Crude Awakening, Civil Disobedience & Canada’s Trans Mountain Pipeline
A Crude Awakening:
Our grandchildren will ask someday: ‘All those lovely organic molecules, and you just burned it?’
Sorry, we burned it…
Crude oil is much too valuable to be burned as a fuel.
Dr. Kenneth Deffeyes
Oil geologist 1931 –2017
The twinning of the Trans Mountain pipeline has been a contentious issue for the past four years in Canada. If completed it would triple diluted bitumen shipments from Alberta to the BC coast to 890,000 barrels a day. The increase in oil would lead to an increase in tanker traffic along the BC coast from 5 tankers per month to 34.
Last year more than 200 people were arrested while protesting continued construction of the pipeline, including 2 Canadian Members of Parliament.
Another person arrested was my friend Brian Voth. He gave the following testimony at his trial.
Statement to the BC Supreme Court
by Brian Voth, August 2, 2018
Charts, photos & blue notes added by B. Witzel
M’lord, this statement will take me 5 minutes to read.
I have a deep respect for the rule of law. So why did I publicly disobey the BC Supreme Court’s March 15th, 2018 order and injunction to not disrupt construction of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project?
Trans Mountain Pipeline Protest near Vancouver, March 24-2018 Brian Voth photo
Simply put, desperate times call for desperate measures. I’m desperate because I fear for the environmental future of coastal BC, and because I have grave concerns about climate change.
An estuary on the north west coast of Vancouver Island b.witzel photo
First, I want to make it clear that I respect the folks who work in our resource industries. I spent my career as a professional forester, working up and down the BC coast, for a large forest products company. I was impressed by the culture of the logging community.
Logging Camp on Northern Vancouver Island b.witzel photo
This culture valued innovation, hard work (often under difficult conditions), and a good sense of humour. And yes, my respect for natural resource workers includes those in the oil patch.
Oil well and prairie farmland near Longview, Alberta b.witzel photo
If we do the right thing and stop this pipeline and invest in clean energy, there will still be plenty of good resource jobs in BC and Alberta.
99 Mega-watt wind farm near Cape Scott, Vancouver Island b.witzel photo
Alberta Solar Farm
Wind Turbines near Pincher Creek, Alberta b.witzel photos
The scientific evidence is overwhelming – humans have been causing, and continue to cause, very harmful climate change.
This NASA graph, based on the comparison of atmospheric samples contained in ice cores and more recent direct measurements, provides evidence that atmospheric CO2 has increased since the Industrial Revolution. (Credit: Vostok ice core data/J.R. Petit et al.; NOAA Mauna Loa CO2 record.)
And scientists are warning that we are now at a tipping point and if we don’t quickly, and greatly reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, catastrophic climate change is imminent.
In addition to the massive threat of climate change, this pipeline is also wrong for our beloved BC coast. The massive increase in tanker traffic would surely be detrimental to our already gravely threatened southern resident Orca population.
An Orca whale on the Salish Sea near Lund, BC
A large oil spill would be devastating for huge swaths of this coast. And local indigenous rights are not being respected.
Painting by Roy Henry Vickers
So why is it that most countries will probably not meet their greenhouse gas emission reduction targets? And why are BC and Canada not doing enough to protect our fragile coast?
There are many reasons, and smarter people than myself have written about this extensively, and logically. But science also tells us that humans very often act illogically. That’s why I’d like to look at why this pipeline is such a bad idea on a more emotional level.
Photo from University of Alberta https://www.folio.ca/is-the-environmental-price-of-pipelines-too-high/
I love music, and I’m deeply moved by some of what I listen to. For me, the power of music reaches its peak when good music meets good lyrics. I’m going to quote some song lyrics that really speak to me. The music part will be missing, but I’m hoping the poetry of these lyrics will still resonate.
For many years, I’ve been advocating for serious environmental change, but it’s crystal clear that we’re changing much too slowly. Sometimes this inaction can be very depressing to witness. Nobody captured this feeling better than Leonard Cohen, in these lyrics from his song “Everybody Knows”:
Everybody knows that the boat is leaking.
Everybody knows that the captain lied.
Everybody got this broken feeling,
like their father, or their dog just died.
But I don’t let those occasional helpless feelings stop me. I still get inspired by these words written by Midnight Oil in 1987, from their song “Beds Are Burning”:
The time has come
to take a stand,
It’s for the Earth,
it’s for our land.
The time has come,
a fact’s a fact,
the heat is on,
No turning back.
British Columbia coast during 2017 wildfires francis guenette photo
How can we dance,
when our earth is turning?
How do we sleep,
while our beds are burning?”
Smoke on the Water francis guenette photo
Serious problems call for serious action. BC, Canada, and the rest of the world need to come together to find solutions. I’m going to close with this plea from John Lennon’s 1971 song “Imagine”:
“You may say I’m a dreamer,
But I’m not the only one.
I hope some day you’ll join us,
and the world will be as one.”
Brian Voth, RPF (ret) – Registered Professional Forester (retired)
Brian was given a five hundred dollar fine. Some of the others arrested served 14 days in jail.
Meanwhile, on August 30, 2018 Canada’s Federal Court of Appeal overturned the Canadian Government’s NEB (National Energy Board) approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. In a unanimous decision by a panel of three judges, the court said that the NEB’s review of the proposal was so flawed that the federal government could not rely on it as a basis for its decision to approve the expansion. The court also concluded that the federal government failed in its duty to engage in meaningful consultations with First Nations before giving the project the green light.
On that same day the shareholders of the Canadian subsidiary of Kinder Morgan approved the sale of the pipeline and the Canadian Government purchased it for 4.5 Billion dollars.
The Federal Court of Appeal gave the Canadian government until Feb. 22, 2019 to file an amended report detailing extra protections for an endangered group of West Coast killer whales in this region. Indigenous consultations the government itself must redo, though the court set no timeline.
The saga continues…
Cheers to all – Bruce
“An individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for the law.”
― Martin Luther King Jr.