Work related to the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline (in the Canadian province of British Columbia) has been suspended for four months. The decision, by the federal Ministry of the Environment, is due to an agent confirming that at least eight hummingbird nests near the city of Burnaby are in danger from construction activities. The official’s visit was due to the accusations of environmentalists. The provision will be in effect until August 20th, when the nesting season will be over.
The order, issued on April 16th, is backed by the Migratory Birds Act, established by the Canadian Parliament in 1917 and updated in 1994. This rule states that, unless specific regulation is implemented, “the nests cannot be damaged, destroyed, disturbed or removed ”and even though the species are not in danger of extinction. Not only Ana’s hummingbirds (calypte anna) live in these forests, also song sparrows and blackbirds, among other birds, frequent the foliage.
“Because it is nesting season, migratory birds are particularly vulnerable at this time,” says the Canadian Ministry of the Environment in a statement. The ministry specified the damage that these nests would incur due to “cutting down of vegetation and trees, or other disturbing activities such as digging, using chainsaws or heavy machinery,” recalling the aspects that the Act defends on migratory birds.
The Trans Mountain pipeline has been in operation since 1953. It remains to this day the only line that transports oil from the province of Alberta to the shores of British Columbia. The Justin Trudeau government approved its expansion in November 2016, but under certain conditions. In May 2018, Trudeau announced its nationalization: some 4.5 billion Canadian dollars (3 billion euros at the time) paid to the Kinder Morgan company.
Despite criticism from environmentalists and indigenous communities, Trudeau definitively authorized the expansion project in June 2019, with the aim of tripling the oil shipping capacity (some 900,000 barrels per day when construction is completed). He did so a day after declaring a climate emergency in Canada, receiving so much criticism in the country. The Canadian Prime Minister has stressed that it is possible to find a balance between economic development and environmental care.
Appeals filed by opponents of the Trans Mountain expansion have not been successful in court. The protection of the nests slows down the progress of this project for at least four months. According to the most recent estimates, the work will have a total cost of 12.6 billion Canadian dollars (8.46 billion euros).
The Trudeau government is confident in the economic benefits of the Trans Mountain expansion. This initiative has become more relevant as a result of the decree of President Joe Biden, signed at the end of January, regarding the termination of the construction and operating permits for Keystone XL. This pipeline was planned to send Canadian crude to US refineries. On April 21, Canada pledged to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions between 40% and 45% by 2030, compared to 2005 levels.