Monday, August 14, 2017
Aboriginals consider legal action
against Kinder Morgan
Dionne Bunsha, Aboriginal Knowledge Coordinator/Submitted, website and Voice
Native fishers on the
Fraser River at the mouth of the Harrison River. Below, BC NDP
leader John Horagn. Voice file photo.
announcing that it will consider legal options to prevent the Trans Mountain
pipeline expansion project, the B.C. government has taken a positive first
step in protecting our coast from a toxic oil spill. However, both the
Federal and NDP government need to enhance B.C.’s oil spill response
system before exposing it to any further risk.
bungling by different authorities to contain and clean up fuel and chemical
leakage from a sinking boat in the Fraser River, near Mission this spring,
is highlighting just how far British Columbia will need to advance before
having the “world-class” oil spill response system promised by the former
Christy Clark Liberal government.
“If the recent spill from a sunken vessel near Mission is any indication,
clearly we do not have a ‘world class spill response system’ in place. The
approval of Kinder Morgan is premature and ill-advised,”
said Ken Malloway, Co-chair, Lower
Fraser Fisheries Alliance (LFAA).“The bitumen piped through the Kinder
Morgan pipeline is more toxic than the diesel spilled in Mission and other
One of the conditions stipulated by the B.C. government for approving the
Kinder Morgan pipeline project was the creation of a ‘world class spill
response system’. It is now left to the NDP to deal with the increased risks
that southern B.C. faces due to the clearance of the Kinder Morgan pipeline,
without a proper spill response system in place.
of the pipeline is scheduled to start next month. The B.C. government
announced yesterday that the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project was
not in B.C.’s interest and it would use every tool, including legal options,
to defend B.C.’s coast.
The way in which authorities
dealt with a recent incident on the Fraser river highlights the deficiencies
of B.C.’s spill response system.
An example of a Lightship
similar to one which sank in the Fraser River March 24. Wikipedia photo.
eulachon. The oily fish which are a great source of protein and can be
On March 24th, Canadian
Coast Guard reported that the 129-foot fishing vessel Lightship LV76, built
in 1904, had sunk in approximately 50 feet of water in the Fraser River. In
the ensuing days and weeks, public concerns escalated as efforts appeared to
be hampered by an apparent lack of clarity about the amount of contaminant
spilled, which government agency was responsible for spill response, the
responsibilities of the owner of the vessel and poor communications.
“If the recent
spill from a sunken vessel near Mission is any indication, clearly we do not
have a “world class spill response system”, said Ken Malloway, co-chair of
the LFAA, which supports 22 First-Nations from Tsawwassen to Yale.“ In light
of this, the approval of the Kinder Morgan pipeline seems premature and
Chief Ken Malloway at Idle No More protesting
Bill C-45 in December 2012 at
Cottonwood Mall. Voice file photo. Below, a youngster learns about cleaning
The B.C. government cleared the project stating that its condition for the
‘world class spill response’ was met, but it is still in the initial stages
of putting together an improved spill response regime. Until a robust spill
response system exists, risky projects like the Kinder Morgan project should
not proceed. Moreover, First Nations’ free, prior and informed consent must
be sought while developing a spill response regime, since it involves the
protection of their lands and waters.
we really have a ‘World Class Spill Response System’ in place?
Several large projects have been cleared along the Fraser River, an already
congested waterway, without adequate consideration of the risks and the
ability of authorities to deal with these risks. Although these areas fall
within our territories, First Nations consent has not been sought on spill
response initiatives related to these projects.
With little progress made on setting up such a ‘world class spill response
system’, the Christy Clark government approved the Kinder Morgan project in
January 2017, two months after the Federal government passed the project in
November last year. It is still unclear what criteria were used and what
measures have been taken to determine that the spill response system in B.C.
is, or will soon be, ‘world class’.
Fishers pass chum to each other
before going into the bins.
Fraser River is literally our front door," said Chief Susan Miller. “When
you get up in the morning all you see is water. It’s beautiful, we’ve got
deer and bear and ducks and geese and lovely fish,” said
Susan Miller, Chief, Katzie First
“Because we’re in the tidal zone still, if there should be a natural or
manmade disaster, the area is going to be highly affected. This is the route
that many species of salmon come through, and as stewards of the land and
water it is our responsibility to ensure that they are able to journey home
to spawn. To date we have seen no evidence of this “world class spill
response system” and with this latest spill near Mission we have no faith it
A fishing boat on the Vedder
Canal in Chilliwack. Lower Fraser River Fishing Alliance. Lower Fraser
Fishing Alliance photo.
