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BCSEA Chapters show continued strength at Kinder Morgan Meetings

Cheryl Kabloona
Thursday, September 1, 2016

As the TMX Ministerial Panel made its way across British Columbia this summer, holding consultation meetings on Kinder Morgan’s proposed Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, three of BCSEA’s Chapters spoke of our belief that Canada has no need for expanded pipeline capacity and should instead focus on a transition to clean, renewable energy. 

The National Energy Board (NEB) has recommended that the pipeline expansion go ahead with 157 conditions.  As most of us know very well, the NEB’s consultation process was inadequate and deeply flawed, so the federal government appointed the 3-member TMX Ministerial Panel to do additional consultation over a 3-month period.  The panel’s mandate is “to complement the NEB …review and to identify whether there are any additional views that could be relevant to the Government’s final decision.”[1]

The three panel members are Ms. Kim Baird, Mr. Tony Penikett and Dr. Annette Trimbee. They have now finished their meetings in 11 cities and will report to the government by November 1.  The federal government plans to announce the final decision in December. 

Kamloops was the site of the panel's first meetings in British Columbia, and the lack of advertising and the timing (mid-summer during working hours) resulted in low participation. Attendance at the Kamloops meetings on July 19 and 20th was about 50 people at each session, in a room that seats 300.  Key people were not aware of the meetings.  City of Kamloops Councillor Donovan Cavers participated and said he'd heard about the meetings on Facebook, of all places.  The meeting seemed haphazard from the outset. The format was unclear and there was no live streaming, no videotaping and no stenographer. 

After the roundtable participants gave their presentations, the meetings were opened up for anyone in the audience to speak to the panel, on any topic.  BCSEA Kamloops Chapter Chair Cheryl Kabloona was there when former MLA Kevin Krueger gave Kinder Morgan a glowing endorsement, saying the company has a "tremendous safety record, no spills of any consequence."  Cheryl did some quick checking and got up to the mic right after Krueger spoke. She refuted his statement, quoting the company statement in their application to the NEB: “Since 1961, Trans Mountain has reported approximately 82 spills to the NEB.” 

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Cheryl gave her scheduled presentation on July 20.  She spoke about the benefits of a low-carbon economy, Kamloops residents’ aspirations to be an environmentally friendly city, the huge volume of oil that would be transported through Kamloops (600 barrels per MINUTE in total!) and consequences of a spill to the local economy, rivers and salmon.  The panelists took notes while she spoke and asked several good questions afterwards.  She says, “I closed saying that I hoped they'd keep our young people in mind as they wrote their report, and that young people had come out in droves to vote last fall in the hope of being part of the solution, wanting a thriving society and economy based on a healthy environment and stable climate.  I thought everybody knew that, so it was a rhetorical statement to me, but I was surprised to see them rushing to take notes as I said it.”

On the whole, comments from local governments were mixed (Merritt in favour, Kamloops non-committal), some businesses in favour, First Nations overwhelmingly negative, and all the speakers from NGOs and the general public passionately against the pipeline. 

By the time the panel reached the Lower Mainland and Victoria, the meetings were well publicized by the press and environmental organizations.  Many meeting rooms were filled and speakers gave heartfelt presentations about the harm the additional pipeline capacity would cause to the earth’s climate and to the lands, waters and wildlife along the route and shipping lanes.  The dramatic opposition to pipeline expansion included many government representatives. 

James Boak, BCSEA Vancouver Chapter Chair, spoke at the Vancouver NGO Roundtable meeting on August 17.  James talked about an optimistic vision of a Canada with abundant clean, renewable energy and an economy that is decoupled from the roller-coaster of global oil prices. The benefits of a rapid transition to sustainable energy would be dramatic and felt across the whole country. He closed with a number of recommended federal policy prescriptions that will hasten the transition, including an end to fossil fuel subsidies, a steadily-increasing national carbon price, supports for building energy retrofits, improved GHG emissions monitoring, and rejection of fossil fuel infrastructure projects like the Trans Mountain expansion. 

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Vancouver meeting, photo by Dogwood.  LeadNow petitions with over 144,000 signatures against the pipeline are at right.

In the Victoria meeting on August 23, the panel was down to two members, Baird and Trimbee, after Penikett left unexpectedly.  BCSEA’s Robin Lowrie spoke at the NGO session that day. 

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In retrospect, the BCSEA representatives all felt that it was important to speak up at these dramatic meetings. 

Cheryl: “I wanted to be part of this historic process. Those of us with BCSEA all believe we’re on the edge of an energy transformation, and every little nudge in the right direction could help. I’m grateful too that so many others spoke up against the pipeline expansion.” 

James: “I think this kind of work is an important part of trying to achieve some systemic change beyond just raising awareness.  It was an honour to speak on behalf of BCSEA at the panel roundtable.”

Our speakers wonder who’s listening.  Did it matter what they said, or was this mainly an exercise in public relations?  Stay tuned for the federal government’s decision in December.