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Treetop camp protesting Trans Mountain pipeline dismantled

·2 min read
TMX pipeline contractors cut down a treehouse belonging to protestors on the TMX pipeline construction area in Burnaby, British Columbia on Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2021.  (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)
TMX pipeline contractors cut down a treehouse belonging to protestors on the TMX pipeline construction area in Burnaby, British Columbia on Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2021. (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)

A treetop camp standing in the way of a multi-billion dollar pipeline expansion project has been dismantled following a court ordered injunction against demonstrators.

Protesters against the federally-owned Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project watched as contractors accompanied by police sawed away a treehouse camp in the Brunette River Conservation Area that had been occupied since December of last year.

"It's a terrible feeling, of course. It's a setback ... but we will just keep doing it," said Tim Takaro, an SFU health sciences professor and protest organizer.

"You can have an 1,100 kilometre pipeline but you have to complete all of it to make it work — and this one will never work" he added. "There's too much against it and it doesn't make economic sense."

Takaro wouldn't specify what area of the pipeline construction route protesters would target next.

The Trans Mountain pipeline expansion aims to substantially increase the amount of crude and refined oil flowing from Alberta to B.C.'s coast, from the current 300,000 barrels to 890,000 barrels per day.

It has faced numerous setbacks that have delayed construction and significant resistance from Indigenous groups and environmental activists. Construction had previously been shut down over concerns about negative impacts to hummingbird nesting sites in the Brunette River area.

A court-ordered injunction has been issued against demonstrators to prevent them from blocking worksites.

Ben Nelms/CBC
Ben Nelms/CBC

Worker allegedly knocked unconscious

Last week, Burnaby RCMP arrested two protesters who allegedly trespassed onto the work site.

During the incident, police say a Trans Mountain worker was knocked unconscious by a felled branch while a protester was "rappelling between tree-sits."

Police say the worker suffered a concussion and the incident is under investigation.

Maggie MacPherson/CBC
Maggie MacPherson/CBC

Mounting costs

The Canadian government purchased the pipeline from oil giant Kinder Morgan in 2018 for $4.5 billion. In February 2020, it was revealed that the project's total cost had soared to $12.6 billion.

A recent report from West Coast Environmental Law projected that the expansion would be delayed into 2023, past its expected completion in December 2022.

"With so many construction delays over the past year, the cost of the pipeline has almost certainly increased," the report said.

According to the report, the cost may exceed $20 billion with the delays. It called for the next federal government to provide a transparent cost analysis of the project.

Takaro says ongoing disruptions will only contribute to the swelling costs.

"Fourteen months of blocking is a lot of time off their schedule," he said. "This is ballooning in costs and it needs to be stopped in order for there not to be even more costs."

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