British Columbia

Burnaby tree-sitters claim victory in protest against Trans Mountain pipeline

Opponents say they have been successful in delaying the completion of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project, but the company says they will meet the target date of December 2022.

Pipeline opponents say they have delayed the project, but company says the expansion is on schedule

Trans Mountain pipeline protesters occupy a tent hung from trees near an encampment above Holmes Creek in Burnaby, B.C., on Wednesday. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Pipeline opponents and tree-sitters in Burnaby, B.C., say they have successfully pushed back the completion date of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project to 2023.

Tree-sitter Dr. Tim Takaro says the victory being claimed is based on a Trans Mountain affidavit sworn in court in May.

According to Takaro, Trans Mountain stated in the affidavit that it needed to start construction in several areas around the Lower Mainland by Sept. 15 — including near Holmes Creek in Burnaby — in order to meet its deadline of being operational by December 2022.

Takaro and others have been camping in and around trees near the creek that are slated to be felled to make way for the pipeline, but to date no work has begun.

"This is the first place Trans Mountain has tried to work outside their fence in the Lower Mainland, and we've already set them back," said Takaro, a public health researcher at Simon Fraser University and retired physician.  

Trans Mountain CEO Ian Anderson was quoted by the Canadian Press on Tuesday saying the project is advancing as expected and on schedule to be completed by December 2022.

Workers are pictured at the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project in Burnaby, B.C., on June 17, 2019. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

But Takaro says what was sworn in the affidavit and what Anderson told reporters cannot both be true.

"So either they were lying back in May, or they're lying now, or maybe both," he said.

According to a monthly construction plan filed with Canada Energy Regulator on Sept. 1, Trans Canada has no work scheduled in the Lower Mainland until November. A company spokesperson said no work is planned in the Holmes Creek area until next year. 

"We interpret that as a tactical retreat," said Takaro.

The Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project will triple the capacity of the existing pipeline between Edmonton and the Westridge Marine Terminal in Burnaby to about 890,000 barrels per day of diluted bitumen, light crude oil and other fuels. 

In February, Anderson announced the cost of the pipeline expansion had soared from an initial estimate of $7.4 billion to $12.6 billion.

Part of a protest camp against the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion located near Holmes Creek in Burnaby. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Takaro says delay to pipeline construction is a victory for anyone who supports Canada's 2015 Paris Agreement commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030.

"You can't do that and expand the oil sands at the same time," he said. "If you're serious about protecting the planet for future generations, you stop building 40 year lifespan, fossil fuel infrastructure. It's kind of very straightforward." 

He says protesters will be winterizing their camps and are prepared to remain at the Holmes Creek site for another two years. 

Anderson told Canadian Press the project is currently about 15 per cent complete and is expected to be at 30 per cent by year-end.

with files from Canadian Press

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