Blackmail and bailouts in the Kinder Morgan pipeline saga

by Thomas Davies | photo by Jake Wright

You couldn’t blame someone for checking, but it was a week late for April Fool’s Day when Kinder Morgan put out an incredible press release announcing it was suspending all “non-essential spending” on its Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project. Blaming big delays due to opposition, they said they would be meeting with investors and stakeholders to decide by May 31 regarding the future of the project.

The Liberals immediately held an emergency cabinet meeting. They emerged promising to meet behind closed doors with Kinder Morgan to try and figure out the government’s next moves to push the project through.

What Finance Minister Bill Morneau announced one month later surpassed even the most cynical observers’ wildest predictions. The Federal government is buying the existing 67 year old Trans Mountain pipeline from Kinder Morgan for $4.5 billion, as well as taking over the entire expansion project. Taxpayers are now on the hook for the whole thing, and cautious estimates put the real costs of completing the project to an additional $15-20 billion!

Always in the Pocket

PM Trudeau’s first scandal was just before he was elected in 2015. His national campaign co-chair Dan Gagner was forced to resign when it was discovered that during the campaign he was also being paid to advise people behind the Energy East pipeline on how to lobby a new Liberal government.

As Andrew Nikifork wrote in the Tyee, “Canada has already granted Kinder Morgan several subsidies. In 2011 the National Energy Board (NEB) granted Kinder Morgan a special fee of approximately $1.45 a barrel to help fund the company’s participation in the regulatory review of the Trans Mountain pipeline. By 2014 Kinder Morgan confirmed that it had collected $132 million in fees.” So, the government gave the oil corporation our tax dollars as subsidies, in order to not spend any of its own money going through the necessary review process?

Who’s Driving This Thing?

Recent revelations have shown how far on board with Kinder Morgan the Trudeau government was before the approval. The National Observer revealed that on October 17, 2016, weeks before the Trudeau government approved the pipeline, assistant deputy minister Erin O’Gorman of the Department of Natural Resources instructed her staff to, “give cabinet the legally-sound basis for saying yes to Kinder Morgan’s pipeline.’” This was while the government met with representatives of impacted indigenous nations and promised that no decision had yet been made on the pipeline.

Meet the Kinder

“We wanted to drive home one culture here: Cheap. Cheap. Cheap,” – Richard Kinder, CEO of Kinder Morgan

Kinder Morgan is the biggest pipeline company in the US. Richard Kinder and Bill Morgan are ex-Enron Executives. Enron is the infamous energy trader whose collapse after being found guilty of account fraud and corruption cost shareholders $74 billion and killed 20,000 jobs. Kinder himself has a net worth of $8.2 billion.

That’s who PM Trudeau went to bat for, with billions of our taxpayer dollars.

There’s a dual game of dismissal of the opposition to the Kinder Morgan pipeline going on. The government and industry refuses to acknowledge the mass opposition movement which is currently focused on the company’s tank farm and marine terminal at the foot of Burnaby Mountain. Mass rallies of thousands, over 200 arrests for defying a court-imposed 5-meter “buffer zone” around Kinder Morgan’s property, and ongoing actions by an Indigenous-led movement is growing.

The opposition to Kinder Morgan or who ever adopts climate damaging Tar Sands bitumen pipeline expansion is much broader than before. Here is a partial list:

  • The Tsleil-Waututh and Squamish nations, whose territories the pipeline would terminate on, are leading organizing on Burnaby Mountain.
  • The 200 people arrested are from a diverse cross-section of people. There have even been specific actions organized by youth, elders, religious leaders and artists.
  • Two Members of Parliament, Elizabeth May and Kennedy Stewart, were both arrested for defying the injunction.
  • The Burnaby Deputy Fire Chief has released a damning report on the safety concerns of the Kinder Morgan tank farm expansion, “We don’t believe they have any firefighting capabilities. When I asked specifically for the details on the storage tanks and written protocols for how they plan the fire protection for the storage tanks, I was told by Kinder Morgan that they have none.”
  • The BC Teachers Federation passed a resolution to, “encourage all locals to stand in solidarity with Indigenous water and land protectors in opposition to the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion by lobbying their local politicians and by participating in any protests or actions.”

This is just a small cross-section of who has been involved. It is now impossible to ignore their resolve and commitment. 2000 people showed up at a spontaneous protest in Vancouver less than 12 hours after hearing Morneau’s announcement to buy KM’s 65 year old pipeline, and actions are happening daily to stop the project.

Who Are the Extremists?

Is it so extreme to demand that a government follow through on its promises to prioritize the environment and respect the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People? To demand that government represents the interests of Canadian people above billion-dollar foreign oil corporations? To point out the failures of the “market” where the corporations need billions of our tax dollars to stay afloat? How extreme is it to point out that human beings have developed technologically and socially to a point where we don’t need to destroy the environment, don’t need to accept poverty and don’t need to bow down to predatory capital development?

The real extremists are Kinder Morgan, Prime Minister Trudeau, Bill Morneau, Canadian Infrastructure Bank (CIB), Export Development Bank, and those in positions of power who are trying to force environmental, social and political degradation. The opposition to the Kinder Morgan pipeline and PM Trudeau’s Bailout is strong. The battle is on. The pipeline expansion will not be built, and we will unite to protect our cities, coast and climate. Soil, not oil, is the future of humanity. When the people lead, the politicians will follow.

This article was distilled from the original titled Kinder Morgan: Billionaires, Blackmail & Bailouts Versus the “Ninjas of Eco-Terrorism” that appeared in the Fire This Time Newspaper  Twitter: @thomasdavies59

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