On Tuesday, Canada’s Liberal government approved two major oil pipelines that, if constructed, would send one million more barrels of oil a day from Alberta’s tar sands — known in Canada as oil sands — to markets overseas. The move brought a chorus of criticism from environmentalists and indigenous communities, which have fought hard against the pipeline projects.
The move could be a major setback for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who came into power on a progressive platform that included strong climate action. He has spoken out in favor of the Paris climate agreement, and, under his leadership, Canada has announced plans to enact a nationwide carbon tax. But approving two pipeline projects — even while rejecting the Northern Gateway pipeline — will certainly damage his credibility with environmentalists who had hoped Trudeau’s leadership would signal a clean break from the policies of his predecessor, climate-denier Stephen Harper.
During the announcement, Trudeau acknowledged that the decision was bound to upset many across Canada, but argued that the projects were in the best interest of the country and the economy.
“Today’s announcement may as well have said that Canada is pulling out of the Paris climate agreement,” Aurore Fauret, Tar Sands Campaign Coordinator with 350.org, said in a statement. “By approving the Kinder Morgan and Line 3 pipelines, there is no way Canada can meet those commitments. Justin Trudeau has broken his promises for real climate leadership, and broken his promise to respect the rights of Indigenous peoples.”
Vancouver residents — as well as residents of Washington state, which shares waters with the Port of Vancouver — worry that increased oil traffic will raise the risk of a major spill off the Vancouver coast. The product from Alberta’s tar sands is a particularly heavy type of oil known as bitumen, which sinks when released in water, instead of rising to the surface like other oils. That makes cleaning up bitumen spills incredibly difficult and costly — instead of skimming oil off the top of the water, cleaning up bitumen usually requires dredging, which can have serious detrimental effects on ecosystems. Indigenous communities along the Vancouver coast are worried that such a spill could devastate important species like salmon and orcas.
“This issue is as black and white as the killer whales they endanger,” Charlene Aleck, a spokeswoman for the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, said in a statement. “This is about our survival and the protection of our home, this inlet and the planet. They are making a big mistake, we will not allow this pipeline to be built.”
Local environmental activist groups, however, voiced their disapproval of Trudeau’s decision.
“As thousands of water protectors continue to make camp in winter conditions at Standing Rock, more crude oil pipelines are the last thing the Midwest needs,” Andy Pearson, Midwest tar sands coordinator with MN350, said in a statement. “The Canadian approval of Line 3 is a slap in the face to the landowners and indigenous community members of North Dakota, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, who will work harder than ever to make sure this dirty tar sands pipeline does not cross into the United States.”
On Tuesday, hours before Trudeau’s decision to approve the two pipeline expansion projects, news broke that Kellyanne Conway, President-elect Trump’s campaign manager and senior transition adviser, would be traveling to Canada before the inauguration to tour Alberta’s tar sands.
The move has lead to speculation that the incoming Trump administration might renew the Keystone XL project, something that Trump promised during his campaign. Following Trump’s Electoral College win on November 8, TransCanada — the company behind Keystone — released a statement saying it was eager to work with a Trump administration.
“TransCanada remains fully committed to building Keystone XL,” company spokesman Mark Cooper said.
We can all thank Prime Minister Trudeau for jumping on the oil wagon, and guaranteeing that Indigenous peoples in Canada and uStates will be endangered and royally screwed over. Thanks ever.
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