Canada’s National Energy Board recently issued a review granting permission to Kinder Morgan to study the possibility of running a pipeline under Burnaby Mountain to the Burrard Inlet. The energy company wants to do so as part of a plan to increase capacity of their existing pipeline.
SFU’s John Clague and Doug Stead, professors of earth sciences, are working with Kinder Morgan to enact the study, though many SFU alumni have spoken out against the project.
Mike Soron, executive director of Sustainable SFU, says that his group is currently reminding students that these pipeline plans, “threaten both the health and safety of our student members and communities worldwide that are vulnerable to climate change.”
Sustainable SFU is “encouraged by the actions of campus climate leaders like Dr. Lynne Quarmby,” said Soron. Quarmby, chair of molecular biology and biochemistry at SFU, along with a small group called ForestEthics, launched a constitutional challenge against the National Energy Board in May. They objected to the decision, claiming that the review obstructs public participation and silences public concerns.
In late June, SFU ecologist Wendy Palen led a demonstration with other academics calling for a moratorium on oil sands and pipeline projects until such developments are consistent with the government’s commitments to carbon pollution reduction.
Palen was also a cosigner of an article recently published in Nature magazine that cited what the authors interpreted as flaws of how decisions regarding oil sands are made. The study argues that debate regarding individual projects only considers short-term costs and local benefits without accounting for long-term consequences extending to multiple or worldwide projects.
“If Canada and the United States continue to move forward with rapid development of these reserves,” Palen is quoted as saying, “both countries send a signal to other nations that they should disregard the looming climate crisis in favour of developing the most carbon-intensive fuels in the world.”
Clague stands by his decision to research the topic. While sympathetic towards concerns about the project, he is confident that such a pipeline route “is less expensive than [one] near the surface through Burnaby neighbourhoods,” and eliminates the disruption of those neighbourhoods.
Clague also responded to Sustainable SFU’s claim that the pipeline poses a threat, saying that he believes, if properly constructed, it “would pose no risk either to people or the environment.” He pointed to the hydrocarbon pipeline that “has operated beneath Burnaby without leaks,” and the “light oil products [which] have been shipped from the Chevron Refinery in Burnaby through Burrard Inlet, English Bay, and the Strait of Georgia,” all without incident for 60 years.
He argues that the ‘real issue’ is not the safety of the pipeline, saying, “Opponents of the Trans Mountain pipeline project should worry less about pipeline safety and more about our government’s energy export policies.” He continued, arguing that individuals would be better off changing “their focus and pressure our federal government to provide leadership in reducing Canadians’ rampant consumerism, while changing our economy to one based more on renewables.”
Despite Clague’s assurance that the pipeline would be beneficial to the community, local resistance persists. Sustainable SFU, according to Soron, promises “a number of community events already planned” concerning the issue, and regular encouragement for student involvement. One goal of the group, says Soron, is “seeing SFU divest its endowment from pipeline companies like Kinder Morgan and [. . .] fossil fuel companies.”