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The War Against Harper's Pipelines Reaches Tipping Point

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Courtesy of Forest Ethics Advocacy

This week will be filled with really big moments for both Enbridge and Kinder Morgan in B.C.

Today, Kinder Morgan announced that they have finally filed their application to build a new tar sands oil pipeline along the route of the Trans Mountain pipeline.

Kinder Morgan has been doing public relations on the project for years, without sharing much in terms of specific project details. There may be some surprises when it comes to the route they propose but chances are they will stay as close as possible to the existing route to help make their case that their pipeline is simply a "twinning" of an existing piece of infrastructure. No big deal, right?

Wrong. The truth is their proposed pipeline is actually more of a "twin" to the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline. The intent is to build a new almost 600,000 barrel a day (bpd) pipeline next to the existing pipeline that was built in 1952 and was intended to carry conventional oil to B.C. primarily for domestic use.

Both Enbridge and Kinder Morgan intend to bring unconventional Tar Sands crude oil in the form of diluted bitumen (dilbit) to the coast -- all for the sake of export. This kind of oil is even more dangerous than conventional crude oil. You don't have to look much further than the Exxon Valdez spill to see how harmful conventional crude spills can be. The local ecosystem, the fish, the whales and the local economy have still not recovered. The locals are still struggling with this event that changed their lives forever years later and they are still fighting Exxon in court decades later.

Dilbit spills are even worse potentially, because the bitumen is even harder to recover from the local ecosystem given that it is likely to sink in the form of tar balls and the diluent can result in unsafe levels of chemicals like benzene (one of the most toxic carcinogenic substances on earth) in the community around the spill. So far only Kalamazoo, Michigan and Mayflower, Arkansas have been unlucky enough to experience spills and it will be years before the full impacts are understood. Both incidents happened in the last couple years as conventional oil sources are dwindling and unconventional oil exports are quietly becoming more prevalent.

Both Enbridge and Kinder Morgan have seen massive opposition to their proposed projects. This week, on Wednesday, the City of Vancouver will discuss and vote on a motion to officially become intervenors in the Kinder Morgan project. The opposition to this project from the Mayor and Council of the West Coast's biggest city is a huge obstacle for the Texas-based company. One of the councilors, George Affleck, a Stephen Harper wannabe, has been making a lot of noise in support of the pipeline and trying to stop Vancouver from being involved. Please take a moment to send the Mayor and Council an email (via mayorandcouncil@vancouver.ca) letting them know you support them actively getting involved and playing a role stopping this pipeline and oil tanker project. You can find more information here.

On Thursday or Friday this week, it is suspected that we may finally have a decision from the National Energy Board (NEB) on the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline. The NEB must make a recommendation to the federal government by the end of 2013 and this is the last week before Christmas break for many.

This campaign against Enbridge has been ongoing for years. Opposition has been building since they originally filed the project way back in 2005. Thousands participated in the NEB process and many many more voiced their opposition in other ways. The government of B.C. and First Nations governments have officially come out in opposition to the project.

If the environmental assessment process works properly then this project will be rejected by the NEB. The concerns raised by experts and stakeholders have been numerous and damning. The government of B.C. has repeatedly highlighted our lack of preparedness for a spill and how little is truly known about the new risks posed by diluted bitumen. The NEB will hopefully say no to the project or at least send Enbridge back to the drawing board to address concerns that were raised like the State Department did with Keystone XL in the US.

Regardless of what the NEB decides on Enbridge, under the new rules brought forward by the Harper government the Prime Minister will decide if the project's permit is approved. Even if the NEB rejects the pipeline, Harper could still give it the go ahead within six months after the NEB decision. Of course First Nations and the B.C. government, and others, have various ways to stop the project from moving forward if Harper gives it the go ahead.

The B.C. government could refuse to sign permits and has legal options to consider. First Nations have been said to have a veto and will likely take legal action if the project is approved. It is unlikely that either of these pipelines will see shovels in the ground before the next federal election in 2015.

Both Kinder Morgan and Enbridge really have become Harper's pipelines.

He has made his unconditional support for the oil industry clear. Our Prime Minister has been sharing talking points and coordinating strategy with multinational oil corporations. That has became more and more clear this past year, with reports of spying on environmentalists and First Nations.

The federal election will be an important moment to change the relationship between our government and the oil companies and to make sure that democratic regulatory processes really work in the interests of the people.

At the end of day the politicians give the permits, but the people give the permission. Enbridge and Kinder Morgan do not have the permission of the people of B.C. The Harper government and these companies still have the opportunity to do the right thing and listen to the people.

Rest assured that no matter what happens this week the social movement against these pipelines and in favour of better alternatives for our energy and economy grew even stronger in 2013 will continue to grow in 2014.

Approving Enbridge would only be throwing fuel on the fire. Please join us by pledging to be part of this campaign for the long haul. We have a declaration set up on our website.

Add your name and share it with your friends. Let's end the year by reminding Stephen Harper who really is in charge.

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