It’s been a month since protests over the Kinder Morgan pipeline broke out during a Vancouver Island town hall with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau but on Tuesday, he again faced questions about the controversial project — this time during a talk with American TV host Bill Nye “The Science Guy” in Ottawa.
While the discussion largely focused on the importance of getting kids interested in science and how to encourage more innovation by Canadian scientists, Nye broached the subject of the Kinder Morgan pipeline just as the discussion began to wrap up.
Nye said he hears a lot of concerns from science colleagues about the government’s decision to give the stamp of approval to the controversial pipeline expansion.
The project will increase the capacity of an existing pipeline from Edmonton and feed into the terminal at Burnaby, B.C., increasing tanker traffic significantly and drawing condemnation for the environmental threat opponents argue it poses to the province’s sensitive coastal ecosystem.
“I’ve been to Fort McMurray, Alta., and it really is the most amazing place — in the most troubling way,” said Nye, before urging attendees to check out a project run by researchers at Stanford University that has suggested all of Canada could be powered by renewable energy immediately if the political will to make the transition existed.
“Nevertheless, there’s this enormous fossil fuel industry. Tell us about that.”
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Trudeau defended the approval of the project and said that while alternatives to fossil fuels exist, “we aren’t going to get there tomorrow.”
“We are going to have a transition phase while we develop alternatives to fossil fuels,” he said. “So while we are developing alternatives to fossil fuels, we still need to be able to power our homes, our cars, our economy and we have to do it in the most efficient and non-polluting way.”
He went on to emphasize the efforts by Alberta to put in place a cap on oilsands emissions and federal efforts to reach the targets for emission reduction set in the Paris Agreement, as well as plans to implement a national framework to price carbon pollution.
All of those, Trudeau said, are “pieces that go together” to allow Canada to continue to develop fossil fuel resources.
“How do we draw on fossil fuels in the short term or while we’re still dealing with the transition in a way that does not contribute to global warming?”
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The National Energy Board approved the controversial Trans Mountain pipeline expansion in May 2016, which will triple the capacity of Kinder Morgan’s pipeline between Edmonton and Burnaby, B.C.
Tanker traffic in the Burnaby terminal is expected to increase to 34 per month from roughly five vessels per month because of the expansion.
The NDP government in B.C. banned the expansion of oil imports through the province in January 2018 in an attempt to stop the pipeline, which faces widespread opposition in the province.
Alberta NDP Premier Rachel Notley responded by slapping a ban on B.C. wine imports — before promptly removing the ban — and implored Ottawa to intervene to make sure the pipeline gets built.
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While Trudeau has repeatedly vowed the pipeline “will get built,” Conservative critics have accused him of “waiting for the clock to run out” and stalling on a federal intervention, given that the project approval expires in 2021 if work has not yet begun.
On Monday, Notley said lawyers from her government will be heading to Ottawa this week to look at ways of preventing “stalling tactics” from further delaying the pipeline.