In a guest post for Policy Magazine, federal Green Party leader Elizabeth May takes aim at four misconceptions about Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline expansion: that the project was thoroughly reviewed by regulators, that it’s in the national interest, that Alberta’s economy depends on it, and that British Columbia must ultimately back down and accept the project.
“I am choking on the lies and hypocrisy of Kinder Morgan, the [National Energy Board], and now the Trudeau Liberals,” writes May, who was one of 172 people arrested at the company’s Burnaby Mountain construction site in late March. “It’s a miracle I can remain civil in my non-violent civil disobedience.”
May opens with a snapshot of the flawed review leading up to the pipeline approval, recalling that the National Energy Board was put in charge of the process under Harper-era legislation that repealed the former Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. The Harper legislation, Bill C-38, imposed time limits that forced the NEB “to alter its usual quasi-judicial process,” she writes, leading to a “breathtaking” abuse of normal regulatory rules.
“Intervenors were denied procedural fairness—such as being allowed to cross-examine industry experts, or even to be allowed in the room. I was granted intervenor status in April 2014. My final argument on January 24, 2016 was the first time I was permitted to enter the room.”
The procedural mess left the NEB with no reliable data on how diluted bitumen actually behaves after a spill.
“The only evidence from KM about whether bitumen and diluent (dilbit) could be cleaned up in the marine environment came from a one-time only, non-published, non-peer reviewed experiment over a 10-day period in Gainford, Alberta,” May writes. “The tests were done in tanks of various sizes using fresh water with salt stirred in. According to Kinder Morgan’s evidence, the five-gallon pail and fish tank research went awry.”
But “this Keystone Kops version of science was the entirety of KM’s evidence that bitumen mixed with diluent can be cleaned up,” even though “published studies, peer-reviewed and conducted in conditions that replicate the marine environment, demonstrate that the dilbit mixture separates and that small ‘oil balls’ of bitumen are created, which then sink.”
May adds: “Canada’s premier scientific academy, the Royal Society of Canada, concluded that we lack the science to know if it is possible to clean-up dilbit. The NEB ruled that accepting the Royal Society study would be unfair to Kinder Morgan.” But “the NEB was unperturbed when a Kinder Morgan expert committed fraud, whiting out the word ‘draft’ from a U.S. EPA spill dispersion model, then introducing it to the NEB claiming it was the approach used in the U.S.”
Nor did the NEB make the case that the pipeline is in the national interest, ruling that “its mandate did not include jobs, or climate, or upstream or downstream impacts,” May writes. That was the Board’s response after Unifor, the biggest union in the tar sands/oil sands, “attempted to enter evidence that building Kinder Morgan would cost jobs,” since “shipping out unprocessed solid bitumen to refineries in other countries ships out Canadian jobs at the same time and increases the carbon footprint of the product.”