A protest against the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion in White Rock Saturday afternoon may have been sparsely attended, but organizers say such opposition could presage a great deal more resistance to the project in B.C., despite last week’s approval of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Liberal cabinet.
While fewer than 20 people gathered for a waterfront protest outside the White Rock Museum and Archives building Saturday afternoon, Mary Leighton of the provincewide environmental awareness organization The Dogwood Initiative said it exceeded her expectations for a first event in Surrey and White Rock.
“I’m so impressed,” she said, adding that the local effort was one of more than 17 protests taking place as part of the same ‘day of action’ organized by the group throughout B.C.
While The Dogwood Initiative’s volunteer teams “usually get a pretty good turnout” in Vancouver, she said, the White Rock protest was principally the result of an email sent out last week to see if such efforts could be expanded here.
“It was just an incredible response – I expected to get eight, but to get 23 RSVPs was a real pleasure.”
She said that, after spending the remainder of Saturday canvassing for signatures for a “citizens initiative to block Kinder Morgan,” the ad-hoc group who gathered for the protest would discuss the establishment of a satellite neighborhood organization in Surrey/White Rock in 2017.
While Leighton said the decision to grant conditional approval, announced by Trudeau Nov. 29 was “disappointing” she said it was expected, judging by earlier opinions expressed by members of the cabinet.
Meanwhile, while B.C. has yet to endorse the project, Premier Christy Clark has indicated the project is close to fulfilling the environmental conditions the government has set.
Dogwood Initiative members predict a number of potential local and provincial impacts of the
project, which would expand and twin the 1953 Trans Mountain pipeline to pump diluted bitumen west from Edmonton to the Kinder Morgan terminal on Burrard Inlet in Burnaby – with a portion of the pipeline travelling through North Surrey.
Pipeline opponents fear that an inland rupture of the line could leach into the Fraser River and destroy the salmon fishery, while seepage into aquifers could make ground water undrinkable.
A seven-fold increase of tanker shipping in B.C. waters to some 400-plus ships per year could also threaten safety, the ecological balance of the coastline, including such wildlife species as southern resident killer whales, and the economic livelihood of communities all along the coast, they warn.
Even with more visible protests than Saturday’s gathering, observers predict that the greatest opposition to Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain proposal will come in the courtroom, where it will likely face as much legal opposition as the defeated Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline proposed for a route crossing northern B.C.
Enbridge was met by a total of 17 court challenges, while Kinder Morgan already faces seven.
It is predicted that many legal actions will come from First Nations, who would claim that the National Energy Board and, subsequently, the Trudeau cabinet, failed to adequately and meaningfully consult them about the pipeline.
– with files from Boaz Joseph & Jeff Nagel