On Tuesday, Kinder Morgan announced that they would be halting spending on their controversial Trans Mountain Tar Sands Pipeline. Then they issued an ultimatum to the Canadian government, and demanded it be met by May 31st.
And what does Kinder Morgan want? Only the silencing of their enemies and, oh yeah, a handout.
A hostage situation
Effectively, Kinder Morgan wants the debate to end and the opposition to go home, despite the legal and jurisdictional challenges that have plagued the pipeline from the start.
One major gripe is with the British Columbia provincial government, who has been, as Kinder Morgan put it, “asserting broad jurisdiction and reiterating its intention to use that jurisdiction to stop the Project”—in other words, reminding Kinder Morgan that they get to write their own laws. The assertion has not been “quashed,” Kinder Morgan complains vaguely, leading to “even greater, and growing, uncertainty with respect to the regulatory landscape facing the Project.” They’re giving everyone involved until May 31st to “reach an agreement.”
It would seem, then, that the company would also like the government to “quash” all the other voices contributing to their “lack of clarity:” the 150 member First Nations Alliance, the government of British Columbia, and millions of people across the continental span who are standing with them.
Note to Kinder Morgan: we don’t see any of those folks packing it in.
Alberta promises public dollars for private profit.
The federal and Alberta governments have made it their duty to do the bidding of big polluters. Kinder Morgan expected Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to dance past the legitimate treaty claims of First Nations, and the right of British Columbia to take reasonable actions to protect its coastal communities and economy, both of which are intimately tied to Canada’s culture and natural beauty. Now he finds himself with 50 days to deliver on his promises.
As if that wasn’t audacious enough, Kinder Morgan expects Canadians to help foot the bill. Even worse, some Canadian lawmakers are more than willing to make them.
Alberta’s Premier Rachel Notley, continuing her tradition of outdoing any other lawmaker in how far she’s willing to go to stay in the oil giant’s good graces, leapt into action once the ultimatum came down. If Kinder Morgan’s investors are getting nervous, she said, the Alberta government is ready and willing to take their place; the difference, of course, is that Notley is offering to buy a stake in the pipeline using taxpayer dollars. Whether this comes in the form of low-interest loans or sacks of cash, it’s a government subsidy for an unpopular project with potentially devastating ecological effects and uncertain economic benefits.
And if all else fails, it’s very possible that Kinder Morgan could sue Canada under provisions of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The rules allow private corporations to sue entire governments if they decide that government hasn’t behaved the way they wanted it to (fun, right?). It’s a little-known but very powerful weapon wielded by giant businesses to overrule the will of the people; when Quebec issued a moratorium on fracking a few years ago, a natural gas company called Lone Pine Resources sued them for over $250 million, saying Quebec had “unfairly” left them—a private corporation based in the U.S.—out of the decision.
Incapable of compromise
Corporations like Kinder Morgan are incapable of elevating the needs of the earth, First Nations, local governance, and coastal communities. If your health, well-being, or livelihood comes into conflict with the interest of Kinder Morgan’s shareholders, shareholders win. If a sustainable ecological world comes into conflict with shareholder interest, shareholders win. In any case of people vs. profit, Kinder Morgan firmly and unmovably advocates for profit.
We are just as unmovable in our advocacy for our ecosystem and its intertwined communities. Thousands of folks are energized and mobilized in one big international resistance to the Kinder Morgan Pipeline and the ecological threats it represents. The fossil fuel giant isn’t used to losing, and is tired of being stifled by people power over and over again. After five years and $1.1 billion wasted dollars, they have pulled back the curtain on the nice guy act and fully exposed their hand puppetry.
The federal and Alberta governments will be extremely motivated to placate Kinder Morgan before the May 31st decision.
We will be just as motivated to stop them.