Despite widespread resistance, NEB recommends Kinder Morgan pipeline for approval

Rueben George about to talk to media about the NEB recommendation.

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The National Energy Board (NEB) has recommended the approval of Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, despite widespread opposition amongst affected communities and First Nations.

The report contains 157 conditions, including expanded marine oil spill response, detailed carbon offset plans and holding $1.1 billion in liability insurance.

The approval was widely expected by environmental groups despite sweeping criticisms of the NEB's consultation process, instituted under the former Conservative government. In August 2015 while campaigning for the federal election, Justin Trudeau explicitly said in relation to Kinder Morgan that the approval process needs "to be redone." 

Resistance to adding 987 km of new pipeline to the existing infrastructure has been firece, including a lengthy occupation of Burnaby Mountain in 2014 in an attempt to prevent Kinder Morgan from undertaking exploratory drilling. Last week, 800 protesters and kayaktivists surrounded a Kinder Morgan facility by land and sea to voice their opposition to the project.

A map compiled by environmental non-profit advocacy group the Wilderness Committee on ForTheCoast.ca shows that 38 First Nations, 12 Municipalities, and the Province of B.C. all spoke with the National Energy Board in opposition to the Kinder Morgan pipeline. And opposition isn't going away any time soon.

"These aren't a bunch of little fights, it's all a part of the same Indigenous land, fossil fuel resistance movement," Clayton Thomas-Muller, member of the Mathais Colomb Cree Nation in Manitoba and campaigner with 350.org, told rabble.ca last week. "We're all here to stand in solidarity with the Tsleil Waututh and say that this pipeline project won't happen."

The pipeline will run therough the traditional territories of the Tsleil Waututh First Nation, who launched a court case against the NEB process for its failure to adequately consult them. Rueben George, a Tsleil Waututh spokesperson reiterated his nation's denunciation of the process this morning.

"Our concerns for the potential negative impact of an oil spill on the local economy and the irreparable damage to our traditional lands and water is simply a risk too great to accept," he said in a press release before the approval was handed down. "That is why we have already rejected the Kinder Morgan pipeline proposal based on our own review process."

Environmental advocacy groups were quick to condemn the NEB's decision.

"Today's announcement is no surprise. The NEB has never said no to an oil pipeline," said Sven Biggs,  a campaigner for Stand, in a press release.

"The real question is what Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will do -- the final decision is his. He has promised to listen to First Nations and communities, and if he does that, the very clear answer he will hear is -- 'No, this pipeline will never be built,'" said Biggs.

"This issue is too important to leave up to industry or politicians to decide," said Kai Nagata, Communications Director at Dogwood Initiative in a press release. "When it comes to oil tankers on our coast, British Columbians need to have a democratic say."

Michael Stewart is the Blogs and Opinions Editor at rabble.ca. He lives in Victoria, B.C.

With files from Alyse Kotyk.

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