Greenpeace activists occupied Kinder Morgan’s Westridge oil terminus in Burrard Inlet for more than 12 hours Wednesday, hoping to upstage events in Ottawa.
Sixteen Greenpeace members snuck in just before sunrise Wednesday morning to chain themselves to gates and oil infrastructure and to unfurl banners calling for an end to Alberta oilsands and pipeline development.
The timing of Wednesday’s protest, some of which was staged from Cates Park in North Vancouver, was meant not so much to disrupt oil exports from the facility — none were scheduled for that part of the week — but rather to “send a message to Prime Minister Harper” during the 2013 Speech from the Throne in Ottawa Wednesday afternoon.
“Whether we’re physically stopping operations or just sending a message out, we hope that it’s strong enough to turn the prime minister in a different direction and strengthen the resolve of Premier (Christy) Clark who has started to waver on her stance of defending the coast,” said Mike Hudema, climate and energy campaigner for Greenpeace Canada.
Activists came prepared to stay in chains overnight and were willing to face arrest, if needed, Hudema said, but by 7:30 p.m., activists opened their padlocks and went home.
“Once the throne speech was read and we felt we delivered that message, we were happy to voluntarily come down and end the protest,” Hudema said.
By Thursday, none of the protestors had been arrested though the RCMP still have that option, Hudema noted.
Kinder Morgan is applying to the National Energy Board to twin it’s TransMountain pipeline from central Alberta to the Burnaby terminal, which would almost triple the capacity of the pipeline to a total of 890,000 barrels of oil and bitumen per day.
Tanker traffic in Burrard Inlet from the facility would go from about five per month now to more than 30.
“That’s something we definitely don’t want to see,” Hudema said, “What we know is that we’re in a climate-constrained world and we’re already seeing superstorms, we’re seeing intense floods, we’re seeing more and more extreme weather events taking place all the time because of climate change, and we need to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and reduce our greenhouse gas emissions immediately in order for us to continue thriving on this planet.”
Asked to respond to Greenpeace’s argument that Kinder Morgan is fuelling climate change, Kinder Morgan Andrew Galarnyk spoke about the process.
“We have a project that we’re looking to expand: our pipeline for the customers who have determined there is a market need for it. Just as other pipeline projects that are being put forward, we are approaching our project with an open and transparent approach to sharing factual information and we’ll file an application at the end of this year and let the board determine whether or not our project is approved for expansion,” he said.
Any pipeline expansion work that happens will make human and environmental safety a top priority, Galarnyk added.
Greenpeace last staged a process on the North Shore in May 2012, when activists rappelled from the edge of the Lions Gate Bridge to unfurl an anti-pipeline banner.
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