The Trans Mountain oil pipeline system was constructed in 1953 and runs from Alberta to the west coast of British Columbia, Canada. From 1961-2016, there were 82 reported spills along the Trans Mountain line.
Expansion plans: In 2013, then-owner Kinder Morgan filed an application with Canada’s National Energy Board to (twin) build a second pipeline — the $6.8 billion Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project, which would require 609 miles of new pipeline construction and 12 additional pumping stations. The expansion would nearly triple the line’s tarsands carrying capacity, from 300,000 to 890,000 bpd, running from Edmonton, Alberta to Burnaby, B.C. on Canada’s West Coast.
The Trans Mountain route goes through the environmentally sensitive Strait of Juan de Fuca, and narrow channels where a further seven-fold increase of oil tanker traffic threatens the Burrard Inlet, and the resident orca population’s feeding grounds for Chinook salmon. It also goes literally through Burnaby Mountain, via a 2.6-km tunnel. The project would release the equivalent of 7.7 million metric tons of CO2 per year in Alberta and B.C. — as much as 2.2 million cars — while refining, distributing and burning the bitumen would release another 71 million metric tons overseas.
The expansion project was approved by Canada’s federal cabinet in 2016, subject to 157 binding conditions. The approval was challenged in a number of lawsuits lodged by First Nations, local municipalities including Vancouver and Burnaby, and environmental groups. Facing a lack of outside investment support for the expansion project, in 2018 the Canadian government acquired the existing pipeline infrastructure from Kinder Morgan for $3.5 billion, and became owner of the Trans Mountain Pipeline and Expansion Project.
Grassroots opposition to the expansion plan for Trans Mountain has been led since the outset by First Nations, which challenged the expansion project both in the courts, and with many frontlines camps and other direct actions. In 2012, the Tsleil-Waututh and Squamish Nations paddled canoes out to the Kinder Morgan Burnaby Terminal to protest the expansion.
In 2014, Land Defenders were arrested while blocking pipeline survey work on Burnaby Mountain, and in 2017 city-based protests were organized in Vancouver. Since 2018, a Secwépemc protest camp near Blue River, B.C. has been led by the Tiny House Warriors, and has faced violent confrontations with RCMP who are deployed as security for a nearby pipeline worker “man camp” situated on unceded First Nations lands. Another protest camp was established near Thompson River in 2020, to protect the river from pipeline construction.
In May 2021, a B.C. Provincial Court in Kamloops found Indigenous Land Defenders and Tiny House Warriors Kanahus Manuel guilty of theft, and her twin sister Mayuk Manuel guilty of intimidation using violence or threats, during a 2019 confrontation with security personnel outside a Trans Mountain pumping station near Blue River. A sentencing date will be set June 7, 2021.
Recent Media Coverage
- (May 19, 2021): CFJC Today: Tiny House Warrior twins found guilty in 2019 confrontation near Blue River Trans Mountain site
- (April 3, 2021): Common Dreams: First Nations Land Defenders Take Direct Action Against Trans Mountain Pipeline
- (March 31, 2021): CBC: Trans Mountain pipeline expansion will lead to $11.9B in losses for Canada
- (Jan 14, 2021): Reuters: Canada’s Trans Mountain pipeline sees fortunes shine after KXL’s demise
- (Dec. 5, 2019): Al Jazeera: Nations Divided: Mapping Canada’s Pipeline Battle
- Owner: The government of Canada, via the Canada Development Investment Corporation / Trans Mountain Corp, 100% (formerly owned by Houston, Texas-based Kinder Morgan)
- Capacity: 890,000 barrels per day
- Length: 609 miles, Edmonton Alberta > Burnaby, B.C. (MAP)
- Diameter: 42 / 36 / 32-inches
- Cost: US $9.9 billion
- Status: PROPOSED / CONSTRUCTION / OPERATING
- Start Year: 2022 (expansion)
- Bank lenders:
- 2018: Canada’s government under Justin Trudeau acquires the Trans Mountain pipeline and expansion project from Kinder Morgan for US $3.5 billion.
