Help me challenge the Coastal GasLink LNG Pipeline
Two years ago, I challenged the assessment of the natural gas pipeline that would feed the proposed Pacific Northwest (Petronas) LNG facility on Lelu Island near Prince Rupert. With the help of West Coast Environmental Law, I argued that the proposed Prince Rupert LNG pipeline should have been assessed and permitted under federal jurisdiction. The basis for my challenge was the 1998 Supreme Court of Canada “Westcoast” decision that found pipelines which appeared to fall under provincial jurisdiction actually would fall under federal jurisdiction if they were functionally integrated into an existing federal pipeline. My legal challenge was successful, but before the Prince Rupert LNG pipeline could undergo federal regulatory assessments, the proponent abandoned that project.
Thank you to all of you who supported me through that legal challenge, where we established an important legal precedent that will help us now and in the future.
In early October 2018, LNG Canada (made up of Shell, Malaysia’s Petronas, PetroChina, Korea Gas Corp and Japan’s Mitsubishi Corp) announced its Final Investment Decision and that it will begin construction of a $40 billion LNG export facility in Kitimat, the largest private construction project in Canadian history. Ever!
As part of that massive project, TransCanada announced it will begin construction the Coastal Gaslink LNG pipeline (Coastal GasLink) from the fracking fields of northeast BC to feed LNG Canada’s Kitimat facility. Coastal Gaslink was assessed through the BC environmental assessment process and approved by the BC Oil and Gas Commission and currently has all provincial approval needed to start construction.
But I believe Coastal GasLink should have been assessed and permitted under federal jurisdiction and that the current provincial authorizations are not valid.
In July 2018, I filed an application with the National Energy Board challenging the jurisdiction of the Government of BC to approve Coastal GasLink. This challenge is again based on the 1998 Supreme Court of Canada Westcoast decision and 2017 decision of the Federal Court of Appeal from my successful legal challenge last year.
I have taken on this challenge for three reasons:
First, we are told we live in a democracy based on good government and the rule of law and it is my view that when the governments break the law, as I believe they have done in this case, it is citizen’s obligation to make sure the governments obey the law. And this is what I am doing.
Second, the assessment and permitting of Coastal GasLink under provincial jurisdiction is fatally flawed in that the BC Environmental Assessment Act and process is wholly inadequate for assessing a project of this magnitude. For example there were no public hearings, no opportunity to cross examine and test TransCanada’s or LNG Canada’s evidence, and no consideration of upstream or downstream cumulative effects, no honest consideration of the life-cycle carbon emissions, and finally, the decision to approve Coastal GasLink was made behind closed doors. On top of all of this, the Liberal Government of the day, and apparently now the current NDP Government, have so much political capital invested in ensuring LNG goes ahead that I believe they are incapable of making fair and unbiased decisions about LNG that are in the public interest.
Finally, if I am successful in my challenge, and I believe I have a great case, the permits for Coastal GasLink will be cancelled and TransCanada will need to reapply to the national Energy Board for new authorizations, including a full and complete environmental assessment under the federal environmental assessment legislation. It is only through that process, imperfect as it is, that we will see a proper consideration of true impacts of the largest construction project in Canadian history.
For example, supporters of the LNG Canada and Coastal GasLink project argue, as Prime Minister Trudeau has, that the LNG Canada project is good for the environment because the use of natural gas from BC will allow China to reduce its carbon emissions by 50 percent. That is a deliberate lie.
Yes, it’s true that natural gas is a clean burning fuel at the burner tip, cleaner than coal. But if we do full life-cycle accounting of all carbon emission, from exploration, drilling, producing, processing, transporting, liquefying in Kitimat, marine transportation to China and then burning the natural gas in China, total GHG emission will be 2 percent to 27 percent higher, not lower, than the life-cycle carbon emissions from coal.
The assessment of LNG Canada and Coastal GasLink also did not consider the devastating impacts in NE BC associated with the exploitation of the natural gas resources. It did not consider the direct impacts on endangered species, specifically caribou, or surface water, fish, vegetation, local and regional air pollution, fracking, and impacts on traditional land use of indigenous communities.
Without a full consideration of all of the impacts and benefits of this massive project, the largest in Canadian history, how can we truly know that it’s in the public interest, both now and in the future?
Please support this critically important legal challenge to make sure industry and government play by the rules, and give a proper second chance to determine whether the environmental, climate and social impacts of this massive fossil fuel export development scheme are in the Public Interest.
But I need your help. TransCanada and the NEB have lots of money and expensive lawyers. To fund my appeal, I need to raise $50,000 by April 30, 2019. If my appeal is successful, it will mean that this and future pipeline projects will have environmental and social impacts properly assessed and government regulators will be required to follow the law.
Thank you for your support!
The dramatic events of the past two weeks at the Wet’suwet’en Unist’ot’en and Gidmt’en camps in northern BC where the RCMP’s para-military action against those camps forcibly cleared the way for contactors to begin work on TransCanada Pipelines’ (now renamed TC Energy) Coastal GasLink LNG pipeline garnered national and international media attention. Those events, and the responses of Prime Minister Trudeau and Premier Hogan to those events, brought into sharp focus the critical importance of my legal jurisdictional challenge against what I believe to be an illegal pipeline.
