Pipeline Protesters Paralyze Canadian Rail Lines

Pipeline protesters in Canada have shut down much of the nation’s rail system, blocking passenger train service between the country’s biggest cities and preventing food, oil, gas, lumber and other drivers of the Canadian economy from getting delivered.

The protests, which are centered on a $6.6 billion natural gas pipeline in northern British Columbia, entered their 13th day Tuesday, a day after Canadian Prime Minister vowed to find a “quick and peaceful resolution” to the protests.

It may be too late for the quick part. As the CBC notes, protesters began holding up rail traffic east of Toronto on Feb. 6 – in response to Canadian courts and authorities granting and enforcing an injunction that prevents any interference with the British Columbia pipeline.

Protests quickly spread, becoming so severe that CN has shut down its operations in Eastern Canada and VIA Rail – a passenger service – suspended operations for 150 trains between Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal, leaving a quarter of a million passengers (and counting) to make other travel plans.

All of this over a pipeline that has been agreed to by leaders of Indigenous people in the impacted province, according to The New York Times:

Both British Columbia and the elected band councilsof the Wet’suwet’en First Nation in the province — the leadership established under Canadian law— have signed onto the 416-mile pipeline project, which links gas wells in the British Columbia interior to a new liquefied natural gas terminal on its coast.

The company building the pipeline, which will cost 6.2 billion Canadian dollars, has promised hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts to Indigenous businesses.

But another branch of the Wet’suwet’en’s leadership, the hereditary chiefs, says the pipeline would alter their traditional lands; they have been protesting in an encampment at the construction site for more than a year. …

The protesters appear to be an informal alliance of environmentalists and Indigenous rights proponents. They have mired traffic in Vancouver, British Columbia; snarled ports in and around that city; and shut down another Canadian National line in the north of that province.

The protests are against natural gas, which – as we have noted previously – provides significant environmental benefits over other sources of energy:

  • Nearly one-fifth of total U.S. emissions savings since 2010 have been the result of coal-to-gas switching, according to the analysis, according to a report from the International Energy Agency (IEA).
  • Globally, the IEA said more than 500 million tons of CO2 emissions have been avoided in the past decade as a result of increased use of natural gas.
  • The U.S. Energy Information Administration says energy-related carbon emissions are about 13 percent below 2005 levels as a result of increased use of natural gas for power generation.
  • This trend is expected to continue, with the EIA predicting natural gas to help drive a 2 percent decrease in energy-related carbon emissions.

It is time for Canadian authorities to move forward with the pipeline project – and ensure the safe transport of Canadian citizens and goods via rail lines.