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Editor's note: This is one of four opinion pieces published today on the proposed Kinder Morgan pipeline. For the complete selection of pieces, go here.

Sometimes it feels like the environmental movement can’t be happy winning a championship match unless it’s a complete shut-out.

Look at where things stand today: Enbridge’s Northern Gateway is dead, while Energy East is on life support, and probably doomed so long as the Liberals are in power.

The Trudeau government ratified last year’s Paris Agreement, and committed $2.65 billion to helping developing countries fight global climate change.

Justin Trudeau hosted a first ministers meeting devoted to the climate (his predecessor had held none on any subject in the previous 6 years), and announced a pan-Canadian framework agreement on climate change. On Tuesday, he joined Barack Obama in announcing a freeze on off-shore Arctic drilling.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley will impose a carbon tax and hard cap on emissions from the tar sands, and almost all other provinces are on board. The two hold-out provinces, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, have a combined population smaller than that of Metro Vancouver.

While many remain disappointed by the fine print and our ability to meet targets, 2016 has been a spectacular year for Canadian environmentalists. Two years ago, few would have predicted any of it.

Is it really so unreasonable for this community, having enjoyed such remarkable success, to give some ground on Kinder Morgan’s twinning of an existing pipeline?

It’s the right thing to do, and it’s the smart thing to do.

Last year brought radical transformation to Canada's environmental landscape. Stephen Harper’s unexpectedly ignominious defeat and the election of Rachel Notley in Alberta were bolts from the blue.

Shifting power dynamics and relationships mean that protest and confrontation will play differently today, and to different effect than during the Harper era.

When protesters confronted Kinder Morgan and authorities in November 2014, there was no comprehensive climate plan. The Canadian government was overtly and steadfastly hostile to addressing climate change, while environmental groups were subjected to a campaign of silencing and intimidation across the country.

Times have changed.

Right now Alberta is in hell. Oil's price collapse has thrown countless Albertans out of work, with no end in sight. Last summer thousands had to literally drive little kids through blazing fire, an act of unfathomable collective courage.

These people are our neighbours, our family, our friends, and they need a break. They need some hope, too. They need to feel like the country is in their corner. Because we should be.

And they don’t need to be lectured. Given the extraordinary progress made on climate action in just a year, we in B.C. are coming dangerously close to rubbing Albertans’ noses in it.

Argue this six ways to Sunday, but if we turn our backs on Alberta today, there will be a reckoning.

Nobody should fool themselves for a second that political forces that would take us backward aren’t gathering and planning their next moves. Just look south of the border if you doubt it. Because progressive support fragmented, Obamacare and American leadership on climate change is about to evaporate.

Political purity--a totally over-rated virtue--can easily become an albatross. And there’s more than a whiff of Jill Stein’s puritanical hubris in a lot of the rhetoric around Kinder Morgan.

Politically, that’s the smell of death.

Here are some plain truths. Rachel Notley staked her political future on a serious carbon tax and hard cap on tar sands emissions. After she sacrificed political capital to support the environment, do B.C. environmentalists have her back?


And if Notley isn’t re-elected, who’ll replace her? Someone a helluva lot worse for the environment, and an avowed foe of Trudeau, that’s who. And they’ll have money, loads of it, behind them.

Here’s the thing about politics. It’s a good idea to reward leaders who stick their necks out to help your cause, because one day you’re going to have to go back to that well. And leaders — especially women leaders who traverse a uniquely treacherous path — remember the ones who disappeared when the going got tough.

What, exactly, is the purpose of opposing the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion? Is it to battle climate change? That’s why we have have a national framework, which didn’t exist until a few days ago.

The real test of our battle against climate change is not in a single pipeline, but in that framework, and our collective ability to meet its targets.

If the Kinder Morgan objection is concern for the local habitat, I’m yet more skeptical.

While it’s true that oil tanker traffic will increase significantly, the overall Vancouver shipping traffic will only increase by a fairly modest 10 per cent.

If it’s the oil content, what about the other hazardous cargo that enters and exits our harbour every single day? Or the chlorine plant and gigantic sulphur yard that have existed there for decades without confrontation?

