Matters of Concern to the Polity --
Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project

The National Energy Board Predictable Redux

Demonstration in Vancouver against National Energy Board approval of pipeline,
February 22, 2019.

The National Energy Board (NEB) has once again approved the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion project. A successful court challenge of the original approval meant the NEB had to consider the effects of increased tanker traffic in the Salish Sea.

Prime Minister Trudeau has long hailed the project as being in the national interest and a great contributor to jobs and even emphatically declared, "It will be built." His government executive has long expressed enthusiasm for the expansion and even bought the old pipeline and the plans to build a new one from the U.S. owners who had appeared increasingly anxious to dump it.

Canadians have seen firsthand from the SNC-Lavalin affair that when the PMO declares something important for jobs, the national interest, and the partisan interests of the Liberal Party in its goal for re-election, then no quasi-independent agency of the government or individual politician is allowed to question and interfere with the government's plans to serve particular oligarchs.

Other events have revealed why the ruling elite feel compelled to push for an additional pipeline to carry heavy crude oil from Alberta to the BC Lower Mainland. The U.S. military wants the heavy crude because once refined it powers many of its planes, ships and vehicles. The existing Trans Mountain pipeline connects with another one transporting some of the crude directly to Washington State, while tankers can fill up in Burnaby and make the relatively short journey south to Washington and California where refineries designed to process heavy oil have an insatiable demand.

The need for heavy crude from the oil sands has also been compounded with the U.S./Canada sanctions, blockade, interference and threats of war for regime change in Venezuela. Heavy crude oil from Alberta and Venezuela is similar. Alberta is being used in part to reduce U.S. purchases of Venezuelan oil and to block it from going elsewhere. This means Alberta oil has come under even closer control of the U.S. imperialists and their campaigns and wars for world domination.

The professed plan to increase heavy oil shipments to Asia has been exposed as never being the intention of twinning the Trans Mountain pipeline to the Lower Mainland. Many have pointed out from the documents of the original NEB hearings that almost all the confirmed purchases of Trans Mountain crude are U.S. refineries or their proxies. By ship, Vancouver is considerably farther from East Asia than BC's northern ports at Prince Rupert and Kitimat. With this in mind, it appears suspicious that the Trudeau Liberals quashed the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline project to build a twin pipeline from Bruderheim, Alberta to Kitimat, BC. The previous Harper federal government in 2014 approved the Gateway project, which many argued would make transshipment to Asia more feasible.

In addition to blocking the Northern Gateway pipeline, the Trudeau government intensified the pressure for an expanded Trans Mountain Pipeline to Vancouver when it passed Bill C-48, the Oil Tanker Moratorium Act in 2018. This legislation bans oil tanker traffic from the waters off both Prince Rupert and Kitimat while not affecting tankers carrying liquefied natural gas or ships carrying other cargo, including goods designated as dangerous. Ironically, the escalating U.S./Canada campaign for regime change in Venezuela may lead the Trudeau Liberals to revive the Northern Gateway project and overturn Bill C-48, allowing the U.S. imperialists to pressure Asians to buy Alberta crude shipped from both Vancouver and Kitimat rather than purchase Venezuelan heavy oil. Reports say that China and south Korea recently purchased several tankers of crude out of Westridge Terminal at discounted prices.[1]

The 2019 NEB reconsideration approval for the Trans Mountain pipeline notes the adverse impact of increased tanker traffic off the southern BC coast but dismisses any concerns in favour of approving the project. The report states, "In consideration of Project-related marine shipping, the NEB recommends that the Government of Canada find that [the adverse effects] can be justified in the circumstances, in light of the considerable benefits of the Project and measures to minimize the effects."

Many in the Lower Mainland cite great concern over increased shipping in the Burrard Inlet as a threat to Vancouver's significant tourist industry, the many beaches, sea wall hiking, recreational boating and to marine life. With the expanded pipeline, tanker traffic travelling to the Westridge Marine Terminal in Burnaby will grow from five to 38 much larger tankers per month.

The NEB approval of Trans Mountain is now in the hands of the federal Cabinet, which of course already purchased the pipeline as a public enterprise and constantly sings its praises. Many observers believe that Trudeau, for tactical cartel party partisan reasons, will wait to approve the project until after this year's October federal election.

