Summertime Blues – TransMountain

Sometimes I wonder what I’m a-gonna do … But there ain’t no cure for the summertime blues – Eddie Cochran

Severely Normal Albertans can be forgiven if they have lost the thread trying to follow the West Coast Pipeline battle of 2018.  But here is the update on the various fronts in this battle:

The Courts

The courthouse continues to be a venue for skirmishes.  Last May the City of Vancouver and the Squamish Nation lost a case in the Supreme Court of BC that complained that the BC government acted inappropriately in approving the TransMountain pipeline.  In an effort to drag out the fight they have appealed to the Federal Court of Appeal.

Coat of ArmsThe major legal challenges are at the Federal Court of Appeal dealing with a First Nations led court challenge that claims they were not adequately consulted.  The 600-member Tsleil-Waututh First Nation is the lead plaintiff in this challenge to the pipeline that is signed on by other First Nations.  According to Misty MacDuffee with Raincoast Conservation group their suit is based on the belief that the National Energy Board forgot to consider a pod of whales who will be inevitably be exterminated because one extra tanker per day will ply the Salish sea.

And, there is the BC court reference case asking if BC has the right to decide what should go in the pipeline.  And then there is BC’s somewhat ironic lawsuit to stop Alberta from limiting the flow of oil through the existing pipeline.

Burnaby is going to court for an enforceable order to remove a group of tents and semi-permanent structures that are located on a street leading to the TransMountain terminals in violation of City bylaws.

Pipeline Transactions

On the business front, the deadline for the federal government to find another buyer has passed and the final sale is expected to be completed in August.  Well maybe… there is a wrinkle because the US government must approve a change in ownership for the pipeline that runs across the border to serve a refinery along Puget Sound.  Meanwhile, a few Alberta First Nations and their investment organization have expressed an interest in buying a stake in the pipeline.

This construction season has seen very little activity. TransMountain filed a report that said it would begin to work on the tunnel entrance at Burnaby Mountain and do some minor relocation of pipelines and powerlines to accommodate expansion at the Burnaby Terminal. Flagging and surveying will begin in Alberta. In September, survey work will begin in northern BC.

However, according to Premier Notley, pipe for construction this fall has arrived at yards in Edmonton and Hinton.  She also advised that Alberta would likely buy a stake in the pipeline.

The Protests

On the protest front, seven protesters attached themselves to ropes and lowered themselves below a bridge, theatrically to delay a tanker’s departure and attract fundraising for Greenpeace. They were swaying in the breeze for 36 hours, stalling larger ships from leaving. But the tanker they were targeting wasn’t scheduled to leave during the protest. The RCMP took 3 hours and considerable physical risks to rappel down and arrest the protesters.

A group of a two dozen kayaks spent a fun mid-July Saturday afternoon paddling around in front of the TransMountain marine terminal.

One protest group has set up an ever increasing number of tents and campers along Shellmont Street leading to the terminal.  The group maintains a fire and are building a ‘carver’s’ structure, presumably so a totem pole can be built.

Now Burnaby is receiving flak from the nearby homeowners who are less than impressed with the fire, noise and behaviour of the protesters.  Thus, the aforementioned eviction notice to be followed up with Court Order since the protesters plan to stay put. A poll in a Vancouver newspaper found that 93% or respondents said the eviction notice should be obeyed.

An anti-protest protester showed up to reconnoiter the street for a counter-protest.  He ran into a physical skirmish with the residents and police were called.  His anti-protester group was planning to bring in a bulldozer to make the point about evicting the protesters.

In vaguely related news, a minivan full of group of protesters showed up at 2:30 am near Greta Manitoba to camp along the proposed Enbridge line 3 reconstruction (from Hardisty to Michigan).

The Politics

On the political front, the federal Liberals replaced Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr with Edmonton politician Amarjeet Sohi as they begin the run up to next year’s election.

Premiers Notley and Horgan continue to dig in and defend the positions they have taken.

The Liberal Youth Council got in on the action and sent a letter to the Prime Minister calling for the TransMountain purchase to be killed.

And in related news, several provinces are staging an uprising against the federal plan for a carbon tax, which once was touted as the social license plate for the pipeline.

It pretty clear that we are in the midst of a summer hiatus in this ongoing battle.  The boxes and files filled with legal arguments at the Federal Court of Appeal are the most important overhanging issue.  If the Court rules that First Nations were not sufficiently consulted it is hard to imagine this federal government would have the tenacity to persevere. If the court decides that consultation was adequate, it signals the ignition of the next battle across all the fronts. In the protest battles, the question will be what level of civil disobedience and arrests will each side accept?