Frankly, I'd far rather see us exporting Alberta oil out of Vancouver than the U.S. coal we ship every day from Deltaport because American ports won't handle it.

None of this is especially palatable, and it’s all inherently risky, but it’s a fact that increased oil tanker traffic is hardly a radical departure from what we already do. We have a highly developed port authority that has managed tanker traffic safely and fairly uneventfully in the harbour for decades.

We’re entering a two or three-decade period of transition away from fossil fuels. That's not going to happen overnight, because we don’t yet have the mass-scale renewable energy that is going to get us out of this mess.

In the interim we need pipelines and oil shipping.

Know what else we need? Activists and politicians who can see the big picture enough to know a good deal when they see one. This is a good deal.

If there’s political pressure to exert here in B.C., it’s on Christy Clark to live up to the provincial commitments we’ve made. And on Justin Trudeau to deliver.

Progress doesn’t move in just one direction, the way time does. Look at the shambles of America today. Environmental and progressive victories are fragile and easily dismantled, if nobody takes care of the politics.

By all means, First Nation and environmental legal challenges should proceed to conclusion, to ensure all rights are respected, and proper standards are adhered to.

If the courts approve the Kinder Morgan expansion, B.C. environmentalists should accept that verdict.

It's time to count our blessings and take one for the team. Let Kinder Morgan pass.

Keep reading

So much wrong with this article, not sure even where to start.

"Alberta premier Rachel Notley will impose a carbon tax and hard cap on emissions from the tar sands, and almost all other provinces are on board."

Bill 20 is a fuel tax. Fuel is being taxed, not carbon. The Act is full of exemptions for the oil and gas industry. Have you read Bill 20 Ms. Garrosino? Or Bill 25: The Oilsands Emissions Limit Act? Because if you did, you could not possibly publish the wording "hard cap." Bill 25 includes exemptions and allowances for upgrading, co-generation, primary production, synthetic crude and experimental schemes, along with the ability of the LG in Council to change, perform, direct, define or otherwise alter the act, at any given time, for any purpose. Hardly a hard cap, soft, fuzzy ear muffs at best.

"Here are some plain truths. Rachel Notley staked her political future on a serious carbon tax and hard cap on tar sands emissions. After she sacrificed political capital to support the environment..."

Here are the real plain truths. Rachel Notley's campaign and subsequent governance has been full of shit. She lied over and over again about her environmental commitments. The Climate Leadership Plan is a fraud. She did not campaign on a carbon levy.

The NDP promised fair share of royalties. They actually lowered royalty rates and implemented billions in incentives for unconventional resource extraction.

The NDP committed to increased environmental monitoring. All increased environmental monitoring was deferred in Budget 2016. AMERA was gutted, CEMA disbanded. So far, Alberta's environmental monitoring is dead in the water. Like ducks in a tailings pond.

The NDP promised a review of the AER mandate. Instead, they quietly endorsed the AER, which operates with no public interest or public health mandate and is not beholden to the Public Service Act, despite being a government corporation.

The NDP promised a review of hydraulic fracturing and urban drilling. Instead at the recent AGM, NDP back benchers ensured the rural caucus motion on fracking was pushed off the agenda and no further words have been spoken on urban drilling. In fact, in the CLP, the NDP refer to fracced gas as "clean" with "limited adverse impacts."

Notley has been a spectacular industrial colluder. Environment be damned. Ethics too.

Maybe when your home is ground zero for the disrespect and fouling of the industry, you can say you've taken one for the team. Until then, at least try to be factual.

"The greatest deception men suffer is from their own opinions." Leonardo da Vinci

thank you for writing what you wrote...

Garrosino's article is pure Clintonian-Democratic-Liberal opinion and devoid of any critical analysis.

Mr. Neilson, you are welcome.

I find this particularly concerning since Mike de Souza mentioned to me on the phone, that Garrosino's articles were generally the most popular on the site, based on the real time monitoring that nearly every media outlet employs. Why was the most favoured writer here, tasked with a pro-pipeline opinion piece, that was absent of relevant and accurate information?

This is indignity to journalism and public interest.

I never would have thought I'd see the National Observer stumping for pipelines and tar sands expansion.

