Kinder Morgan is celebrating today, likely in their corporate head offices far away in Texas. The announcement that their Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion project will go forward is an exciting moment for the oil company, just as it is for some of the people in Alberta and British Columbia who will profit from the decision. There are likely just as many, if not more, Canadians groaning at the decision, which many feel a great disappointment from a still relatively new Liberal government.
But behind it all is the grim acknowledgement and quiet preparations of the few individuals who will spend hundreds of hours next year – and every year that oil is part of BC’s economy – trying to rescue the wildlife that’s impacted by inevitable spills and leaks.
In the 157 conditions listed in the 553-page report that Kinder Morgan must meet to expand their pipeline, there is nothing about the care for birds and animals impacted by oil. There are notes on habitat avoidance for construction (page 214), and even the possibility of increased vehicular mortality (page 202). But the regular treatment of wildlife injured or covered in oil – whether it’s from a large spill, or a minor leak leaving a slick on the water – will go on, paid for by public donations and conducted by volunteers.
In British Columbia, there is no government funding for oiled wildlife response; only one group (a non-profit) offers the technical training required to safely help animals impacted; and, the majority of people who will put themselves at risk to help the inflicted animals are volunteers, or low-paid employees of donor-funded rehabilitation centres.
Our government had the opportunity to impose more regulations, penalties, or reimbursements on Kinder Morgan as part of this approval process. They could have recognized that oiled wildlife costs Canadians – both economically and ecologically – and made sure that a fund was created to ensure all animals receive the care they need. But they did not.
For many who care for the animals impacted by this industry, this is a sad day. But the fight is not over. Join us in calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (firstname.lastname@example.org) to establish a fund, paid for by the oil industry, that will cover the costs of all oiled-wildlife rescue in British Columbia. Make sure you copy your provincial MLA if you’re in BC (find them here) and your federal MP (find them here) so they know how you feel.
Photo of oiled bird provided by Wildlife Rescue Association of BC