Canada’s Biggest Pipelines

CORRECTION: We initially reported the quoted value of the Woodfibre LNG Limited pipeline as $11.4 billion. The actual figure is 1.6 billion. We apologize for the error.


Developments from the 2000’s to-date


(Nat Mussell)

The Canadian Energy Pipeline Association has laid claim to approximately 119,000 kilometres of pipeline—enough to circle the earth three times. Those projects led to a $11.5 billion increase to the country’s gross domestic product along with a great deal of harm done to the environment, and whether or not that is a worthy price to pay has been hotly debated since pipeline opposition first picked up in the 2000’s.

CEPA has also attached their name to the Integrity First program, designed “to help pipeline companies share and implement leading practices, keeping pipelines safe and communities protected,” as written on their website. All 12 member companies under the CEPA must abide by those guidelines, but they often serve the purpose of keeping appearances while enforcing very little regulation. As demonstrated by oil spills and civil direst over pipelines throughout the past few decades, they are neither safe nor adored by the community at large.

Proof of that came to KPU in 2015, when the university signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Trans Mountain Expansion Project. With the MOU came an institutional promise to plaster Trans Mountain’s name on KPU’s Environmental Protection Technology Lab in exchange for $300,000 in scholarships. The Kwantlen First Nation and KPU students and faculty rallied against it to success, and have not come directly into contact with pipelines since. More information about the 2015 MOU can be found in The Runner’s Archives.

It’s likely that students enrolled at KPU still hear about pipelines today, as they’re hard to avoid. Oil is consistently in the news and media, particularly with environmentalism gaining steam and controversial political decisions made in reference to them.

The federal government—with fresh face Justin Trudeau to represent them—has let down many of the country’s environmentalists this year. They approved the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion as well as Enbridge’s Line 3, though Northern Gateway was rejected. A Husky Energy oil pipeline spilled 250,000 litres of blended crude into the North Saskatchewan River this summer, and in demonstration of the lack of reform by the Liberals, 2,400 litres of oil were dropped into the ocean off the coast of B.C.’s Bella Bella.

For those who haven’t been following the progress of the country’s biggest pipelines this year, here’s what you need to know.

Trans Mountain

The Trans Mountain Expansion Project—also known as the Kinder Morgan Pipeline—was given the go-ahead by Trudeau in December and Christy Clark earlier this month, meaning that three times the amount of oil it originally carried will soon be pumping from Edmonton to Burnaby. From there it will be shipped off to either Asia or nearby Chevrons, likely by one of the 30 new tankers that will start sailing off of the coast. The expansion will suck up $6.8 billion and 1,150 kilometres of pipeline, releasing between 13.7 and 17 megatons of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere annually.

Because oil from the Trans Mountain Expansion Project will be exported mostly to Asia, the federal government is looking forward to building a trade relationship with the continent. In particular, it would be economically wise to strengthen their ties to China.

Job creation was another talking point for the expansion, although only 50 permanent positions, and an unknown number of temporary jobs, will become available as a result of its construction. $26.5 million in federal and municipal taxes will be made between now and the expansion’s 30th year running, according to Kinder Morgan.

Justine Nelson, chapter coordinator for the Pipe Up Network, works towards educating people about the Kinder Morgan pipeline. Nelson, who was with Pipe Up through the MOU controversy, thinks that the federal government “has, on a variety of points, made a mistake in the approval” of the expansion. Trudeau’s decision to go forward with the Trans Mountain Project shows that he chose Alberta over B.C., she believes, amongst revealing other flaws in his approach to environmentalism.

“First and foremost is the relations with the indigenous communities and the lack of true consultation that was done with indigenous communities along the pipeline route,” she says. “Their idea of reconciliation, which is something that they’re really pushing, doesn’t seem to line up with their on-the-ground action.”

“This pipeline is going to severely put us back on even thinking about being able to reach our climate targets from Paris. It kind of defeats the purpose of making targets because, realistically, it’s going to raise our emissions.”

After Trudeau approved Kinder Morgan this November, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson publicly announced his displeasure.

“Approving Kinder Morgan’s heavy oil pipeline expansion is a big step backwards for Canada’s environment and economy,” said Robertson, in a press statement. “This project was approved under a flawed and biased Harper-era regulatory process that shut out local voices and ignored climate change and First Nations concerns.”

He continued, “I—along with the tens of thousands of residents, local First Nations, and other Metro Vancouver cities who told the federal government a resounding ‘no’ to this project—will keep speaking out against this pipeline expansion that doesn’t make sense for our economic or environmental future.”

And so they have. Protests are continuing all around Canada, not only by First Nations communities but all Canadian residents. Other than the obvious environmental impact of the pipeline, it will send tankers through an area home to already-endangered Orca whales.

Energy East

Physically speaking, this is a big one. The Energy East pipeline would demand $15.7 billion and 4,600 kilometres of pipeline, stretching across six provinces and transporting 1.1 million barrels of crude oil every day. Unlike most of the other pipelines being proposed, this oil would go to Eastern Canada refineries as well as Europe and India. If everything goes according to Energy East’s plan, that process will be in full swing by 2021.

However, there have been several obstacles for its hearings with the National Energy Board. In August, after it was discovered that two panellists had privately met with a TransCanada Corp. consultant, protestors made such a fuss at one of them that it was cancelled. The next month, the three-member panel announced that it was involved in a conflict of interest, and was therefore unqualified to act in a legal setting. There is not yet a new panel, and until there is, the nearly two-year review of the project cannot begin.

Northern Gateway

This pipeline would have sent 525,000 barrels of crude oil from Edmonton to Kitimat every day. Like the Kinder Morgan Expansion, its purpose was to get oil from here to Asia. One of the most significant concerns with Northern Gateway was that the tankers transporting its oil would have to go through the Douglas Channel—a valuable ecosystem and sometimes perilous route—before breaking out to the Pacific Ocean. It would also send the ships through First Nations territory, and the invaluable Great Bear Rainforest.

Cabinet had backed the pipeline, but Trudeau shut it down this year, saying that “The Great Bear Rainforest is no place for a pipeline and the Douglas Channel is no place for oil tanker traffic.”

Line 3

This pipeline is almost entirely in Canada, already approved by the president and Trudeau, and in fact, entirely operational. Enbridge is just replacing it, doubling the amount of oil travelling from Alberta to Wisconsin, and spending $7.5 billion to do so. It is set to be completed by 2018.

Keystone XL

Expanding from the east border of Alberta all the way to the the south border of Nebraska, Keystone XL was rejected by U.S. President Barack Obama last year. Though, according to TransCanada, the battle isn’t over. It has filed a $15 billion challenge that the project was treated unfairly under the North American Free Trade Agreement, and launched a federal lawsuit hoping to gain a declaration of Obama using his influence improperly.

The Pacific Northwest LNG

Famously, Justin Trudeau approved the Woodfibre LNG Limited pipeline, valued at $1.6 billion. A hot topic with this project is the danger it poses to salmon. Young salmon in the wild use the Skeena River estuary near Lelu Island as both a migration route and nursery, and now, the LNG’s export terminal may threaten the local ecosystem. Over 100 scientists criticized the project’s environmental assessment, with many others joining in on the chorus. 190 legally binding conditions, covering wetland, wildlife, and health concerns, were released along with the approval. Deemed a top gas emitter in Canada with a pollution rate of between 6.5 and 8.7 megatons of greenhouse gases per year, this product, too, would be exported to Asia. The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency has published that the LNG will raise the province’s emissions by 8.5 per cent and the country’s by 0.75 per cent.


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