Yes Northern Gateway is dead, for various reasons, primary among them being the failure to consult adequately with First Nations. That the former government failed in that duty is not an environmental win, though that it mattered is a welcome win for justice in Canada.

Yes the Trudeau government ratified the Paris Agreement. Canada ratified Kyoto too. How'd that go for us?

Yes they committed $2.65 billion to helping developing countries fight global climate change. That is a bit of a win for justice too since we bear greater responsibility than many developing countries for the emissions that will hurt them more than they're going to hurt us. But there's a cruel irony in giving them money now to combat our emissions that continue to rise.

Yes Justin Trudeau hosted a first ministers meeting devoted to the climate. Politicians talk. They're good at that.

Yes they announced a pan-Canadian framework agreement on climate change. In it is a chart showing our 2030 emissions about 200 Megatonnes above our 2030 target, and this plan to fail has as a large component carbon tax, a tool that has a track record of not being effective for emissions reduction.

Yes they announced a freeze in the Arctic. Nice to have something still freeze up there. But it is actually a freeze on new offshore leases and with review every five years. Exploration takes time and as the ice melts work in the Arctic will grow more attractive. This is no impediment to Arctic oil exploitation.

Yes Alberta premier Rachel Notley imposed a carbon tax and hard cap on emissions from the tar sands. A cap that means other sectors, other provinces would need to cut emissions disproportionately if we did actually intend to achieve national targets. Not a problem since as a nation we have no such intent.

Yes Albertans are out of work. A shame the corporations and the former government didn't plan for a rainy day. A shame too that they had big fires. Just how are big fires a reason to make climate change worse?

And then the almost obligatory tar sands apologist's line "not going to happen overnight". You're right. The UNFCCC was drafted a generation ago. That we're not going to do anything over night is abundantly clear. But we need action not talk on climate and that is not what we're getting. In fact quite the opposite.

We are getting action at the highest levels to increase tar sands production and fossil fuel consumption, with all the toxicity and harm that entails. Meanwhile we get talk on climate. Talk not so different from what we've heard for a generation.

It's time to call bull shit on all this talk. It's time for action. Preferably by government, but failing that, by the people.

You're awesome, Star!

Unfortunately, we no longer have "two to three decades" to move away from fossil fuels if we have a faint hope of avoiding catastrophic climate change. Had the Liberal governments of the 1990's begun the process, we'd be right where we need to be. But they didn't, because the Liberals have always been and still are in the pockets of the fossil fuel industry. U.N. Climate change scientists have said we have until 2020 to drastically reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. That's 3 years. That's science. In the current battle of politics vs physics, guess who will win 100% of the time?

Yes, we need to care about Albertans and their jobs and not throw them under the bus as we move as quickly as possible away from fossil fuels. Why aren't the federal and provincial governments funding massive renewable energy infrastructure projects in that province and retraining the tar sands workers to do those jobs? Finance Minister Bill Morneau announced the infrastructure investment bank as a way to inject economic growth. This would be the perfect project for it. Much as I distrust P3's (private public partnerships) this is a good use for private capital--it can move from the tar sands to solar and wind and geothermal and not be embroiled in what needs to remain public in this country: all social services and transit.

Fossil fuel use needs to decrease, and therefore additional pipeline capacity is a step in the wrong direction; however, many people disagree with this, like the 30% or so who voted for Harper in the last election. The point of the article was that good political decisions - the kind of decisions that keep everybody participating in the democratic process - involve a degree of compromise. In this case, the decision didn't really make anybody perfectly happy, and in that regard it is probably a good one. Pressure on the environment and climate change needs to be maintained and broadened at the grassroots level, and in this respect I agree with Garossino that the focus on these pipelines may not be the best way forward.

How about a social movement theory instead of encouraging support for political trade-off?

Politicians follow where the people are. The plan should be to try to encourage voters to support more progressive policies not less progressive politicians. Suggesting social movements should not try to move the goal posts is ridiculous. The whole point of electing a party that "gets it" is to push them on the issues you care about.