Opposition to the Trans Mountain Project has not diminished in the least as Indigenous Nations and others in BC, especially in the Lower Mainland, are vehemently opposed and have refused to give their consent. The Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist) has examined the economic, political, social and environmental arguments for the project and deems them lacking in substance.[2] The project is destined to feed the U.S. war economy and its insatiable demand to power its active military operations for world hegemony and regime change where it suits its interests, which is a grave danger for all humanity. Canadians want an alternative to integration into the U.S. imperialist system of states and war economy. An important aspect of seeking an alternative is opposing the present direction.


1. From S&P Global Platts:

"Three crude cargoes loading in November from Vancouver were bought by Chinese companies, with the first cargo for November 10 loading taken by China National Offshore Oil Corporation, or CNOOC, a shipping source with close knowledge of the matter said.

"CNOOC had also chartered an Aframax tanker, the Nordtulip, to ship crude from the Westridge Terminal in Vancouver to China that was loaded on October 13, at a lump sum rate of $1.2 million, the shipping source said.

"Chinese traders indicated that CNOOC could have taken either heavy sour Cold Lake Blend or Western Canadian Select crude into its latest shopping basket, but a company official declined to comment on the heavy sour Canadian grade it has purchased.

"The latest round of Canadian crude purchases came on the heels of rapid decline in Australian heavy sweet crude output, coupled with a sharp slowdown in China's imports of heavy crude from Venezuela.

"ChemChina typically led the independent sector's heavy crude purchases from Australia but that's a dying trend now [due to limited availability] ... it's no surprise to see China's search for heavy crude oil stretching to Canada," said a sweet crude trader based in Beijing.

"Apart from Chinese end-users, south Korean refiners had also picked up a few Cold Lake Blend cargoes earlier this year.

"The U.S. sanctions on Venezuela's state-owned PDVSA in January could block exports of roughly 500,000 b/d of Venezuelan crude bound for U.S. Gulf Coast refineries. For Asian buyers, this would mean that crude supplies from Saudi Arabia and Iraq that would typically flow to the region would be diverted to U.S."

2. TML Weekly has reported extensively on the Trans Mountain Pipeline Project and the integration of Canada's energy sector into the U.S. war economy. Many of these articles are listed below in chronological order:

- TML Weekly, January 30, 2016.

- "Decisions on Northern Gateway and Trans Mountain Pipelines: Where Sovereignty Must Be Vested in a Modern Nation," Peggy Morton, TML Weekly, August 6, 2016.

- "Approval of Kinder Morgan and Enbridge Line 3 Pipelines: Two Very Different and Distinct
Canadas Have Emerged
," Philip Fernandez, TML Weekly, December 10, 2016.

- "Looking at the Hype About Pipelines," Peggy Morton, TML Weekly, March 4, 2017.

- "Opposition to Illegal Pipeline Expansion on Traditional Kanien'kehá:ka Territory," TML Weekly, October 3, 2017.

- "Trans Mountain Pipeline Dispute Between BC and Alberta: Splitting the Polity in the Service of Contending Private Interests," TML Weekly, February 24, 2018.

- "More on TransMountain Pipeline Controversy: Clash of Interests Between Energy Monopolies and Working People," Peggy Morton, TML Weekly, March 10, 2018

- "March and Rally in Burnaby, BC Against Kinder Morgan Pipeline Extension: Thousands Take a Stand -- No Consent! No Pipeline!," TML Weekly, March 17, 2018.

- "Opposition to Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline Project: No Consent -- No Pipeline!,"
K.C. Adams, TML Weekly, April 21, 2018.

- "No Consent, No Pipeline!: Militant March in Vancouver Against Kinder Morgan Pipeline Expansion," TML Weekly, May 19, 2018.

- "Major Agenda Item for NAFTA Negotiations Fueling the U.S. War Machine," K.C. Adams, TML Weekly, May 26, 2018.

- "Trudeau Government Buys Trans Mountain Pipeline in Massive Pay-the-Rich Scheme: No Consent! No Bailout! No Pipeline! Stop Paying the Rich!," TML Weekly, June 2, 2018.

- "Federal Court of Appeal Overturns Approval of Trans Mountain Pipeline," Peggy Morton, TML Weekly, September 8, 2018.

- "More Shenanigans Surrounding Trans Mountain Pipeline Trudeau Government's Definition of
'Getting It Right
,'" Peggy Morton, TML Weekly, October 13, 2018.

- "Another Collapse of Oil Prices in Alberta: The Need for Working Class Politics and a Modern Outlook," Dougal MacDonald, TML Weekly, December 1, 2018.

This article was published in

Volume 49 Number 8 - March 9, 2019

Article Link:
Matters of Concern to the Polity -- : The National Energy Board Predictable Redux


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