Potential Impacts of Pipeline Expansion on BC Coasts

Canada's pipeline debate is causing quite a stir and on this page of our website, we are going to look at the potential impacts of the pipeline expansion on British Columbia coasts. The controversial approval of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline is generating a lot of praise, but it is also sparking a lot of outrage too.

Energy Sector and Business Groups Approve

The government approval of the expansion has generated a lot of praise from the business and energy sector. The proposed $6.8 billion project will run from Edmonton to Burrard Inlet in Metro Vancouver. In doing so it will triple its current capacity of 300,000 barrels shipped to 890,000 barrels of oil per day. It is proposed that the project will be completed and fully operational by 2019.

When Trudeau's government announced their support for the Trans Mountain expansion, they also approved Enbridge's Line 3 pipeline replacement from Alberta to Wisconsin. They did, however, reject the company's proposed Northern Gateway oilsands pipeline from Alberta to the port of Kitimat in British Columbia. Trudeau also promised an oil tanker ban for BC's north coast.

Climate Campaigners Outraged and Determined to Fight

Outrage at this new pipeline was expressed by climate campaigners, aboriginal groups, and some opposition parties. They claim that the pipeline isn't compatible with Trudeau's climate change commitments. Aboriginal organizations have vowed to fight it in court and on the ground.

Potential Economic Benefits of the Pipeline Expansion

Those in favour of the Trans Mountain project say that it will create thousands of jobs for the industry and that these are badly needed. The National Energy Board stated that there would be considerable economic benefits including jobs as well as creating more flexible and diverse markets.

Kinder Morgan said the 1,150 km twinned pipeline will create 15,000 jobs throughout the construction phase and a further 37,000 jobs per year in operation. They also stated that the pipeline would generate $46.7 billion in provincial and federal taxes during construction and over 20 years in operation as well as higher prices for oil producers. The main benefit of this revenue would go to Alberta.

The NEB, in their report stated that Kinder Morgan had used acceptable methods for estimating the project's economic benefits. They did however also state that projections were broad estimates and that the actual economic effects of this project would only be seen once the project was finished and in operation.

Potential Environment Impacts of the Expanded Pipeline

The environmental organizations opposed to this project worry about the increased risk of potential oil spills on land and at sea. They believe it will hinder Canada's ability to reach its climate-change commitments.

The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency has estimated that the upstream greenhouse gas emissions from Trans Mountain once fully operational and working to capacity could be between 20 and 26 megatons of carbon dioxide per year. They stated that the additional number of barrels of oil per day could create between 14 and 17 megatonnes of carbon each year.

Alberta Premier, Rachel Notley said the increased greenhouse gas emissions wouldn't happen because the NDP government's climate plan would cap oilsands emissions at 100 megatonnes per year.

Environmental groups are also worried that the increased oil tanker traffic will lead to the extinction of orca whales in BC coastal waters. The NEB acknowledges this and stated that there would likely be significant adverse effects to the killer whale and will further impact on the recovery of the orca population. The number of tankers coming and going will increase from five per month to 34.

The First Nations are threatening a major court battle against Kinder Morgan and they have an impressive track record for winning these cases. It is the duty of the Crown to "consult and accommodate" First Nations before allowing a major project to proceed on their traditional territory. In order for the First Nations to win the court case, they have to prove that their traditional rights are being trampled on.

What Outcome Can We Expect?

The debate is ongoing with both sides voicing their opinions and as yet no decision has been reached. We will update this page with any new information that becomes available as the debate continues and we see which side wins out. Will it be more jobs and business for the province, or will the environmental opposition put a stop to this project?