Also this piece gives way too much credit to the Trudeau gov for policies that were already in place provincially. Ontario, Quebec, BC, Alberta... all had carbon pricing plans in place already.

They did not cancel Enbridge, First Nations did in court. Industry was unfazed by the arctic ban because it was too expensive anyways. Of course those are all good things but the idea that we should be satisfied with these accomplishments is simply foolish. Climate change does not care about "political realities". If you are satisfied with what the government is offering at the moment you are simply not taking the threat of climate change seriously.

I applaud Sandy's willingness to say unpopular things and to state her values publicly but protecting the coast and the climate is about science and social movements not partisan politics.

We need to make parties fight for who has the best plan for the climate not settle for whatever they put on the table and be happy they aren't as bad as the other guys. To say nothing about respecting First Nations rights or taking seriously the concerns of fire chiefs, dozens of mayors and thousands of BC residents.

It's sad to me when doing the right thing is viewed as unachievable. In every significant moment of change in the world folks have said stuff like this.

Be bold, we need to be.

Thanks for your comments. I want to point out that we publish many op/eds and they are not a reflection of National Observer's official opinion unless they're authored by 'National Observer'. I'd like to add that, as an editor, I've been absolutely committed to being sure we're covering this story in-depth and to providing critical, hard-hitting analysis of the project. We started our coverage in 2010. Since then, Vancouver Observer and National Observer have published more than 750 pieces on the Kinder Morgan pipeline. In the coming months, we'll continue coverage of this story.

Linda Solomon Wood, Editor, I want to commend you for publishing pro-pipeline articles. This gives people the opportunity to ponder what the proponents plans, thoughts, opinions and attitudes are. It creates opportunity to dialogue and debate. I will share my views on the danger of leaving a 63 year old pipeline in service. It is of critical importance that the existing Trans Mountain pipeline be removed and replaced for public safety and to maintain environmental integrity.

"I will share my views on the danger of leaving a 63 year old pipeline in service. It is of critical importance that the existing Trans Mountain pipeline be removed and replaced for public safety and to maintain environmental integrity."

Mr. Landry,

The 63 year old line will remain in service, the expansion is a twinning project. A new pipeline is being built along side the old one. The new line will carry heavy crudes, with the capacity for lighter product, the existing line will continue to carry refined product, lighter crudes, synthetic oils, with the capacity to carry heavy crudes.

Public safety and environmental integrity will still be at risk with respect to using an antiquated pipeline.

Just so you know, Gerard. the climate debate is over. And if we want the best for our children we must end our use of fossil fuels. There is no debate.

Many thanks for taking this position, Linda. By offering Ms Garossimo's editorial, readers have had a chance to 'consider' another opinion (which in a democracy would also be a 'good thing' if it were present in the dominant media). Even more importantly, I feel I have been privileged to read many thoughtful, intelligent and well-informed comments from citizens whose knowledge and wisdom benefit us all. I have found the many comments offered in response to this Opinion Piece to be invaluable, informative and heartening. Thank you all.

As a former public affairs climate change host at UVic, over the 6 years I hosted the show ( Break'in Ice ), I've come across almost all forms of climate denial ( there's numerous stages and levels ). Why the National Observer would allow a climate change denier a platform is beyond me. Unexpected to say the least. I have to assume that Linda also has doubts about how grave our situation is. Why else allow an article such as this to be printed in the National Observer? Edmonton Sun, yes, Toronto Sun, yes, Vancouver Sun, yes, The Rebel with Ezra, without a doubt. The National Observer I thought not.

Garossino wants us to ' take one for the team '??? Which team is she talking about? Is she talking about my daughter or my grand daughter? My daughter loves the likes of Diana Daunheimer, who did an outstanding job, far, far better than the ' journalist ' that you choose to give space to. In fact, why not ask Diana to write an opinion piece on why we shouldn't ' take one for the team '. I would look forward to her opinion piece.

I do not know, or know of, any climate scientist who'd ' take one for the team '. I'm dumbfounded for words as to how absurd that is. Please, the time for denial is past. Ask yourself, what message do you want to send to our youth? How about no to pipelines, yes to solar panels. No to oil subsidies, yes to renewable subsides......

