Leaders of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation vowed Tuesday to defeat Kinder Morgan’s proposed Trans Mountain oil pipeline expansion, likening the project to a “two-headed serpent” of aboriginal myth their ancestors slayed.
The North Vancouver-based band released an extensive assessment it commissioned of the project’s potential impacts, projecting a significant risk of an eventual tanker or terminal spill causing ecological disaster in Burrard Inlet and Indian Arm.
It says such a spill of diluted bitumen would contaminate local sea life, kill up to 500,000 birds and make more than a million people sick from the fumes.
Chief Maureen Thomas said the band would use “all lawful means” to enforce the decision.
A group of law professors, including UBC’s Gordon Christie, said in a joint statement the lengthy impacts assessment released by the Tsleil-Waututh, along with their refusal to consent, sets the stage for a court battle alleging unjustifiable infringement of aboriginal title that could delay or ultimately derail the project.
The band, which announced a year ago it would challenge the pipeline project in court, fears the seven-fold increase in tankers expected could jeopardize its attempts to reinstate shellfish harvesting in the inlet that has been banned since 1972.
The National Energy Board is conducting hearings on Kinder Morgan’s plan to nearly triple the capacity of the existing pipeline to carry 890,000 barrels per day.
The second pipeline would mostly follow the 60-year-old original, running from northern Alberta southwest through B.C. to the terminal in Burnaby.
Trans Mountain spokesperson Ali Hounsell said the company is having productive discussions with numerous bands along the pipeline corridor, adding the Tsleil-Waututh report filing was expected ahead of the NEB’s May 27 deadline for intervenors to submit final evidence.
“Since our project was announced Trans Mountain has attempted to have multiple discussions with the Tsleil-Waututh First Nation and with the release of this new report, we once again invite the Tsleil-Waututh First Nation to come to the table,” Hounsell said.