Can Everyone be Satisfied with the Trans Mountain Pipeline?

by TyeRusnak on November 25, 2016 - 10:19am

As we approach the date for the final decision of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion, we continue to see more conflict between many involved parties. An article by Gordon Hoekstra in the Vancouver Sun tells us that this project proposition has brought rise to conflict between government, oil industry companies, First Nations, environmental groups, and the general public regarding many different issues surrounding the pipeline expansion. The Trudeau government must make the difficult resource management decision by December 19, 2016. Kinder Morgan and oil companies have to prove and convince First Nations and environmental groups that the project expansion will be beneficial to everyone, and safe for the environment. First nations don’t trust these companies based on current and past experiences while environmental groups don’t see how the economic benefits outweigh the environmental costs. On top of everything the general public cannot see eye to eye with the project and have formed protests and petitions against the expansion. The conflict between these various rights holders and stakeholders gives us insight into how complicated the management of natural resources can actually be. 

The pipeline expansion is a perfect example of how resource management “creates the state.” In this particular case, the expansion would allow easier access to the Asian oil market, as well as build credibility towards the state and those who govern the resource. However, effectively doing so requires the state to manage social stability, conflict, and uncertainty which are some of the more complicated tasks. But the most difficult task of all is handling every aspect sufficiently enough for everyone to be satisfied, and answering the question “is complete satisfaction possible?”

First Nations groups along the route of the pipeline are an example of various types of conflict. They have different ideas about who benefits from the project and who has to suffer the costs, and most groups are reminded of poor historical relationships with companies or the government. For example, the “duty to consult” with First Nations on any and all development on their land can be a very loose term. Previously First Nations have only been consulted, and told what is going to happen on their land, rather than them actually providing consent for these developments. This causes the First Nations groups surrounding the pipeline expansion to require thorough environmental assessments of the project before providing their consent. I believe that it is possible to satisfy the First Nations peoples and continue with the project, however I also think that the oil companies have to go above and beyond to prove that their development and operation has very little to no cost on the First Nations traditions.

Using informational instruments and institutional tools, environmental groups have attempted to use their credibility and the power of the general public to stop the expansion project. Informational instruments include the formation of initiatives such as “For The Coast,” that organize public protests against the project. These protests have clearly made a difference in the management of the situation and are important in achieving satisfaction from the general public. Institutional tools are essentially environmental groups that are used to provide services and power to aid in the decision to oppose the pipeline. These instruments and tools are used collaboratively in an attempt to implement policies that protect the environment and ensure social stability.

I think that a project that involves so many parties over a such a large area is a delicate situation that can take years to satisfy everyone. This can only be achieved through adaptive co-management of the resource throughout development and operation. The government must  negotiate authority and responsibility of the oil resource with Kinder Morgan regarding the environmental impacts. There has to be considerable use of technical science by environmental groups as well as taking advantage of traditional knowledge from First Nations and local knowledge from the public. This strategy can be timely and complicated, but by involving all parties throughout the entire process is the gold standard of resource management and the only way to achieve total satisfaction from everyone.




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Hoekstra, G. (2016, November 23) Yes could still be no as Kinder Morgan awaits Trudeau's nod on its multi-billion dollar pipeline expansion. Vancouver Sun. Retrieved from


Note: There is only one reference. I've tried everything to get rid of the strange text. Apologies.

About the author

University of Guelph
Environment and Resource Management