Ms. Garossino's opinion is that the federal government's decision in favor of Kinder Morgan was the right and smart thing to do. Perhaps--if you're heartless towards life and irresponsible about the future. The Liberals rely on Mr. Harper's corrupt, unscientific and failed NEB process to support a decision that can't be justified in this time of climate change. In doing so, the government is risking the survival of the British Columbian tourism and fishing industries, our coast and waters, salmon stocks, the remaining 79 southern resident orca whales, and the people who reside within explosion distance of Kinder Morgan's tank farm on Burnaby Mountain. If the author of this article really believes that increased tanker traffic and noise won't decimate the orcas, I suggest that she ask for the opinion of any scientist who regularly observes these animals; the consensus is that the whales, already suffering from an inadequate diet and massive pollution, are in no shape to cope with any additional environmental stresses. As for benefits from the pipeline, while Mr. Trudeau claims the expansion will create "23,000 jobs," he neglects to mention that all but 90 are temporary construction contracts that are not a long-term answer to unemployment in Alberta. Employment can be revived by new jobs in clean technology. Start-up firms in this area, however, are insufficiently funded, possibly because the federal government pours $3.3 billion annually into subsidizing the oil and gas industry. Finally, since 300,000 deaths are caused worldwide each year by climate change, the biggest gift that Canada can give developing countries at risk is actually to meet our Paris climate commitments and to stop sponsoring industries that destroy the planet.

Ruth Campbell, you make excellent points. The projected 23,000 jobs are a joke. Pipelines are put in at a dizzying speed providing very temporary employment in construction. The Pump Stations are more intensive requiring a range of unionized tradesman, but this could be minimized by modules built in non-union shops. Once in operation employment will be minimal.

You also state the federal government pours $3.3 billion annually into subsidizing the oil and gas industry. To add to the subsidies all Canadians who purchase petroleum products are subsidizing a falsely propped up Oil Industry. Gasoline in Northern Minnesota at the Pigeon River Border Crossing was $2.23 a gallon today. At a Shell Station in Thunder Bay it was $113.9 a Litre. We are exploited and overcharged by the Cartel which is beneficial to the government as they collect taxes per litre.

There are also ethics issues that are questionable when a pipeline proponent hires first nations lobbyists to promote their project to community members it is done so with a bias creating a conflict of interest. This strategy is beyond bartering with beads, blankets and cast iron pots. The Clinton Band has been promised new infrastructure as stated on the Current, a Cbc Radio interview. It was even stated that the NEB took part in presentations to the Clinton Band. I question this, are they mandated as salespeople for energy companies?

Yes Ruth, how true, not only are job numbers misrepresented, but so are subsidies.

Consider this; the Alberta Petroleum Marketing Association (part of the Government of Alberta) has signed two contracts, one with CNRL and the NW Partnership for an upgrading project, which will cost taxpayers, at minimum, $34.5 billion dollars (at current commodity prices, there will be no profits). The other contract is with with TransCanada, for Energy East, now expected to cost Alberta taxpayers, $4.6 billion, even if no bitumen is shipped, under the take-or-pay contract.

Add to this, the billions in subsidies the NDP in Alberta recently announced in the Modernized Royalty Review, for unconventional resources (which include fracking and the oil sands), $500 million in royalty credits (which is from taxpayers) for petrochemical start-ups and $200 million from AIMCO and the Heritage fund to bail out Calfrac. There are also numerous drilling, exploration and production incentive programs, as well as tax and royalty credit programs in place in the province. Furthermore, there is the previously mentioned exemptions for industry from carbon costs in the province and programs in place, where carbon costs collected from industry by way of the SGER, are given right back to industry, hundreds of millions of dollars thus far.

Just Alberta alone is subsidizing the energy industry by a factor of 15 times what the federal government does.

Add to this the hidden subsidies of the energy industry using trillion of litres of water each year for free and being allowed to the use our air-sheds and agricultural land as waste dumps for their pollution. Not to mention having no accountability for the health impacts to the public, livestock or wildlife in areas in which they exploit.

I'd agree with you, the sponsorship must end. Will it? Likely not, when we have proponents trying to convince people this is a "good deal."

