Feature Story                                    Friday, December 16, 2016


It's Only a Pipeline

Opposition builds to the pipeline as it's about to move into the Fraser Valley

Voice Staff/Photos


Rafe Mair voice's his opinion at Evergreen Hall in 2009 when KM announced a pipleline in the Fraser Valley. (Voice pic Mair's website)

íve been sitting back and watching this pipeline brouhaha from the beginning. Iíve posted items both for and against it. I havenít heard anything from Kinder Morgan who obviously has no respect for online media. If they did, my inbox would be bursting at the seams with rhetoric.

No matter. Itís time Chilliwack media said something. Something that makes a bit of collective sense out of whatís going on with this wildly contentious issue ó and what may be set to happen.

The Kinder Morgan pipeline has been the biggest outrage du jour since 2009 when the company unveiled their plan. The communityís been "fighting". But all the forums and meetings were just window dressing and have amounted to nothing locals can really sink their teeth into.

The implications are staggering when it comes to protecting the land and water. One of the points of contention is the pipe going over Chilliwack's main water supply. If anything were to happen, it would turn residents into a bucket brigade.

When it comes to the municipal government, theyíve rolled out the red carpet for Kinder Morgan in the most compelling issue Chilliwack has ever faced, and what may also be one of the biggest boondoggles in the history of BC.

This is a wedge issue. The City of Chilliwack is foot-dragging and reticent to throw their hat into the ring and prefer to just smooth it through. They've been saying it's going to juice the economy and create untold jobs.

City Hall doesn't understand that itís dangerous thinking when the end justifies the means.

There was a firestorm of controversy and nerves were shredded when Kinder Morgan first made the uber announcement at Evergreen Hall. Afterward there was very little blowback.

Where are the meetings and forums now? Is it after years of fighting that the general population is suffering from combat fatigue? Are they at the point where they're feeling disaffected, indicating itís no longer their problem and that they'd just be voices in the wilderness anyhow?

Non-Natives picked themselves up off the floor and dumped this politically charged issue onto the backs of First Nations, who're being leaned on hard from the other side and expected to break treaties instead of defending the land.

The land really canít be owned by anyone. Itís the future that owns the land. Big oil has to bring the Natives into the equation because theyíre stewards of the land for the next generation, who are stewards for the next, and so on.

They know this isnít a two week job. Itís for an eternity until thereís no more oil to ship.

Natives are being overwhelmed and have to sleep with one eye open for fear of being pepper-sprayed in defense of what theyíre responsible for while oil companies with names like Steelhead Petroleum, Sunshine Oil, Muskrat Oil ó which is just code for corruption and toss out red herrings in hopes that Natives, and everyone against the pipeline, take the bait.

Well, everyone has ó except the Natives.

The core premise of big oilís argument is how the pipeline will boost the local economy of areas it passes through and create jobs. One superficial look at it, and the only jobs created will be the cleanup crews that go out and fix the pipe when it breaks.

For the most part, non-Native anti-pipeliners are a joke. Instead of getting behind the Natives and taking a few rubber bullets for the cause, what do they do? They crumple and fold leaving it all up to the Natives to fight off the massive Kinder Morgan machine as the pipeline creeps ever closer. The reservations are where big oil really has a problem ó and they know it.

You donít have to be a leftist to believe that pipelines shouldnít go through.

You canít find a government thatís against the pipelines. Doesn't matter which one. But that's when you start talking about constitution, democratic rights and patriarchs. How could they allow it to get this far? Because they can.

Kinder Morgan thinks they'll push it through by dangling a few shekels and some sweet and salty snacks up front for eternal access. Aside from local environmental concerns, what's to stop Natives from selling out?

Heavy investment into housing and proper water and sewage on the reservations for as long as the oil runs is very tempting. So much for their culture of stewardship.

To hell with the environment, how much is it worth?

God help the Natives should they say no to the pipeline. Instead of a pat on the back for saving the land and water from calamity, all they'll get is a denial of the resources that the reservations badly need.

Itís been said that in politics thereís no such thing as reality and objective truth. The City rolled over at the first "here, kitty, kitty" conversation with Kinder Morgan.

At a council meeting earlier this month, David Blaine, City of Chilliwack engineer, read from a sheet of paper giving Kinder Morgan the green light, saying that the pipe will be double-walled when it goes anywhere near the aquifer. Itís not hard to tell where the City is coming from. So don't even bother asking. Keeping the water away from the aquifer would make the 5 or 6 Non-Natives happy. But by the looks of it that won't happen.

The current City Hall sold-out the future. Eventually they'll take off  the tin foil hats and suits and simply walk away from the 50-year legacy that they managed to create in their brief reigns.

Instead of trumpeting any kind of opposition, Chilliwack City council sat there like bobble heads placating the issue. Their acquiescence evident in all the recommendations that upper-level staff made.

With water glasses containing bitumen, Rafe Mair speaks in Harrison about the perils of an oil spill in the Fraser Valley or coast. (Voice photo)

Anti-pipeliners want square pegs to fit in square holes, but all the City has to offer are round pegs backed-up by complicity.

Meanwhile, the pipeline has been going through lickety-split and they want that line pointed in the "right" direction before they face too much pushback and cost. Obviously, the company is hoping people wonít wake up and smell the napalm. Once the genie's out of the bottle you canít put it back.

Any resident in Chilliwack will tell you that theyíre diametrically opposed to an oil pipe running through their back yards, but theyíre worn down from years of battling. Kinder Morgan is winning the war.

Anti-pipeliners boast they've garnered 19,000 clicks against the project. How hard is it to go online, read a paragraph or two and click against it. But if you go out to a demonstration, youíd be lucky to count to 20.

The provincial government should be seeing the pipeline as a shot across their bow. What could they do if 19,000 voters put up a wall of flesh and blood? It might get messy.

The choke point is Hope, BC. Environmentalists have plans to dig in their heels there and attempt to scuttle the project at a demonstration set for March 15. 

Environmentalists see it as death by a thousand cuts and want to temper their thoughts with reality. They say Kinder Morgan has always looked at it on one side of the coin and just talking out of both sides of their mouth.

As this tale unfolds, difficult issues remain, with few provisions for accountability. Anti-pipeliners say no matter what, the pipeline will just be a shoddy piece of work. Theyíre looking for light at the end of the tunnel and havenít given up insisting the plan is still in flux. Apparently, they won't take it lying down and saying there will be more stand-offs at assorted points in the future.

However, the company has spent millions getting the pipe this far and itís a good guess they'll just capitulate over any demonstration that arises.

Precedents have already been set with blockades stateside.

The biggest mistake anyone can make though is, underestimating the capabilities of their adversary.

One thing's for certain, if all hell does break loose, it'll be too late.


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