Pipeline concerns gain additional traction

Well-attended rally coincides with oil spill in English Bay which has been widely-criticized.

A protest on Saturday in Fort Langley, led by the Kwantlen First Nation, gained a lot of traction as a result of the fuel oil spill in English Bay a few days earlier.

The protest was called in opposition to the plans to twin the Kinder Morgan oil pipeline, which runs from Edmonton to Burnaby. The twinned pipeline would run just a short distance south of Fort Langley. The existing pipeline runs along the hillside above the Fraser River through much of Langley, and its western end runs through urban Walnut Grove.

While Kinder Morgan has yet to reveal the exact route of the proposed second pipeline, it is likely it will split away from the original route somewhere near 216 Street and Telegraph Trail, and head north across the Redwoods Golf Course. It will then run parallel to the CN rail line through Langley and into Surrey as far as the Port Mann Bridge.

There were at least 200 people taking part in the march from the Kwantlen lands on McMillan Island to Fort Langley Community Hall, and most of them stayed there for several hours of speeches. It was a very mixed group, with old and young, longtime residents and newcomers, and people from many backgrounds represented.

Politically, the absence of identified Conservatives or Liberals was interesting. There were NDP and Green supporters, and even a Green candidate stopped by.

At the local level, the only two politicians that I noticed from my observation point on the edge of the crowd were Langley Township Councillor Petrina Arnason and Langley school trustee Rosemary Wallace.

The Kwantlen people rightly point out that there is no treaty with their nation and that the territory proposed for the pipeline is both historically theirs and unceded.

This is a significant dilemma for the proponents of both the Kinder Morgan and Northern Gateway pipeline projects. They do need to come to terms with First Nations groups in areas where there are no treaties — and getting to that point will be extremely difficult.

As noted in these pages many times over the years, these projects may well be approved by the National Energy Board, and then be tied up in court for decades, due to the lack of treaties with First Nations and the increasingly-thick pile of court precedents which give native people a lot of say on resource projects.

In addition to that, the falling price of oil has put many oilsands projects at risk economically. While some are completely finished, the costs of construction and extraction of oil from the sands mean that oil prices must be significantly high for the projects to be profitable.

In other words, there is no guarantee that there will be a lot of oil to ship. There might be, but there might not be.

The B.C. government has been ambivalent about the pipelines, particularly Northern Gateway, and its concerns about oil spill responses seem to be well-founded.