- 2017: Kinder Morgan secures $4.144 billion in debt financing from a consortium of 23 international commercial banks
- Royal Bank of Canada, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, Scotiabank, TD Bank, National Bank of Canada, Bank of Montreal, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Mizuho, Barclays, MUFG, China Construction Bank, Sumitomo Mitsui, HSBC, SunTrust Bank, Alberta Investment Management, ATB Financial, Federation des caisses Desjardins du Quebec, Siemens Financial Services, United Overseas Bank, Bank of China, ICBC and Canadian Western Bank.
- Insurers: In February 2021, Trans Mountain Corp formally requested the Canada Energy Regulator (CER) not to disclose the identities of its insurers. [source]
Landowners: Canada Energy Regulator Authority on “Right of Entry” Orders:
Under the Canadian Energy Regulator Act, pipeline companies are only able to apply to obtain right-of-entry for lands required after the project is approved by the Canada Energy Regulator, the country’s federal energy agency (formerly the National Energy Board).
- The Canada Energy Regulator provides a process to address landowners’ concerns, but may ultimately grant a “right of entry” order, to allow a corporation onto landowners’ property against their wishes.
- The process is managed by the Pipeline Arbitration Secretariat, whose decisions may be appealed to the Federal Court, Federal Court of Appeal, and Supreme Court of Canada. According to the PAS, about half of all appeals have been won by landowners, and half by the pipeline company, or Minister of Natural Resources.
- There are more than 2,500 tracts of private, Crown or Indigenous land to which Trans Mountain must gain access to build the expansion. As of July 2019, about 67% of all property owners on the route had signed agreements, including 83% of landowners in Alberta and eastern B.C., 54% in the B.C. Interior and Fraser Valley, and 14% in the Lower Mainland. [source: CBC]
- According to Kinder Morgan and the Canadian government, “Engagement with communities, landowners, stakeholders and Indigenous communities has been ongoing since 2012 and will continue through to operation.”
Consultation and Aboriginal Title:
- Unlike in the United States, the Indigenous peoples of Canada — First Nations — have been afforded some greater rights under the country’s constitution and its interpretation by its Supreme Court, relative to the U.S., in the form of relatively more meaningful consultation with the government over how their lands may be accessed or utilized, compared to how Native American Tribal Nations are consulted by the U.S. government. Still, Canada has not fully implemented requirements laid out in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
- The concept of “Aboriginal Title” to lands in so-called Canada has been established by Supreme Court precedents after various First Nations filed suit seeking true free, prior, and informed consent for development projects like pipelines.
- 2018-2019: After Federal Court of Appeal decision vacating Trans Mountain’s approval, Justin Trudeau ordered the initiation of a new round of consultation with First Nations, but restricted them to discussing only new information regarding the potential impact of increased oil tanker traffic from the expansion project. The process included several weeks of Indigenous traditional testimony with 117 Indigenous groups impacted by the pipeline, and meetings in Calgary, Victoria and Nanaimo. Despite concerns raised at these meetings, the government still approved the pipeline expansion project in June 2019.
- June 2019: The government of Canada approved the Trans Mountain expansion project, subject to 157 conditions.
- British Columbia Environmental Assessment Office (BC EAO) issues environmental assessment certificate for the Trans Mountain Expansion Project.
Impact Litigation / Court Fights
- Federal Courts:
- 2018: Canada’s Federal Court of Appeal released a decision that quashed the National Energy Board’s order approving the expansion project, cancelling all route hearings and construction activity.
- 2016-2017: Squamish Nation and Tsleil-Waututh Nation file a number of lawsuits challenging Canada’s National Energy Board’s approval of the project, and a lack of proper consultation with First Nations by the federal and B.C. governments. [source]