil and other forms of resource extraction (lumber, coal) are absolutely essential to support government programs that provide Canadian citizens with a higher standard of living than the U.S. and most other industrialized countries.  

Click to view 10 minute video on oil tank farm fires


David Camp

May 30, 2017

Excellent and timely article, John S., and an excellent comment from John L. In Canada, the federal government has authority over railways and pipelines - the Provinces have influence, and can delay projects using political means, but the ultimate authority is in Ottawa. Which is why I think the KM pipeline will happen, despite the BC Liberals loss of power. 

BC liberals are business oriented - I would not refer to them as “conservative” but rather as a traditional bourgeois party in the Canadian model of supporting business and also maintaining social programs such as single-payer health care, uneployment insurance, and social housing. That there is no “conservative” party in BC (unlike at a federal level where the Conservative Party just elected a new leader who proudly proclaims he is “socially-conservative”) is an aspect of BC’s prosperity and distance from the Canadian political mainstream - sort of like California, without Ronald Reagan and his ilk! 

If you want to find out what BC “conservatives” were all about before they crashed and burned as a political force, look up the Social Credit Party. They ran the Province for years - and one of their greats, Grace McCarthy, just died. 

Finally, the Federal Liberals in Canada are not “conservative” either - they introduced Medicare for all in the sixties under the leadership of Lester Pearson, who so enraged LBJ by is refusal to support the invasion of Vietnam that LBJ reputedly grabbed him by the throat and lifted hm off the floor. Trump is hardly the first preening bully to occupy the oval office!


John Lesow

May 31, 2017

Shortly after he approved the Trans Mountain Pipeline last December,  Prime Minister Justin Trudeau received a letter from a retired engineer,  suggesting Canada consider an alternative route through Cherry Point for Alberta bitumen.

A summary of that letter follows:

“Dilbit (diluted bitumen) is a fungible hazardous product that slowly sinks to the bottom of the water column and pollutes the shores, streams and water tables.  Spills on land and water can be disastrous and must be prevented whenever it is reasonably practicable.  Transporting hazardous dilbit through heavily populated areas and environmentally sensitive waters must not be allowed.

Burnaby and Metro Vancouver citizens must continue our protest and stop the expanded Kinder Morgan pipeline through their cities.  It is madness to go through a densely populated area to supply a vastly increased number of super tankers in their busy harbour.

If construction through Burnaby is stopped, Alberta can still ship their diluted bitiumen via KM’s Abbotsford/Sumas pipeline to Cherry Point, WA which has an excellent deep water harbour, away from heavily populated areas. (see map below).

Pipelines can be designed to ship liquid petroleum products in batches in either direction.  Overseas tankers arriving at Cherry Point, WA with naphtha (Coleman stove gas) that is needed to dilute tar sands bitumen can have their volatile cargo shipped back to Alberta along the expanded parallel pipeline from CherryPoint WA via Sumas at the Canadian border.  The naphtha arrives in Alberta via the parallel pipeline and is then used to dilute the bitumen.  Once the super tanker is emptied of naphtha it can be filled with Alberta dilbit.

Although this does not mitigate increased world-wide CO2 production that affects climate change, this alternative solution allows Kinder Morgan to eliminate the major concerns of the protestors over the doubling of the Trans Mountain pipeline through heavily populated Burnaby and transporting this hazardous cargo through Metro Vancouver’s busy harbor/Burrard Inlet/Georgia Strait.

For KM, Burnaby and Metro Vancouver it’s a win-win alternative.  All KM has to do is increase the capacity of their Abbotsford/Sumas pipeline connection to Cherry Point , WA with a parallel pipeline.  They could improve efficiency by adding a parallel pipeline for naptha only all the way to Alberta (similar to the Northern Gateway proposal).  All that it requires is approval from WA state and the USA EPA.   That will be KM’s problem.

Most of these super tankers are only one failure away from a major disaster.  If their single engine fails, they will lose their steering and founder and drift to shore or collide with other ships before any tug can come to their rescue.  They are an accident waiting to hapen.

For increased reliability and additional protection against an engine failure, Canadian and USA regulations must require all ships carrying hazardous carrgo within 200 miles of our coastlines to use a twin screw design, powered by separate independent engines.  Thus, if one engine fails they can still maintain steering and electrical auxiliary power for navigation. They  will not be at the mercy of the heavy seas, especially during high winds, storms and freak monster waves.”

Prime Minister Trudeau has today made it clear that he still supports the Trans Mountain pipeline through Burnaby, despite recent anti-pipeline rhetoric from newly-elected MLAs  Andrew Weaver (BC Greens) and John Horgan (BC New Democrats).

Yesterday, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley doubled down on her support of the  Kinder Morgan proposal through Metro Vancouver.

Ironic that Premier Notley is the leader of Alberta’s New Democratic Party,  the first NDP government in the history of the province and the first non-Progressive Conservative Premier of Alberta since the Social Credit Party was defeated in 1971. 

Click to see Kinder Morgan map with pipeline to Cherry Point.


David Camp

May 31, 2017

@john l - that is a capital idea! Except that tanker traffic will still increase in the Salish sea , only landing at Cherry Point not Burnaby. But the idea of making the pipeline go two ways to transport diluent to Alberta tar, and then round trip the dilute bitumen back to cherry point for refining or export. I wonder if it makes sense rather to pipe Bakken crude, which is volatile, and use it as diluent for Alberta bitumen?

as a practical reality we need transitional solutions like this as we wind down the catastrophic fossil fuel economy in favor of a sustainable economy that respects the planet’s living processes. Living processes that have sequestered carbon for eons to create (geoform, rather) the optimal climate conditions we now live in. Sequestered carbon that we are burning into the atmosphere at roughly a million times the rate it was sequestered. 


Larry Horowitz

May 31, 2017

David, thanks for mentioning that these transitional solutions are just that… transitional.  At some point, hopefully soon, breakthrough energy technologies will become a reality.

The BREAKTHROUGH ENERGY COALITION has the resources to fund these technologies.  Members include multi-billionaires Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson, Michael Bloomberg, Bill Gates, Jack Ma (Alibaba Chairman), George Soros, Tom Steyer,  Meg Whitman, and Mark Zuckerberg, among others.

Steven Greer, founder of THE ORION PROJECT presented a summary of breakthrough energy technologies to then President Obama and members of the US Congress in 2009.

Of course, those who generate obscene profits from the status quo will do everything in their substantial power to prevent the new technologies from replacing their cash cows, but that day will come… eventually.

I look forward to the day when discussions of coal terminals and oil pipelines is a thing of the past… if we make it to that day.  According to Stephen Hawking, we have 100 years or so before we’ll need to colonize another planet, so the clock is ticking.


Larry Horowitz

May 31, 2017




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