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Critics speak out against approval of Trans Mountain pipeline in B.C.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced his approval for the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline project on Tuesday.

Ben Nelms/Bloomberg

Ottawa's decision to approve Kinder Morgan's controversial Trans Mountain pipeline project in British Columbia is being condemned by environmental groups and First Nations who are threatening protests and lawsuits.

While business organizations are praising the federal government for approving the $6.8-billion project, the decision Tuesday triggered an outpouring of dismay and anger from opponents of the pipeline, which would increase oil-tanker traffic on the coast.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's announcement on Trans Mountain came moments before he declared that the $7.9-billion Northern Gateway pipeline across central B.C. has been rejected, and that a long-promised oil-tanker ban on the north coast will soon become law.

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Mr. Trudeau also announced that Enbridge's $7.5-billion Line 3 pipeline project, which is not in B.C., has been approved.

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson and Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan, who both have long opposed Trans Mountain, expressed dismay about the ruling on it.

"I am profoundly disappointed," Mr. Robertson said. "This project was approved under a flawed and biased Harper-era regulatory process that shut out local voices."

Mr. Corrigan said he was "disappointed … depressed by the result," but not surprised.

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"Everyone knew that even though we changed government, we didn't change who is really running Ottawa – the oil lobbyists," he said.

Andrew Weaver, Leader of the Green Party of B.C., said the federal government betrayed both its promises on climate change and to First Nations regarding reconciliation.

"We see yet another federal government steamrolling their pipeline agenda," he said. "I cannot express how disturbed I am by this decision."

The B.C. government, which is undertaking its own environmental assessment of the Trans Mountain project, was muted in its response, with Environment Minister Mary Polak saying the province stands by its demand that five conditions be met.

NDP Leader John Horgan said that by failing to stop the Trans Mountain project, Premier Christy Clark has "put our coast, and thousands of good B.C. jobs that depend on it, at risk."

Ms. Clark did not have any comment immediately.

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First Nations on the north coast welcomed the news about the tanker ban and the death of Northern Gateway, but battle lines were being drawn on the south coast where environmentalists see Trans Mountain as a galvanizing issue.

"Prime Minister Trudeau has picked a fight with British Columbians by approving Kinder Morgan – and it starts now," said Caitlyn Vernon, campaigns director of the Sierra Club BC. "The Kinder Morgan pipeline will not be built. Not on our watch."

The leaders of Clayoquot Action, who in 1993 helped organize a mass blockade that stopped clear-cut logging in Clayoquot Sound, said they are already organizing "a series of direct action training sessions," in response to the Trans Mountain decision.

In a tweet, Kai Nagata, communications director for the Dogwood Initiative, lashed out at the government.

"@JustinTrudeau you lied to my face and you lied to British Columbia voters. You can stop calling Vancouver 'home' now. See you in 2019," he said.

During his Ottawa news conference, Mr. Trudeau referred to his family roots in British Columbia, saying he spent a lot of his childhood on the West Coast and wouldn't have made the Trans Mountain decision if it posed a risk to the environment.

But many in B.C. reject that argument.

"This places the Trudeau government squarely in the same room with the oil lobbyists, pitting it against British Columbia's First Nations and communities," said Karen Wristen, executive director of Living Oceans Society.

Peter McCartney, climate campaigner with the Wilderness Committee, said British Columbians "are furious" and "don't want this reckless pipeline coming anywhere near the Pacific Coast."

The Tsleil-Waututh Nation issued a statement calling approval of Trans Mountain "disappointing, dangerous" and promised to fight it in the courts.

West Coast Environmental Law said "many more court challenges are expected in the days and weeks to come."

Not everyone was opposed to Ottawa's announcement, however.

The Business Council of B.C., Greater Vancouver Board of Trade, Surrey Board of Trade and BC Chamber of Commerce all said they were pleased with the Trans Mountain ruling.

BCBC president and CEO Greg D'Avignon said Ottawa had "found the balance" between protecting the environment and stimulating the economy. He said the decision was based "on a rigorous review" and that approval of the pipeline sends a good message to investors.

With reports from Ian Bailey and Justine Hunter

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About the Author
National correspondent

Mark Hume is a National Correspondent for The Globe and Mail, based in Vancouver, writing news and feature stories on a daily basis about his home province of British Columbia. His weekly column, which often challenges the orthodoxy on environmental issues, appears every Monday. More

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