The Wet’suwet’en Hereditary chief have consistently denied access to their traditional territories, barring the construction of pipelines like Coastal GasLink, based on their view that it is the Hereditary chiefs, not the elected Band councils or the provincial or federal governments, that have the lawful authority to make decisions on those unceeded lands. It was this fundamental disagreement, essentially a remnant of Canada’s colonial past and corporate and government arrogance that ignited the conflict last week.
How the Wet’suwet’en conflict with government and Coastal GasLink play out over the coming months and years is yet to be determined but what has become very clear is that my regulatory challenge of the Province of BC’s legal right to approve the construction of the Coastal GasLink LNG pipeline has become a much more important part of this story.
It is now apparent that my challenge has the very real potential of stopping or significantly delaying Coastal GasLink pipeline, creating the needed time and opportunity for the Wet’suwet’en to push their land claims, likely all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada.
I am profoundly grateful and impressed with the outpouring of support, financial or otherwise, for the Wet’suwet’en cause and I encourage everyone to continue supporting that cause to the greatest extent possible.
However, the legal bills for my jurisdictional challenge continue to mount and unlike my Wet’suwet’en friends, I am a lone citizen who is truly taking on a Goliath. So I’m not one to beg, but the critical importance of my challenge, both in terms of forcing the government to respect the rule of law and in terms of supporting the Wet’suwet’en cause, forces me to swallow my pride and ask you all for your help.
I have established a GoFundMe campaign at https://www.gofundme.com/3btfcjfn to help raise money to cover my legal expenses; none of these monies are going into my pocket. I am asking for everyone who supports what I’m doing to help by donating what you can. Importantly, I am also asking everyone to forward the link to all of your social media contacts explaining to them why you support my efforts and asking them to contribute if they can.
I may be the David in this David and Goliath story but I can only succeed because others, like you, stand behind me. For this I am honoured.
Last Monday October 22nd, 2018 the National Energy Board ruled that I have raised a prima facie case that there is a real jurisdictional issue with respect to the TransCanada Coastal GasLink pipeline project. This was a big win and a major step forward in the process.
Thanks to everyone who has offered their help, both financially and otherwise. I really appreciate it and couldn’t have gotten this far without you. Thank you very much.
However, now the hard work begins in earnest.
The National Energy Board has established a fully regulatory hearing to listen to arguments about the jurisdictional question I have raised. As part of that process the National Energy Board set a deadline of 4:00 PM MST today for parties to file applications to intervene in the jurisdictional hearing; at the deadline 47 parties had intervened. Three provincial governments have intervened including the Governments of British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan.
Thirty-three groups who generally support the LNG Canada project have requested intervenor status, I assume to oppose my jurisdictional challenge. These groups include the proponents of LNG Canada, companies who would expect to get contracts building the pipeline, First Nation Band Councils along the pipeline route who have signed joint venture agreements with TransCanada and/or LNG Canada, and various municipal governments along the pipeline route who are supporting the projects.
Eleven groups including three First Nation groups, seven regional and provincial environmental organizations and one Member of Parliament, Elizabeth May, have intervened to support the need to follow the rule of law and to ensure that due process is followed on this massive industrial project.
I want to thank all those groups who made the decision to intervene in this very important process.
So now the National Energy Board will decide who will, and who will not, be granted intervenor status. Once those decisions are made, the National Energy Board will set out the process it intends to follow for the hearing. I expect this story will unfold very quickly over the next few months.
As we go into this regulatory hearing there will be a lot of work to be done including legal research, replying to submissions and making final arguments on this very important case. In order to do that, I will need your support. Please make a financial contribution to this extremely important work.
Remember that this jurisdictional challenge may be the only opportunity to have all of the impacts of the combined Coastal GasLink and LNG Canada projects properly considered. Whether your interest is greenhouse gas and global warming, endangered species like boreal caribou, fracking or the effects on indisgenous culture and traditional lifestyles, supporting my campaign is likely your only meaningful way to have a positive influence on this massive $45 billion project, the largest private capital project in Canadian history.
Give what you can – every $10 counts…
Its a dreary day here in Smithers. While the higher elevations have great early season snow conditions the valley bottom has just a skiff of snow... The Tundra Swans that have been coming through the Valley enroute to warmer climes have all gone now and we are waiting for winter to settle in...
My apoligies for not keeping everyone in the loop. First of all, my appeal will likely be heard in the Vancouver Federal Court of Appeal in January 2017. I and my lawyers beleive that we have a very strong case and remain very optimistic that we will succed...
Many thanks to everyone who has supported this important legal challenge, both from within GoFundMe and outside. To date I have received over $40,000 in donations from a wide range of individuals and environmental organizations. I couldn't do this impoertant work with out your support. I thank you all...
So with the funding secured for this campaign, I have made a commitment that any surplus funds (there may be) will be donated to the other legal battles over Lelu Island an/or to the West Coast Environmental Law Environmental Dispute Fund. If any of you want to donate, your donations will go to support these great causes.
