Citizen Action Monitor

BC residents organize to stop Texas billionaire from building new tar sands pipeline to coast

Vancouver City Council votes for bylaw to demand more liability insurance for oil tankers

No 505 Posted by fw, June 16, 2012

Vancouver City Council may have taken a page right out of the strategy notebook of Pennsylvania-based Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF). The significant difference is that “the City of Vancouver has limited regulatory authority” that would enable it to pass ordinances that would outright ban the construction of a pipeline, whereas CELDF helps communities to write local-level anti-corporate ordinances that give them full zoning authority. (US state legislatures are in the process of stripping municipalities of their zoning authority, which is exactly what CELDF expected and welcomes, for such action exposes the conniving of state and corporate power).

In the following 5:22-minute video, the Wilderness Committee’s Ben West discusses the recent motion overwhelmingly approved by Vancouver City Council to formally oppose Texas energy giant Kinder Morgan’s plans to pump an additional 550,000 barrels a day of bitumen from the Alberta Tar Sands to oil tankers in Vancouver – and to require the company to agree to 100% liability for any oil spills when they occur. If the company gets its way, over 360 tankers will carry Tar Sands crude past Stanley Park and Vancouver’s beaches every year. Mayor Gregor Robertson and Vancouver City Council have been increasingly vocal in their opposition to Kinder Morgan’s plans of late.

My transcript with added subheadings and links follows the video.

Ben West on Vancouver Council’s Opposition to Kinder Morgan Tar Sands Pipeline, Tankers, published May 3, 2012 by CommonSenseCanadian


People of Vancouver are not waiting for Harper to stop the Kinder Morgan pipeline

Today [May 2, 2012] a resolution was passed by the City of Vancouver, first of all writing a letter to the Prime Minister of Canada asking him to stop this proposed expansion of the Kinder Morgan pipeline and expressing the City of Vancouver’s very strong opposition. Of course I think most people are not holding their breath for Stephen Harper to listen to the City of Vancouver’s concerns and actually stop the pipeline.

Vancouver City Council votes for bylaw to demand more liability insurance for oil tankers

Given that the City of Vancouver has limited regulatory authority in terms of actually stopping this they’re looking for innovative ways that they can really do something to slow Kinder Morgan down if not stop them. The approach they took today which I think is actually quite creative and interesting is they’ve asked for 100% liability for Kinder Morgan. They’re drafting a new bylaw which will actually basically force Kinder Morgan’s hand and put Kinder Morgan in a position where they can then publicly state that of course they’re not going to pay 100% of the cost of an oil spill if and when one takes place. The costs are estimated in the billions. If you look at any major oil spill historically – Exxon-Valdez is just one familiar case study – twenty years after the fact they’re still in court fighting over who’s going to pay the bills. As many people whose health has forever been altered there’s whole stocks of fish that’ll never come back.

Texas-based oil giant Kinder Morgan’s pipeline proposal is “a huge step in the wrong direction”

So this Texas-based oil super company, Kinder Morgan, the biggest pipeline company on earth run by the hundredth richest man on the planet, Richard Kinder, a former Enron executive, has bought up the Trans Mountain Pipeline. It’s where about 90% of our oil comes from. It’s an old pipeline from about 60 years ago when it was first built, but it only been since Kinder Morgan bought the pipeline that it’s been used for exporting tar sands oil to markets in Asia and elsewhere. Their plan now is to build a new pipeline actually about the same size as the Enbridge pipeline right next to the existing Trans Mountain Pipeline. They want to build a 550,000 barrel-a-day pipeline all for the sake of export. So what that would mean for our inlet is we’d see an increase from about 80 tankers a year that we have now up to 360 tankers a year, each one of them carrying about 3 times as much as was spilled by the Exxon-Valdez. And of course, you know, almost everyone that you talk to in the City of Vancouver and the surrounding areas think that that’s just a risk too great to accept. There’s very little benefit for any of us. And, of course, if you’re concerned about climate change this is a huge step in the wrong direction.

