VANCOUVER—The Tsleil-Waututh Nation in North Vancouver says it is denying approval to Kinder Morgan’s proposed Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, based on a scathing analysis of the project.
The nation released a report May 22 saying the likelihood of oil spills would increase if the expansion is allowed, with dire consequences for sensitive sites, habitats and species.
It concluded the pipeline’s effect on Tsleil-Waututh cultural activities in the region would be as big, if not bigger, than its impact on natural resources.
Rueben George, project manager of Sacred Trust at the Tsleil Waututh Nation, told a news conference that the nation held a vote and that 100 per cent of its members opposed the project.
He said the nation has been trying to meet with the federal government to discuss its concerns but its requests have been rejected.
“We’ve been talking for a long time now about how to stand up to Kinder Morgan,” George said. “That’s why we’re saying No.”
Kinder Morgan hopes to triple its bitumen-carrying capacity to 890,000 barrels a day by laying almost 1,000 kilometres of new pipe near the existing pipeline that runs from Alberta to Burnaby, B.C.
The nation’s traditional territory includes Burrard Inlet, where tanker traffic is expected to increase seven-fold if the expansion is approved by the federal government.
Spilled oil or bitumen seriously threatens all components of the Tsleil-Waututh subsistence economy, especially salmon, herring, clams and birds, the report says, estimating up to 5,000 birds could be killed.
“It’s not if a disaster happens, but when,” he told the news conference at a North Vancouver park across the water from Kinder Morgan’s Westridge Terminal in Burnaby.
George said his people have a spiritual connection to the water that once provided 90 per cent of their diet, so they must protect it.
Representatives of Kinder Morgan and Natural Resources Canada did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The assessment was written by the Tsleil-Waututh’s resource department and is based on reports by six independent experts.
It said fumes from spilled diluted bitumen have the potential to make over one million people sick within two hours, including on the nation’s reserve.
A major oil spill would strand 90 per cent of the oil on the nation’s North Vancouver beaches and foul up to 25 kilometres of shoreline, the report said.
Scott Smith, a lawyer for the nation, said the federal government is legally obligated to respect aboriginal law as recognized by several Supreme Court decisions.
He said the government will face lawsuits if it approves the project without the nation’s consent.
The National Energy Board is currently reviewing the project and will make a recommendation in January 2016 to the federal government, which will then decide whether to approve the project.
The Tsleil-Waututh launched a legal challenge of the board’s review last year, arguing against what it called a false and unlawful process.