Even though the B.C. Court of Appeal failed to give the province the right to limit the flow of bitumen through the Trans Mountain pipeline, there is an opportunity for Premier John Horgan to put forward a plan for a revamping of the pipeline’s proposed expansion to make it more acceptable.
Currently, it’s a mess.
B.C. is committed to pursuing its legal rights to protect the environment. First Nations are committed to legal actions to protect their rights. Alberta is committed to causing as much harm as possible by threatening to turn off the taps of fuel supplies to B.C. through the existing pipeline (but continuing to pump hazardous tarsands bitumen to tankers on the coast).
The federal government is coming to realize that it has become the proud owner of a very large and long legal and political migraine headache — and that’s just with the approved expansion.
The existing pipeline is in itself an environmental time bomb fast approaching dangerous obsolescence, as it was not even intended to carry corrosive and gritty diluted tarsands bitumen when it began operating in 1953.
B.C. may soon come to the point of realizing this problem as leaks begin and the province is forced to act to unilaterally attempt to shut the pipeline down in self-defence.
As well, the obvious lack of appropriate consultation and compensation of First Nations in the construction of the existing smaller pipeline is a national embarrassment that needs to be reconciled.
Here is what I propose can be done to change these dynamics:
Decommission use of the existing 24-inch pipeline when a new and larger pipeline is brought online. Put into place beforehand a process properly implementing the more safely engineered and larger 36-inch Trans Mountain pipeline. In that process, cap diluted bitumen flows at existing levels.
Clearly build into the process an honest respect for B.C. and First Nation rights and needs in a much more even-handed way, prioritizing proper consultation and respectful agreements with all affected First Nations.
Rather than permitting the increased capacity of the proposed new and larger pipeline to carry more bitumen, the federal government as the owner has the ability to instead permit only the increased flow of refined gasoline and other fuels from Alberta to B.C. and other markets, all the while maintaining the existing flow of diluted bitumen.
This would eliminate the very sensitive issue of massively increased transport of toxic bitumen through B.C. and coastal waters. At the same time, it would halt Canada’s much larger contribution to the acceleration of the already extreme climate-change disaster unfolding before our eyes here and across the planet.
Unlike the current plan, the above proposal actually provides room for various substantial benefits B.C. and First Nations are not now getting.
And, not only would Alberta’s existing oil patch jobs be protected, but many additional jobs would be created with pipeline construction and the necessary construction and operation of new refineries.
Yes, maintaining a strong economy is necessary, but for God’s sake, isn’t it time to let go of this mindless business as usual mentality and actually do something real to throw water on climate change?
Our home is burning.