By Alison Eddy
All non-essential spending for the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline has been temporarily suspended until May 31.
Kinder Morgan, a Houston-based company, said they made the decision in large part because they didn’t want to put shareholder money at risk. Since early March, Canadians and First Nation groups like the Tsleil-Waututh First Nation have protested the expansion of the Trans Mountain Pipeline.
The continuous protesting is a key factor in the wavering support from stockholders.
Senior Ty Campbell joined hundreds of other protesters in Vancouver, B. C. on March 10 to oppose the pipeline expansion. Many First Nations people were wearing their tribal regalia and hundreds more were beating drums, he said.
“It was beautiful to see how protecting the environment, [and] protecting the Salish Sea brought together two communities so strongly,” Campbell said. “I could do something that was not only in support of my own conception of what environmental health and justice is, but also contribute to social justice for the original inhabitants of this land.”
First Nation leaders from all over Canada, along with environmental activists, have poured into Vancouver, B.C. to protest this expansion project.
According to the official Trans Mountain website, the Trans Mountain Expansion Project plans to expand the capacity of the only North American pipeline to reach the West Coast. The current pipeline carries 300,000 barrels of crude oil per day, but the expansion will allow for 890,000 barrels of oil to be carried per day.
Tanker traffic would also increase from one tanker per week in Puget Sound to one per day.
Campbell’s main concern with the pipeline expansion is with the increased amount of oil being carried and the increased amount of tanker trucks, the chance of an oil spill also increases.
Sven Biggs, energy and climate campaigner at Stand.earth’s Vancouver office, which also has an office in Bellingham, said there will be a 700 percent increase in the number of tankers on the west coast of Canada and the United States.
“The project puts the whole Northwest at risk, and a spill would put that environment at risk as well,” Biggs said.
Biggs has been fighting Kinder Morgan for the past nine years, and recently Stand.earth has been working with indigenous allies to use civil disobedience as a tactic to stop this expansion project.
These indigenous allies and concerned citizens have the potential to stop this expansion project. Biggs said the protests have turned this pipeline into a national issue and created an atmosphere of crisis around the project.
Kinder Morgan has seen a steady decline in their stock price, and Biggs said the investors are starting to lose patience. Because the company has halted all non-essential spending, “There are a number of different avenues to stop this project all together in the next 40 days,” Biggs said.
Biggs and Campbell stressed the environmental impacts that could occur if this project is successful.
Campbell fished wild salmon for two years, and comes from a family of fisherman. He said if an oil spill were to occur, it would affect the same waters the wild salmon travel through to get to the Washington streams, as well as the orcas and other creatures that live in those waters.
“I had the privilege to see a whole lot of orcas in my day and having it be the most beautiful and majestic experience in those waters,” Campbell said. “That will be seriously impacted by water pollution.”
Biggs added that the increased sound from the tankers could potentially drive that pod of orcas out of the area.
Jon Robitaille is a boat captain who runs charter boats around the San Juan Islands.
He said if the pipeline were to be expanded, people would see a lot more vessel traffic along the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Although the pipeline is being built in Canada, he is concerned with the possibility of an oil spill and how that would affect the species that inhabit the Salish Sea and the surrounding environment.
“If anything were to go wrong in Canada, we would definitely see those problems down here in Bellingham,” Robitaille said.
He wants to encourage people to get involved in any way they can and understand how this pipeline expansion would affect them.
The Protect the Inlet project has more information on ways indigenous communities and concerned citizens can work together and get involved in this project.