Stay tuned and thank you all...
Christy Clark will be in Smithers on Wednesday November 23 at the Aspen Motor inn to do some pre-election glad-handing and to spread more distortions about the benefits of LNG. If you are close by, make sure you drop by to tell her what you think about it all...
Spring has definitely arrived to NW British Columbia. The mountains are still capped in snow but the valley bottoms are filled with the scent of blooming cottonwoods and the sound of sand hill cranes flying high overhead. The eulachon run is just finished and I saw my first black bear of the season yesterday, newly emerged from deep under the winter snows. Spring is always a time of renewal, a time to put the past behind us and to look forward to another summer here in paradise.
And that is why my lawyers filed my Notice of Appeal yesterday in the federal Court of Canada in my case to challenge of the Trans-Canada Pipelines Prince Rupert LNG Gas Pipeline. Because this part of the world is still a paradise where all species of salmon thrive along the Skeena watershed, where First Nations can still fish to sustain their culture and their families and where we all can enjoy the beauty and bounty of this incredible salmon ecosystem where we live.
Thy is why I need your help. The fund raising for my lawsuit is going well but I still need to raise a lot more funds for legal and court fees. I am going up against the National Energy Board, which has all of the power and resources of the Government of Canada and TransCanada, a company with over $64 Billion in assets. I cannot do this without your help. We cannot do this without your help.
If I am successful and I am very confident that I have a very strong legal case, it will be a major blow to the Governments of BC and Canada and to TransCanada's plans to build a LNG pipeline to Lelu Island near Prince Rupert. And it will set a precedent that will laundering a major pipeline project through the much weaker provincial process more difficult in the future.
The science is compelling that Lelu Island is some of the best and most used rearing habitat for juvenile salmon anywhere in the Skeena watershed.
Please help me help the salmon. Help me help all the people who are working so hard to stop this from happening. And help me show the governments and the big corporations that what the people who value large intact watersheds where salmon still flourish will not sit idly by while our collective heritage is taken from us... Once again.
Please donate to help me win my law suit against TransCanada Pipelines.
It must be getting pretty cool in your home now that winter is here or are we wrong in assuming that you have closed and disconnected the valve and pipeline to your furnace and hot water heater? Are you being a hypocrite and heating your house? Also, have you accepted any foreign money to maintain your enviro-fascist lifestyle? The comment below by "Roger" seems to show you are open to money from those she / he named. She / he missed mentioning the Packard Foundation, the Rockefellers. Soros, his Open Borders Society, his Tides organization and Tides Canada that they provide welfare cheques to. It would be interesting to see your tax return. Would you have a problem with them doing an audit? Maybe a note dropped to Revenue Canada? Roger's "big picture" is code for the foreign process of killing the Canadian economy.
I believe that the article linked below is worth reading to understand the potential impact this challenge could have on the environment globally. I am posting this here to try to advance the dialogue, not create confrontation. These are complex issues that will require complex, coordinated solutions. https://www.c2cjournal.ca/2019/04/canadas-moral-obligation-to-the-world/
Good afternoon Mr. Sawyer. In line with your goal of public access to information and understanding, I was hoping you could share the source you used in determining the emissions for LNG vs. coal? I am struggling to find it online - any help would be appreciated.
In reply to Del's somewhat snotty comments, yes, I have disconnected all natural gas services to my home, over 6 years ago, and I currently heat my very well insulated home using high efficiency mini-splits augmented with wood heat. And no, I have accepted no foreign money to fund my jurisdictional challenge and I have received no money from any source that has been used as personal income. All my tax returns are up to date and accurately reflect my annual income, which does not come from foreign sources.
It seems that the fundamental first question has never been answered: What is our national energy security policy? Why would we want to liquidate our remaining gas reserves (and it is now basically coal-bed methane since we have pretty well exploited conventional gas reserves or burned them off in the past to get quick access to conventional oil) in 60 years via exporting it, when we could secure it for our own needs for the next 10,000 years? Short-term corporate greed vs long-term environment/social/economic sustainability/prosperity.
Just a comment in reply to Del, if that is in fact his name, post about a month ago. As a matter of fact I have disconnected natural gas lines to my house and instead heat with energy efficient mini-splits. With respect to foreign money, or the allegation that I am somehow an agent of foreign interests, I can state empathically that I have not received funds from foreign foundations, corporations or governments.
Way to go Mike and don't mind the senseless and stupid comments from the mindless oilbots. They are clueless and still stuck in the 20th century. They'll mindlessly rape the planet until it is destroyed. Good work.
Great initiative Mike - we need more people caring about "the big picture", thank you. Can Lead Now or 350 help you? What about Sierra Club, Narwhal, Tyee, Norm Farrell? cheers, Roger
Hello everyone... I just got news that the Federal Court of Appeal has released their decision in my appeal and I won on all counts. The Federal Court of Appeal has ruled that the National Energy Board acted unlawfully and unconstitutionally and has sent the matter back to the NEB for proper determination. I wanted to thank everyone who contributed to this important case. Thank you.