Kinder Morgan approved by Federal
government without a plan on how to manage the associated risk
The Federal government
identified southern B.C. as one of the four areas in Canada that are at
highest risk of an oil spill. It is in the process of developing an Area
Response Plan to deal with oil spills. Before creating the Area Response
plan, a risk assessment is being developed.
The risk assessment is likely to highly underestimate the risk, since it is
using past and current ship traffic to estimate risk, rather than future
estimates once oil tanker traffic increases due to the Kinder Morgan
pipeline. So, the “world class spill response”,
which will be designed based on the results of the risk assessment, will not
proactively anticipate, and plan for, increased ship traffic due to the
Kinder Morgan project. It will always be a step behind.
The proposed pipeline is likely to increase tanker traffic by seven times,
and increase the risk of spills in the Burrard Inlet even further, according
to Tsleil Waututh Nation’s Assessment Report of the Trans Mountain Pipeline
and Tanker Expansion Proposal.
However, the Kinder Morgan pipeline project was cleared before the Federal
government even had a risk assessment framework in place as part of its Area
Response Planning in southern B.C. To date, the Federal government does not
have the results of its risk assessment. And, expensive work related to the
Kinder Morgan pipeline and associated projects such as the Fraser Surrey
Docks has started even before this risk assessment is complete.
class can't be used to describe a response that was very unorganized and
left a lot to be desired as far as its effect in cleaning up the spill that
happened in Mission,” Dalton Silver,
Chief, Semá:th First Nation.
Silver goes on to say that “Indigenous groups along the river should have
been informed immediately and need to be involved in the cleanup effort. Our
people know the river and the flows better than anyone, we need to have
input right away so that areas of concern, whether fisheries habitat related
or culturally sensitive areas can be protected.”
Local Activist leader Eddie
Gardner at the Idle No More protest rally December 2012. Voice file photo.
“I applaud the Squamish and Tsleil Waututh for the stance they've taken to
oppose the Kinder Morgan expansion project and I really hope that Premiere
Horgan will stick with his campaign promises and align himself with these
and others that are also in opposition,” adds Silver.
“Trudeau has also talked about a Nation to Nation relationship with
Indigenous people and that seemed to be forgotten in his approval of the
expansion project. With so many in opposition it seems our concerns were not
A Kinder Morgan pipeline patch.
Photo Dr. David Ellis.
“There were many conditions put on the approval of the Kinder Morgan project
and I know these haven't been met. I don't know how construction can begin
without that,” concludes Silver.
B.C. government has not sought the prior consent of First Nations on
proposed Spill Response Regulations
The B.C. government is yet to table regulations for the Environmental
Management Act, 2016, which it introduced in order to usher in a new spill
response regime. The regulations will be tabled in the house without gaining
the prior consent of First Nations. While the B.C. government has held
information workshops on spill response with First Nations, it has not
presented the regulations to First Nations for their consent or input. Both
the B.C. government and the Federal government intend to develop separate
Area or Regional Response plans. In our experience, there is a lack of
co-ordination and collaboration between the two governments.
Fishers net chum salmon at the
mouth of the Harrison River. The fish are a major food source for First
Nations. Lower Fraser River Fisheries Alliance photo. Below, Voice file
Both Provincial and Federal governments are still trying to figure out how
to deal with the cumulative effects of development and industrialization in
southern B.C. and the risks they pose to this already vulnerable ecosystem.
Last November, the Federal government announced $1.5 billion funding for
oceans protection after clearing the Kinder Morgan project. It is concerning
that billions of tax-payers’ dollars are being used to prepare for the high
risk of accidents created by the fossil fuel industry. Avoiding the high
risk involved in fossil fuel extraction and transportation, and moving
towards the Federal government’s climate mitigation commitments, would
perhaps be a better option.
government should seek the prior consent of First Nations in spill response
prevention and planning. Prevention could include the decision to decline
projects that pose a serious threat to this precious and highly
overdeveloped ecosystem and the populations that are dependent on it for
their well-being. It is clear from the sinking of a large dilapidated vessel
near Mission that there are currently risky gaps in the Provincial and
Federal spill response mechanisms. First Nations have long-term interests in
sustainable development that ensures the protection of ecosystems, and need
to be involved in decisions about the use of the Fraser River, monitoring
and risk management, including spill response.
Lower Fraser Fisheries Alliance
LFAA is a voice for the First
Nations of the Lower Fraser River. We are a First Nations organization that
works collaboratively and holistically to manage our fishery and to support
our cultural and spiritual traditions for future generations. The LFAA
serves 22 member First Nations from Tsawwassen to Yale.
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