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? 


Kinder Morgan Pipeline protest (2) Burnaby BC, March 15, 2018 - brian voth photo

                       Trans Mountain Pipeline Protest near Vancouver, March 24-2018                 Brian Voth photo


                                                                                   Source unknown


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.


Winter Harbour estuary, north-west coast Vancouver Island May 5-2016 - bruce witzel photo

                                       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. 


W.D. Moore Logging moorage Winter Harbour BC, Nov. 15-2013 - bruce witzel photo

                                         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.


Alberta Rockies and oil - bruce witzel photo

                                       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.


Cape Scott Windfarm Jan. 17-2014 - bruce witzel photo

                                             99 Mega-watt wind farm near Cape Scott, Vancouver Island                    b.witzel photo


Green Acres Solar Farm, Alberta                                                                                               Attribution Non-Commercial-Share-Alike

                                       Alberta Solar Farm



Windfarm near Pincher Creek, Alberta - bruce witzel photo

                           Wind Turbines near Pincher Creek, Alberta                              b.witzel photos


Near Pincher Creek Alberta Oct. 28-2014 - Cowley Ridge Wind Site - Bruce Witzel photo


The scientific evidence is overwhelming – humans have been causing, and continue to cause, very harmful climate change. 


Nasa graph of 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. 


1 Carbon Bubble carbon budget carbon tracker


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. 


Orca in the Salish Sea 1 - photo by brian voth                                                                                                                                                              Brian Voth photo

                                            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.


Pipeline Capture

Photo from University of Alberta


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.


FLW Statues at Taliesen East, Wisconsin - bruce witzel photo (2)

                                                                                                                                       b.witzel photo


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”:

photo-by-bruce-witzel-leonard-cohen-singing-hallelujah-in-vancouver-concert                                                   Leonard Cohen in Vancouver BC                                          b.witzel photo

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.


Bruce Witzel photo - original location and artist, unknown                               original artist unknown (b.witzel photo)


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.

Victoria Lake, July 5, 2016 - bruce witzel photo                                                                                                                       Vancouver Island forest – b. witzel photo

The time has come,
a fact’s a fact,
the heat is on,
No turning back.

Under red smoky skies - fran guenette photo (2)

                                                     British Columbia coast during 2017 wildfires                    francis guenette photo

How can we dance,

when our earth is turning?


Nasa image of earth at night

How do we sleep,

while our beds are burning?”

Under smokie skies - fran guenette (2)

                                                    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.”



Thank you.

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.

14 thoughts on “Crude Awakening, Civil Disobedience & Canada’s Trans Mountain Pipeline

  1. I respect and admire how you’re able to inspire while at the same time ringing the alarm bell. I must admit that I struggle holding out hope for change in light of so much denial. Thank you for a truly informative post. The photos are wonderful, as well.

    • I hear ya, on the hope for change Debra. Though just the other day I hear that a group of kids in Calgary were starting a campaign against the waste caused by disposable cups. We can have a tendency to think and witness change as a drop in the bucket – then one day we wake up and lo and behold, the bucket’s full. That’s my hope Debra, Though maybe I’m fooling myself… so I can keep on, keeping on. Cheers

  2. Bruce,
    Kinder Morgan is ubiquitous. They were trying to get eminent domain rights in Georgia to build their Palmetto Pipeline through over 200 counties on the Georgia coast. They were stopped temporarily, but the Georgia government is working quietly to find a way to allow private companies to use eminent domain. This is precedent-setting, as far as I know. The federal government is bad enough with its abuse of eminent domain. Imagine if private corporations were allowed to do the same thing. You do know that Richard Kinder of Kinder Morgan was one of the principals at Enron before its collapse?

    It seems suspicious to me that the Canadian government bought the pipeline. That sounds convenient for them and for Kinder Morgan. I’ll be their stocks went up that day. And when has the white man ever honored a treaty with the red man?

    • hi Katharine

      Thanks for your filling me in on Kinder Morgan Georgia connections. I had no idea that Richard Kinder was a principle at Enron before it’s collapse. It seems that all this pillaging and plundering is connected. The irony here in BC is that many First have never signed a treaty – in other words, they never relinquished their rightful claim to the basis of their livelihood – the land, the sky and the waters. I appreciate your thoughts. Also, I want to apologize on not following up on my request quite some time ago, to re-blog one of your posts. I was moved by it, though I never made time to actually do it.

      • Bruce,
        I don’t know the latest about Kinder Morgan in Georgia. The local newspaper was owned by a man who owned property along the proposed pipeline path and kept us up to date. Now, the paper has been sold and the story has gone underground.

        Everything I read says the Natives have never had rights, whether they signed treaties or not. Governments use whatever ruse they need to trample over everyone’s turf.

  3. Bravo!! I don’t know Canadian law, but one thing lacking in US law is actual rights for the land and for communities. Until those are codified, catching corporations on flawed procedure only buys time and forces them to become better bureaucrats, crossing ‘T’s and dotting ‘I’s more meticulously. We need to give people in communities the right to say “NO” to corporate projects. We need to give the land the right to be undisturbed by corporate projects. At the moment, in the USA, corporations have all the rights. I am hoping for progressive ideas to gain momentum in our government and for these imbalances to be addressed and corrected.

    • Hi Priscilla

      On the saying NO in BC, our province still doesn’t have an anti SLAPP Suit legislation. Indeed, the Netuscca oilspill (in 91′ I believe) off the coast of Washington State hit all the west coast of the Vancouver Island. Those of us volunteers who participated in the cleanup and then later launched a class action suit, were then counter sued… SLAPPed…. (Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation)….We had to withdraw our legal action against the company.

      To come current with many of the proposed pipeline projects in BC, most indigenous people of the West Coast, (Canada’s First Nations) never signed a treaty with the Canadian government. Their rights are still being trampled over. All for the God almighty dollar.

      Here in Canada we have elected two social democratic governments – the Alberta and BC New Democratic Party’s. They are each on opposite sides of the expansion project. Alberta claims they have to continue to grow the tar sands and get their crude oil to tidewater via the pipeline, and BC claims the BC coastal environment would be permanently affected by an oilspill.

      To be fair to Alberta’s government and Premier Rachel Notley – they did recently put a price on pollution in the form of the Carbon Tax and they’ve also made moves for incentives in energy efficiency and renewable energy sources. But get this… in late 2018 oil the Alberta government curtailed oil production (after an an oil industry request). The reasoning in reducing supply is to drive up the price of Western Canadian Select crude which is currently around $43/ barre. This is compared to around $55/barrel for West Texas Intermediate crude oil and $61 for the OPEC price as well as the Brent price out of the Uk’s North Sea.

      Ah, the manipulations of the “free market.” And Canada’s federal Liberal government buying the pipelinein august 2018 when Kinder Morgan threatened to not build it…. hmmm? And on the day Federal Court of Appeal said the NEB process was flawed. Woooaa neely. Again, I gotta wonder.

      The key fact that many people are missing is simply that the world cannot burn all the fossil fuel are have available without taking the climate to a catastrophic tipping point. The oil industry and big auto is complicit in sabotaging this truth. I’m so glad people like Brian are putting their principles on the line. It is helping to slow the insanity.

      Cheers, Bruce

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