I forgot to mention the state of inactive, suspended and abandoned well bores and facilities in the province, to which there are nearly two hundred thousand. Over 85, 000 suspended well bores alone, some drilled in the late '40's, inactive since the '60's, but not remediated or reclaimed.

There are tens, if not hundreds of billions of dollars of industrial liabilities in the province. To make matters worse, Chief Justice Wittmann, ruled recently in ATB v. Redwater, that lenders or creditors can renounce all licensed non-producing or unprofitable well sites and use only profitable assets of a bankrupt or insolvent company to service debt. What happens to all the renounced licensed operations, they are now the public liability and loss, as relics of the ever increasing Orphan Well Fund.

I agree with this opinion piece. A few months ago I vowed to be proportionate in my assessment of the Liberals. I started a two column list of things that they did that I enthusiastically supported, and things that I opposed. The pipelines are in the opposed list, and frankly, the pro list is a lot longer than the opposed list. I suspect that it will remain so as well, and keep me proud of our country.

Dave Collacutt, do you agree that, It's time to count our blessings and take one for the team. Let Kinder Morgan pass as the authors last sentence states?

There is no question that all scientific evidence shows that increasing hydrocarbon extraction is the absolute opposite of what must be done. What would have made all the difference had it started in the 80's. Or Kyoto been honoured. Or had the tarsands not been allowed to expand exponentially over the last decade or so. The issue is global catastrophe and extinction on an unprecedented scale, possibly even our own. People need to get their heads around that information and make far better choices. Trudeau keeps saying "I refuse to choose between the environment and jobs", as if they are equivalent. What good are temporary jobs (using TFW by the thousands and lower wages for everyone) when the result is drought, scorching heat, and starvation? I've read the public funding is 7-9 billion/year, which would pay to clean up a hell of a lot of abandoned wells, while employing most of those laid-off. If the companies still exist, they should be forced to repay the costs for this, plus fines and penalties for not doing it themselves. Mixed forests (not monoculture trees for logging, but species that benefit other species) should be replanted as part of the clean-up. In a recent Tyee interview, Notley said that not only will extraction increase under the new cap, but as emissions per barrel are reduced, that means extractions will increase Even More. No mention of transitioning to renewables in future, or reducing the emissions cap, just Drill, baby, drill!

We were promised decisions based on facts and science. We are getting b.s. and being told it's been sprinkled with Magic Pixie Dust to make all our dreams come true.

With all due respect, Ms. Garossino, we do not intend to 'die on' this Hill. Many of us DO intend to continue our opposition to Kinder Morgan because it matters too much.
The most recent research concludes that we can build no more pipelines .... at all. We don't need them as current transport capacity is adequate until we fully reach green energy. Kinder Morgan will not serve Canadians, not provide any but very brief employment and would transport three times the Filthy Toxic Oil from the Tar Sands across our land, into the ocean and overseas, making vulnerable our land, air and waters, inland, on the coast into open seas to somewhere in Asia so it can continue to pollute the air we all breathe. There is no assurance that there will be a market if and when it arrives.
I offer you the advice that if Canada continues to act as a Petro State our country will pay with falling employment, we will fall behind in innovation, employment and quality of life by neglecting the amazing possibilities of a green energy economy.
So I refuse your advice because it is a 'having your cake and eating it too' rationale.
Thanks but no thanks.

I agree, very little of this article reads coherently:
I cannot seem to locate the part in this article that guarantees there will be no TAR spilt on our coast EVER. He threatens that the next Premier of Alberta will be meaner AND richer so we should cave to Ms. Notley, so as to give her a chance at re-election?
That "The TAR through the Port of Vancouver wouldn't be as bad as the U.S. Coal we are presently allowing"? As if that is happening with our blessing and permission!!!
That our growing Tourism Industry will not be disturbed by just one TAR TANKER aground against Siwash Rock? How will those 40,000+ clean Tourism Jobs be replaced?
What part of NO do these people not understand?

Wow! I cannot believe what I just read! I wish there was a thumb down button that I can click!!!

Thank you to all commentators below for pointing out so eloquently what is wrong with this article and Mrs. Garossino's opinion!