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Opinion

The Pipeline Tyrants

NEB ruling that Kinder Morgan can ignore Burnaby bylaws just latest injustice.

By Andrew Nikiforuk 8 Dec 2017 | TheTyee.ca

Andrew Nikiforuk is an award-winning journalist who has been writing about the energy industry for two decades and is a contributing editor to The Tyee. Find his previous stories here

Tyranny has started a new club in Canada and the first member is the National Energy Board.

On Thursday the scandal-plagued federal agency ruled that Kinder Morgan, a U.S. pipeline company that’s the spawn of Enron (remember that tale of corporate corruption) doesn’t have to comply with City of Burnaby bylaws.

The board effectively ruled that there are two classes in Burnaby: those who have to follow the rules and a U.S. pipeline company that doesn’t.

With Trumpian flare the NEB added that it will explain this injustice when it feels like it.

By thwarting democracy the NEB helped the indebted firm ($38 billion US) increase its share value by $1.9 billion in the hours after the decision was announced.

Burnaby has been dragging its feet on the Trans Mountain pipeline because its citizens have opposed a project they feel will irrevocably change their community and the province.

The city would be the unfortunate terminus for the $7.4-billion project to triple the capacity of the existing 63-year-old oil pipeline from Alberta.

The NEB heightened public discontent with a string of injustices during public hearings on the pipeline.

The dysfunctional agency did not consider the pipeline’s full impacts on climate change through offshore and upstream emissions.

It failed to examine the full impact of diluted bitumen spills on B.C.’s coast, although the pipeline would bring a sevenfold increase in tanker traffic.

It failed to assess the full economic need for the project.

It failed to even analyze the impact of stress corrosion cracking and its causes and consequences on an aging pipeline.

And it restricted the narrow review to “applied capacity” of 540,000 barrels a day as opposed to “designed capacity” of 780,000 barrels and failed to access the full costs and benefits of the project in a volatile global oil market.

When faced with bad federal government rulings in a democracy, aren’t local governments allowed to drag their feet to mirror the discontent of their people and pursue justice?

Not in Justin Trudeau’s Canada.

And here stands the second tyrant.

Despite widespread public opposition and a fundamentally flawed federal assessment process, the Trudeau government approved the pipeline expansion in October 2016.

In so doing Trudeau broke election promises and once again ignored the impacts on climate change and First Nations.

Why? To please the totalitarian Chinese government.

The Chinese told Trudeau that they won’t consider a new free trade deal without the removal of investment restrictions and the construction of a bitumen pipeline to the coast.

Canada has become the rarest of democracies: one willing to surrender its sovereignty for a pipeline ferrying a junk crude.

The third and final tyrant in this drama is none other than Alberta Premier Rachel Notley.

Canada’s newest petro politician sounds like all those who have come before her.

Upon hearing about the outrageous NEB ruling, she even cribbed a tired line from the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.

“As I like to say — and you may have heard me say it — there is a not a school, hospital, road, bus, bike lane or port anywhere in the country that does not owe something to Alberta’s energy industry,” said Notley.

The Saudis sing from the same hymnal.

Notley has attacked the legitimacy of local government in Burnaby because, as every citizen knows, you can’t let democracy slow down Big Oil.

Notley has also falsely claimed the atrocious economics on bitumen exports are favourable to Canada and Alberta.

The economic facts tell a shameful tale of government incompetence. Last year Alberta made more money from liquor and gambling than it did from bitumen royalties.

Let me repeat that: Alberta managed its bitumen resources so poorly that it made $2.2 billion from liquor and gambling but only $1.4 billion from the production of nearly three million barrels of bitumen a day.

Why? Because Notley’s government has accepted low royalties and ignored the Norwegian model: go slow, collect your fair share of the revenue and save the money.

It has also chosen to let a former industry lobbyist and executive, Gerard Protti, chair its energy regulator.

Notley has become such a convert to petro politics that she is pushing more pipelines without a coherent plan to clean up at least $30 billion worth of inactive oil and gas infrastructure already littering the province.

The NEB, Trudeau and Notley all claim they are serving the interests of Kinder Morgan and China to better serve us.

Alberta Camus knew the meaning of that well-worn line. “The welfare of the people in particular has always been the alibi of tyrants,” he wrote.

And the tyrants in this country have declared that local government and democracy can now take a back seat to bitumen.  [Tyee]

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