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Canada again approves controversial pipeline expansion to Pacific

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Christian Fernsby |
Trans Mountain pipeline
America   Trans Mountain pipeline

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has once again approved the contentious Trans Mountain pipeline expansion that would nearly triple the flow of oil from the Alberta oil sands to the Pacific Coast.

The approval Tuesday comes 10 months after the Federal Court of Appeal halted the project and ordered Canada’s National Energy Board to redo its review of the pipeline, saying the original study was flawed and lacked adequate consultations with First Nations peoples.

The pipeline expansion would triple the capacity of an existing line to ship oil extracted from the oil sands in Alberta across the snow-capped peaks of the Canadian Rockies. It would end at a terminal outside Vancouver, resulting in a seven-fold increase in the number of tankers in the shared waters between Canada and Washington state.

It is projected to lead to a tanker traffic balloon from about 60 to more than 400 vessels annually as the pipeline flow increases from 300,000 to 890,000 barrels per day.

Officials expect construction to start this year, but it faces stiff environmental opposition from the British Columbia government and from activists.

“The company plans to have shovels in the ground this construction season,” Trudeau said.

The pipeline would allow Canada to diversify oil markets and vastly increase exports to Asia, where it could command a higher price. Canada has the world’s third largest oil reserves, but 99% of its exports now go to refiners in the U.S., where limits on pipeline and refinery capacity mean Canadian oil sells at a discount.

“It’s really simple. Right now, we basically have one customer for our energy resources, the United States. As we’ve seen over the past few years anything can happen with our neighbors to the south,” Trudeau said.

Trudeau said every dollar Canada earns from the project will be invested in clean energy.

The decision is a blow for indigenous leaders and environmentalists, who have pledged to do whatever necessary to thwart the pipeline, including chaining themselves to construction equipment.


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