Extreme weather fuelled by climate breakdown is exposing the vulnerability of key infrastructure in British Columbia and is reviving questions among environmentalists and residents about building the Trans Mountain expansion pipeline.

That’s in part because the atmospheric river that hammered B.C.’s Interior, combined with a brutal wildfire season and landslides, left the terrain primed for flooding. It remains unclear precisely how much of the TMX pipeline route is impacted, but concerns are mounting because if the expansion project is built, it could be hit by a similar disaster.

Moreover, Abbotsford is where Trans Mountain has its Sumas Terminal. That terminal is a key part of the pipeline system that stores hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil and includes a pump station that sends crude either to Burnaby or into Washington state.

Near the Sumas Terminal is the Barrowtown Pump Station, where late Tuesday the station came within an inch of being overwhelmed. Abbotsford issued an evacuation order, saying if the pumps failed, water from the Fraser River would flow into the already flooded community.

“This event is anticipated to be catastrophic,” the evacuation order read.

The pumps held, thanks to staff and volunteers defending the station with a sandbag dam through the night, CBC reports.

Longtime Abbotsford resident and community activist John Vissers says this disaster should be a wake-up call for the Trans Mountain project given the Sumas Terminal’s proximity.

“I'm not a gloom and doomer at all, but we can't argue anymore that these kinds of extreme weather events [are rare],” he said.

“We know these events are going to become more and more common, and we simply don't have the infrastructure to protect our communities from these kinds of catastrophic failures.”

In anticipation of the extreme weather, the Trans Mountain pipeline shut down Sunday. On Wednesday, the Crown corporation confirmed it remains idle and said it is working on plans to restart operations following geotechnical studies to ensure the stability of the ground. The company declined to answer specific questions.

The series of Trans Mountain setbacks this year due to climate breakdown should force a reassessment of the project, says @350Canada organizer @CamFenton. #cdnpoli #BC #ExtremeWeather #TMX

“What I've always tried to do here in the community is show people that we can act right here and have a global impact, and we could have done that simply by doing something like rejecting [TMX],” said Vissers.

“Once we allow something to happen, then we're responsible for the consequences too. And the consequences are what we're seeing around us right now,” he said.

Climate advocacy group 350 Canada’s Cam Fenton said the series of Trans Mountain setbacks this year due to climate breakdown should force a reassessment of the project.

“There was a point in time over the summer where workers had to stop working because it was too hot, there was a point in the summer where multiple sites couldn't be worked on because they were on fire ... entire sections of the pipeline under construction have been buried in landslides,” he said.

He called it “emblematic” of Canada’s approach to the climate crisis.

The federal government is saying “we're doing everything to tackle [the crisis],” but the pipeline “is literally being buried by climate impacts,” he said.

“I think that really raises the question of if we're not going to reconsider this in this moment, why not?”

In a statement, NDP environment critic Laurel Collins said the party’s priority at the moment is pushing the federal government to do everything it can to support those impacted by flooding, but “it’s clear” natural disasters will become more common and severe as the climate crisis worsens.

“The Liberal government has to take immediate action to assist the people of B.C., but they also need bolder action to address the long-term realities of the climate crisis,” she said.

“Instead of spending billions of dollars on a pipeline and giving fossil fuel subsidies to big oil companies, the Trudeau government should be investing in emergency preparedness measures and climate-resistant infrastructure.”

Natural Resources Canada did not return a request for comment.

John Woodside / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada's National Observer

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All this, "Climate change isn't in the future, it's here now" stuff has me gape-mouthed. What about 30 years of stark evidence it was already there didn't register, and why? Fish dying, and marine mammals dying, birds ditto, bears and cougars threatening (and occasionally killing) villagers, new wildflowers showing up in climates (in BC) where winter-to-stay started arriving in late November or even sometimes in December, a month and more later than it did only 20 years earlier?
How did earlier rounds of BC fires not ring a bell as to the complete unsuitability of the terrain for placement of a pipeline to carry highly flammable materials?
How much of the country needs to be burning or underwater simultaneously for the Protected Classes (never have to dip their toes in the realities of most people), living 24/7 in air-conditioning, with expensive clothes that make going out in the Real Cold "exhilarating" rather than bone-chilling?
And where in all the "nobody left behind" Green New Deal scenarios are people considered who've been left behind for decades?
Unfortunately, too few people can put together in their minds the idea that resource extraction, deforestation, denuding hills and mountains to haul away ore, flying away for vacations or motor-homing it around the continent, "supporting" carbon-intensive industries ... are all of a piece?
And even more unfortunately, even fewer people really get the impact of continuing to throw good money after bad.
Maybe someone should consider a pipeline from flood-prone areas to south of the border. I hear that even now they could use the irrigation.