BC groups organizing to stop the proposed Kinder Morgan pipeline

The good news is that they have to go through us to get this done, We’re directly in between the oil sands, one of the biggest remaining sources of fossil fuels, at least of oil, left on planet earth and the big expanding markets in Asia and down in California all through the Pacific Region. I think they’re going to have an incredibly difficult time getting past the unified First Nations opposition, which is historic and unprecedented at these levels. The citizenry who’s saying absolutely no way, we’ll do everything in our power to stop it. And now you know the new sort of leadership that we’re seeing from municipal governments. The Union of BC Municipalities has come out with strong concerns about both the Enbridge pipeline and now they’ve recently started to comment as well on the Kinder Morgan pipeline, calling for full meaningful consultations. And now in just the last few weeks we’ve had the mayor of Burnaby come out calling for people to take action. And just today the City of Vancouver passing this resolution really strongly saying no to the proposal.

Kinder Morgan currently fighting Burnaby in court over 2007 oil spill

Kerry Jang [Vancouver City councillor] also spoke quite eloquently and passionately about his concerns. He talked about the other municipalities and actually the ongoing legal fight that’s going on in Burnaby right now with Kinder Morgan to dealing with their spill in 2007. And he simply said “look at the track record.” He said that the maps that they had didn’t even show accurately where the pipeline was. And now they’re fighting the city of Burnaby in court.

It’s like anti-Enbridge pipeline campaign of a couple of years ago all over again

Basically the campaign around the Kinder Morgan pipeline is kind of like where the Enbridge pipeline was a couple of years ago before it was really on the public radar before, you know, they’d officially submitted their filings to the National Energy Board when people who were sort of working on the campaign were quite feverishly involved on a day-to-day basis but the story hadn’t really broken. I think that’s kind of where we’re at with the Kinder Morgan pipeline right now. They’ve just announced to the public what their intentions are in terms of the size and scope of their project and it’s really…people are waking up all of a sudden.

As more people become aware of Kinder Morgan’s intentions, it’s hard to imagine how a new pipeline will ever get built

The communities who are potentially being impacted are starting to organize. Landowners whose land is about to be dug up for the sake of this pipeline are starting to raise alarm. Public meetings are starting to crop up all along the pipeline route around the inlet and the media attention has just been through the roof. We’ve gone from the odd story here and there to being on the front page of all three major papers on one day and all the major networks doing stories on an almost daily basis and a real flurry of commentary about this from all over the spectrum. So hopefully we just continue along that route and I think if you look at the number of people who signed up to speak against the Enbridge pipeline, even though it’s not directly in their backyard – thousands of people right here in Vancouver signed up to speak at the Joint Review Panel hearings. For many of those people that I talked to they didn’t even know what Kinder Morgan was doing already let alone what their plans are. I think as those people start to become aware and informed I can’t imagine how this pipeline will ever get built.


  • Canada Seeks Alternatives to Transport Oil Reserves, by Elizabeth Rosenthal, New York Times, June 13, 2012 – “…new westward pipelines would carry more oil than Keystone XL would. But even with aggressive government backing, creating new pipelines may prove as difficult in Canada as it has been in the United States, though for different reasons. Indigenous groups must be consulted if new pipelines cross their land. To gain coastal access, pipeline companies must also navigate the politics of some of the most environmentally conscious Canadian provinces, British Columbia and Quebec, where public opinion tends to be against both pipelines and further fossil fuel development. Vancouver’s City Council recently passed a motion requiring that pipeline companies take on 100 percent liability for the economic and environmental costs of a worst-case spill. Even though the federal government gives permissions for pipelines, such local maneuvering and lawsuits can cause severe delays.”
  • Vision council votes for bylaw to demand more liability insurance from oil tankers, oppose pipeline expansion, State of Vancouver, May 2, 2012. – By the way, that $1.33 billion number is the one generated by a researcher with the Living Oceans Society in 2010 (report here) as part of what seems to have been a general effort by environmental groups to oppose increased oil transport and drilling by focusing on the liability issue, particularly for Enbridge or Arctic projects. That number has then been used by a number of other environmental organizations.”
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