The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, P.C., M.P., Prime Minister of Canada, Ottawa
May 1, 2018
Dear Prime Minister Trudeau,
We are a group of more than 70 organizations representing citizens from all walks of life and from communities throughout our country.
We are deeply concerned by the threat the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion poses to B.C.’s rivers, coastal waters and vibrant coastal economy, as well as Canada’s commitment to take responsible action on climate change and start a meaningful path to reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples.
We stand with the vast majority of people in Canada who care about taking bold action on climate change so future generations have safe and prosperous lives. Our children have a right to live in a healthy environment and a world safe from extreme weather.
The current Trans Mountain pipeline has spilled 82 times since 1961, according to the company’s own reports. The likelihood of an oil spill from expanded bitumen shipments in the Burrard Inlet over 50 years is estimated at between 79 to 87 per cent. As research from the Alaska Valdez oil spill, the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico and others shows, a spill causes long-term irreparable damage to coastal and marine environments, costing billions to try to clean, with just 10 to 15 per cent of spilled oil ever recovered. Unfortunately, the National Energy Board chose not to hear this evidence during its Trans Mountain expansion project review.
The Royal Society of Canada’s 2015 expert panel report identified seven major research gaps regarding scientific uncertainties on bitumen. A U.S. National Academy of Sciences study, considered the most authoritative assessment on diluted bitumen undertaken, was refused by the NEB as evidence during the Trans Mountain review. Moving ahead with the project without having thoroughly understood the implications is premature at best and possibly negligent.
The NEB’s review did not assess the effects of a sevenfold increase in tanker traffic on the 76 remaining critically endangered southern resident orcas in the Salish Sea as part of its environmental assessment of the project. These orcas are endangered under Canada’s Species at Risk Act and the tanker route transects critical habitat they need to survive and recover.
The federal government’s insistence that approval of the pipeline is based on science rings hollow on the climate front too. While strong steps have been taken to phase out coal and bring in a carbon market, all accounting estimates show Canada is at risk of missing its international climate commitments.
A spill would also have a disastrous effect on key industries such as tourism, film and fisheries.
The City of Vancouver commissioned an economic study for the NEB review that looked at just five ocean-dependent activities: commercial fishing, port activities, inner-harbour transportation, tourism and recreation. For Vancouver alone, these five industries generate more than $6.7 billion in economic activity and support more than 36,000 jobs. They estimate that a single spill could wipe out more than $1.2 billion in economic activity and result in the loss of more than 12,000 jobs.
According to Destination BC, the province’s tourism industry generates $17 billion a year in revenues and employs more than 130,000 people in communities throughout the province. Jobs would be lost and lasting damage would be inflicted on B.C.’s status as one of the world’s greatest destinations for outdoor recreation in the event of an oil spill.
British Columbia’s fishing and seafood industries contribute more than $660 million to the economy. The wild salmon industry alone employs approximately 9,500 people. These are well-paying jobs recklessly put at risk by this heavy oil pipeline.
In contrast, the Trans Mountain pipeline is not the job creator many people think it is. Proponents claim it will create 15,000 jobs during construction phase, while prominent economists have pointed out that a more realistic estimate is closer to 20 per cent that figure. Direct long-term job projections are as low as 50 per year. Compare that to the huge possibilities for growth and well-paying jobs in Canada’s renewable energy sector.
Project proponents also claim that approval of this project stemmed from “unprecedented Indigenous engagement”. But nations whose territories cover the pipeline route, the terminus and tanker route have not consented to the project. These Indigenous communities would be on the receiving end of this project’s worst environmental impacts. They have expressed strong opposition and noted the approval process did not include meaningful or adequate consultation with them, as required by Canadian law. The federal court of appeal that quashed the NEB’s approval of Enbridge’s Northern Gateway project for inadequate First Nations consultation is expected to rule on similar challenges for Kinder Morgan in the coming months.
Pushing the pipeline through in the face of strong Indigenous opposition runs counter to Canada’s commitment to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and undermines conclusions that this project is in the national interest and the laudable reconciliation efforts so recently undertaken. In an age of reconciliation, we must respect all nations in opposition and leave judgments to the courts. In the midst of a deeply divided moment that has pitted sectors and governments against one another, we hope you hear these concerns and step away from this contentious project, making the long-term well-being of all citizens your top priority.
1. Action Environnement Basses Laurentides2. Affordability Action Hub 3. BC Sea Wolves4. Burnaby Residents Opposing Kinder Morgan Expansion (BROKE)5. Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE) 6. Canadian Unitarians for Social Justice7. Citizens Climate Lobby8. Citizens for Public Justice9. ClimateFast10. Climate Justice Saskatoon11. The Climate Reality Project Canada12. Coalition for a Clean Green Saskatchewan 13. Coalition for a Healthy Riverview 14. Council of Canadians15. Council of Canadians: Prince Albert Chapter 16. Council of Canadians: Saskatoon Chapter17. David Suzuki Foundation 18. Earthroots19. Eau Secours20. Ecology Action Centre 21. Ecology North22. Ecology Ottawa23. Équiterre 24. Environmental Defence25. Foire ÉCOSPHÈRE, Environnement et Écohabitation26. For Our Grandchildren (4RG)27. Friends of the Earth Canada28. The Fur-Bearers29. Georgia Strait Alliance 30. Green Neighbours 2131. Greenpeace Canada 32. Greenspiration33. Green 1334. Groupe de Recherche Appliquée en Macroécologie (GRAME)35. Just Planet36. Justice for Girls Outreach Society37. KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives38. Kitchen Table Collective 39. Lake Superior Watershed Conservancy40. Making Peace Vigil Regina 41. Mother Earth Justice Advocates42. Nature Québec43. Noor Cultural Centre44. Ontario Clean Air Alliance45. Ontario Nature46. Our Horizon47. PIPE UP Network48. Polaris Institute49. Rapid Decarbonization Group50. RAVEN (Respecting Aboriginal Values & Environmental Needs)51. Regroupement Vigilance Hydrocarbures Québec52. Saint-Antoine-de-Tilly – Milieu de Vie53. Sarah Cacoub, Energy Transition Consultant 54. Saskatchewan Climate Forum 55. Saskatoon Parklands Eco-left Collective56. Sierra Club BC57. Sierra Club Canada Foundation 58. Sisters of Sion59. Society Promoting Environmental Conservation 60. Spirit of the West Adventures61. Stand.earth62. SumOfUs.org63. Toronto Environmental Alliance64. Toronto350 65. Treaty 6 Justice Collective 66. Union Paysanne67. Voices-Voix Coalition 68. The WaterWealth Project69. West Coast Environmental Law Association70. Wilderness Committee71. Wild Whales Vancouver 72. Windfall Ecology Centre73. Wolf Awareness Inc74. 350.org
More than 70 civil society organizations from across Canada have signed this letter. The list of signatories is updated daily.