Report reveals Trans Mountain Pipeline faces bigger construction challenges than federal government admits

Report reveals Trans Mountain Pipeline faces bigger construction challenges than federal government admits

Thursday September 12, 2019

Research uncovers dangerous construction hotspots, serious permitting delays that call into question the federal government’s three-year timeline for the project

Unceded Coast Salish Territory (VANCOUVER, BC) — A new investigative report titled “Trans Mountain Pipeline: The truth about construction” released today by international environmental organization Stand.earth reveals how the Canadian federal government faces bigger construction challenges than previously thought and calls into question the three-year construction timeline for the project. 

Read the report: https://www.stand.earth/sites/stand/files/Standearth-TransMountainPipelineConstructionReport-September2019-Final.pdf
View a map of the pipeline route and construction hotspots: https://www.google.com/maps/d/viewer?mid=1k5zDA5mueAAUIrk02bXYyzM0GLqzsoNi&usp=sharing 
Watch a livestream of the press conference on Facebook at facebook.com/standearth.

“Trans Mountain CEO Ian Anderson recently claimed construction will be complete by mid-2022, but what he failed to mention is that this date is another six-month delay on a project already years behind schedule,” said Sven Biggs, Climate and Energy Campaigner with Stand.earth. “As detailed in Stand.earth’s new investigative report, this project continues to face several permitting delays. Construction activities have not once been on schedule, including the latest timeline filed just last week with the National Energy Board indicating that ongoing route hearings have ‘introduced uncertainty into the construction schedule.’ This project is dangerously close to becoming financially unviable according to the Parliamentary Budget Office’s own projections. It’s time for the federal government to pull the plug.”

The report reveals several serious permitting delays for the project, including ongoing route hearings in Alberta and British Columbia that illustrate how there is still no approved route for the pipeline. Permitting delays include:

  • No approved route: None of the segments of the pipeline route have been fully approved. 
  • New route hearings: In July 2019, the National Energy Board revoked all previous route approvals and required Trans Mountain to complete a new, detailed hearing process along the entire pipeline route. Since then, new statements of opposition have been filed in every major segment of the project, possibly sparking new hearings in segments of the route that had been previously approved.
  • Ongoing challenges: The City of Chilliwack and Coldwater First Nation in British Columbia have serious and well-founded objections to the pipeline route running through the source of their drinking water. The Mountain Cree Traditional Band has filed an official statement of opposition, which means that even in Alberta the project faces delays. 
  • Provincial permits needed: The province of British Columbia is still reviewing 658 permits, and 243 have not even been applied for, of the 1,187 permits needed from the province.
  • First Nations appeal: 6 First Nations have been granted the right to appeal the federal government’s reapproval of the pipeline, including multiple First Nations who were previously successful in overturning the original approval of the pipeline and nullifying the construction permits.

“The Canadian federal government faces bigger construction challenges than it will publicly admit to. Although this pipeline is now owned by the government, there remains an air of secrecy and lack of transparency about the dangerous risks at several construction hotspots along the route,” said Tzeporah Berman, International Program Director at Stand.earth. “These construction risks include drilling under the Fraser River and through Burnaby Mountain, and the expansion of infrastructure at tank farms in Burnaby and Abbotsford. Canadians taxpayers — who are the ones paying for this multi-billion dollar pipeline — have a right to know the impacts that construction will have on communities and the environment. They deserve to know the realities of these dangerous construction hotspots that could push the cost of this project even higher.”

The report details seven dangerous construction hotspots along the pipeline route, including drilling under the Fraser River and Burnaby Mountain, risks from tank farm expansions in Abbotsford and Burnaby, and threats to the safety of First Nations from man camps along the pipeline route. Construction hotspots include:

  • Westridge Tanker Terminal: The expansion of the dock would obstruct 30% of the width of Burrard Inlet, leading to an increased risk of tanker traffic accidents.
  • Burnaby Tank Farm: No evacuation plans exist in the event of a tank farm fire, which could force 30,000 people to shelter in place at Simon Fraser University. Many tanks at the Burnaby Tank Farm are equipped with floating roofs, which are outdated infrastructure that has been proven to fail.
  • Burnaby Mountain Tunnel: Geologists remain concerned of the potential for active fault lines at the location of a tunnel that is planned under Burnaby Mountain. The company denied further geological study.
  • Fraser River crossing: Any construction mistakes made when drilling under the river to lay pipe could threaten the critical Port Mann water supply tunnel that delivers water to communities south of the Fraser River.
  • Man camps: Temporary work camps that will be established in at least five BC communities during construction often bring with them dramatic increases in rates of sexual violence toward women, especially Indigenous women and girls. 

In a press conference announcing the launch of the report, medical experts, Indigenous peoples, and local residents outlined their concerns about construction hotspots along the pipeline route. 

“We don't live next door to a 'tank farm,' we live next door to a 60-year-old crude oil storage and re-routing industrial complex that has already twice spilled toxic pollutants into our community. And both times, the operator, Trans Mountain, failed to respond when we depended on them,” said Abbotsford resident John Vissers, who experienced a 2012 oil spill at Trans Mountain's Sumas Tank Farm.

“We have a right to say no to these resource extraction projects which are a threat to Indigenous women. We do not consent to Trans Mountain building pipelines or man camps on our unceded territory where we hold Title,” said Beverly Manuel of the Tiny House Warriors. “We have six tiny houses built and ready to launch. Five are already blockading Trans Mountain's man camp in Blue River.” 

Tiny House Warriors’ Women’s Declaration Against Trans Mountain Man Camps has been endorsed by over fifty prominent Indigenous women and organizations including Idle No More, Indigenous Environmental Network, Families of Sisters in Spirit, No More Silence, Native Youth Sexual Health Network, Greenpeace, Stand.earth, and the Mi’kmaq Warrior Society.

“New health information presented to the NEB regarding potential health impacts to large populations surrounding Burrard inlet from a tanker spill was not considered in either the first or second review by the NEB — including impacts to air quality; the rights of Indigenous peoples to be able to access, harvest, consume and distribute their traditional marine food sources without fear of contamination from marine spills and in accordance with Canada’s commitment under the UNDRIP; interactions with future climate and population growth projections on exposure; mental health impacts of a disaster in a population centre; and the combined impacts of population-wide exposures to several non-threshold carcinogens,” said Dr. Tim Takaro, PhD MD, professor of Public Health at Simon Fraser University.

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Media contact: Virginia Cleaveland, Communications Manager, virginia@stand.earth, 778-984-3994 (Canada) or 510-858-9902 (US)