Fantastic idea - as long as such a pipe doesn't disrupt the existing aquifer that the mighty Fraser is part of...
About "too few people" putting all those ideas of "resource extraction, deforestation", etc. being "all of a piece", the same holds true of the post-event behaviour where shoppers got nuts bulk-buying toilet paper and other goods! It's no secret that corporations will only enact measures - limits on purchases - to make themselves "look good", and such measures are always too late. So what remains as the only way to force people to behave is to make 'em pay...!!

Come on now Cam.....the folks behind the Transmountain pipeline, like Macbeth, are so far steeped in blood that 'should they wade no more, returning were as tedious as go o'er" How long the pipeline lasts, is operable, or how much damage it does when climate change takes it out.........doesn't matter a wit to them.

Building it is where they get their big cheques from, and continuing to build it they will if at all possible.

It is going to take more than sound science, or determined efforts from 350.org, to reverse this fossil fuel pipe dream.

Even though the article above is clear and to the point, stopping the TMX pipeline is going to take a massive citizens revolt....I suspect much of B.C. going forward is going to be too busy to undertake such a push.
Stupid is Us.....that's becoming tragically clear....but keep us posted as the Big Fools attempt to Push On.

Continuing to build more fossil infrastructure after all the demonstrations of the effects of climate change we've seen recently is, pardon the pun, pouring gas on a fire.

These comments deserve a contrarian. For a start, no one has reported that there is damage to TMX - the operators reacted responsibly and emptied it out before the flooding. The alarmist reporting about the pumping station (above) is not justified - it is biased commentary disguised as reportage.
Further, if TMX stopped transporting Alberta oil and diesel to the Lower Mainland, the subsequent effects on the 'supply chain' of running out of diesel, etc. would make these flood interruptions look like hiccups.
Agreed that we need to 'get off oil', but the vendors at the top end of TMX will only stop sending oil down it when the customers in the LM and Washington state stop buying oil and diesel.
So let's get to electrifying everything and turn TMX (both 1 and 2) into commercial dinosaurs.

Agreed. But the sooner the better.

In fact, I'd say the deadly climate disasters that befell southern BC in just the last six months would justify a crash electrification program. Unfortunately, today's commercial trucks cannot be fully electrified yet, unless one looks at grid-tied pantographs or trolleys with power lines running on all major highways. Ditto the railways throughout Canada.

Then there is need for the additional clean power generation that would be necessary to see BC free of all liquid petroleum products. That should include big centralized wind (onshore + offshore) and solar farms and geothermal exploration, and decentralized net metered rooftop solar and local wind.

These are tall orders, but they are going to have to happen anyway. So, why not boot the timetable into high gear?

Agreed. But the sooner the better.

In fact, I'd say the deadly climate disasters that befell southern BC in just the last six months would justify a crash electrification program. Unfortunately, today's commercial trucks cannot be fully electrified yet, unless one looks at grid-tied pantographs or trolleys with power lines running on all major highways. Ditto the railways throughout Canada.

Then there is need for the additional clean power generation that would be necessary to see BC free of all fossil products. That should include big centralized wind (onshore + offshore) and solar farms and geothermal exploration, and decentralized net metered rooftop solar and local wind.

These are tall orders, but they are going to have to happen anyway. So, why not boot the timetable into high gear?

Building a pipeling through a tectonically active mountain range was always a harebrained idea. How often have the railroads, the highways been disrupted by landslides - even without the climate problem. Human hubris knows no bounds when there is money to be made. B.C. clings to the western edge of Canada, its once magnificant forests cloaking the otherwise unstable slopes, rivers oncg teeming with salmon, now choking with avalanche debris. its fertile river valleys scenes of devastation with uncounted millions in losses... Even if climate catastrophe had not come along, more mundane cycles of investment and destruction are inevitable in BC.