Proceedings were orderly but the message was a hard “no” on Monday as a federal panel heard one by one from First Nations and government representatives about a proposed pipeline expansion.
It’s the same message they’ve already tried to send about Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Expansion Project. But many speakers said their calls for marine protection fell on deaf ears, based on the National Energy Board’s conditional approval of the project.
“The risk to communities located along the tanker route far outweighs any potential benefit, it’s that simple,” Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps said.
“It's worth repeating here, because it feels like we weren't heard at the NEB hearings.”
The Trans Mountain Expansion project would triple the capacity of a pipeline running from Edmonton to Burnaby to 890,000 barrels per day. Tanker traffic would increase seven-fold and the likelihood of a spill would increase to one in 46 years, up from one in 309 years, or one in 237 years with additional safety measures, according to figures from Kinder Morgan.
Victoria is the last stop for the three-person ministerial panel, appointed by Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government to collect input on the project, as well as identify gaps in the NEB’s consultation procession.
Its final public meeting is today. It will hear from environmental organizations from 12:30 p.m. to 3 p.m., then host a town hall meeting from 4 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
One of the most resounding messages the panel has heard has been that First Nations consultation has been deficient, panellist Kim Baird said. That was true in Victoria, too, where First Nations said their territorial claims to marine environments and treaty rights to hunt and fish weren’t adequately considered.
“There is potential for spills to negatively affect the wildlife. When I go back to Penelakut, there’s only one spot where we can go clam digging. In 10 years, there may be no place for us to harvest our traditional foods,” said Katelyn Beale, a member of Penelakut Tribe who is also the Douglas Treaty co-ordinator for the Tseycum First Nation.
Many said the project shouldn’t be considered in isolation, but as part of many threats to the Salish Sea ecosystem, including increasing coastal populations and other tanker traffic.
“B.C. has taken a lot of pride in its natural beauty and resources. Here we are at the threshold of some serious exploitation that could cause our way of life to disappear completely,” Tsawout Coun. Mavis Underwood said.
“We need to think of the cumulative effects of this kind of development on the Salish Sea.”
Some were disappointed to learn the panel itself won’t be making any recommendations, only summarizing the input in a report to government.
Local government representatives said the federal panel itself wasn’t adequately advertised. Many only learned about Monday’s local government roundtable through environmental group the Dogwood Initiative. They said they never received direct invitations.
“It says to me the process is rushed, ad hoc and insincere,” Esquimalt Coun. Beth Burton-Krahn said.
Baird said an invitation was sent to the Capital Regional District.
The panel will summarize its findings in a report to the federal government in September and October.
The federal government will make a decision on the project based on the panel’s report, as well as the NEB’s recommendation report, Crown consultations with indigenous groups and a review of upstream greenhouse gas emission estimates by Environment and Climate Change Canada.