Help me challenge the Coastal GasLink LNG Pipeline

My name is Mike Sawyer, and I live in Smithers, BC. I'm very concerned about the environmental, climate and social impacts of LNG development in British Columbia.

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!




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  • Hans Duerichen 
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Mike Sawyer 
Smithers, BC
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