The Canadian government recently approved a proposal to expand an existing pipeline to transport bitumen from Alberta to Vancouver for export to international markets. The Trans Mountain Expansion project is spearheaded by Texas-based energy infrastructure company Kinder Morgan. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the federal government’s approval of the project in late November.
The project will create a “twinned pipeline,” expanding capacity from 300,000 barrels per day to 890,000 barrels per day. It represents a significant boost to Alberta’s struggling oil industry.
But pipeline expansion will also cause increased oil tanker and barge traffic out of Vancouver. According to The Guardian, “Conservationists warn that the spike in tanker traffic would be disastrous for the resident orca whales – a genetically unique population that is already classified as endangered in both Canada and the US.”
In addition to the impact on orca whales, The Guardian reports that dozens of municipalities and First Nations communities have declared opposition to the project. The existing pipeline has operated since the 1950s and over 80 spills have been reported. The Trans Mountain runs through several populated areas.
Several lawsuits are seeking to overturn the federal government’s approval of the pipeline expansion project.