Course:CONS200/2019/Support and opposition to the TransCanada Coastal Gaslink Pipeline in BC What are the arguments for and against

From UBC Wiki

The highly controversial and much debated Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline is a proposed project that will, as TransCanada has described it, safely deliver natural gas from the Dawson Creek area of northern B.C. to a facility near Kitimat, B.C. This natural gas will then be converted to a liquid form for export [1]. The pipeline will be approximately 670 kilometres in length, and the proposed route has been determined with careful consideration of all those who may be affected by it [2].

Mapped Route of the Coastal GasLink Pipeline by TransCanada Corporation via Coastal GasLink Pipeline Project.

There are several stakeholders involved in this project, from companies like TransCanada and LNG Canada, to government entities. This pipeline project has also seen many citizens and groups of people voicing their opinions, one prominent example being the Wet'suwet'en people, a group of First Nations peoples living in northwestern B.C.

The proposed pipeline will contribute to economic growth through the creation of 2,000 to 2,500 well-paying jobs, and it will increase local spending as well as tax revenues [3]. It is also seen as a convenient and reliable way of transporting supplies while lowering emissions [4]. However, there has been a lot of criticism surrounding the environmental and social consequences that the pipeline will create. Threats to waterways, air quality and wildlife have been predicted and need to be fully investigated in order to be properly understood. The pipeline also poses threats to further climate change, with the possibility of contaminating groundwater sources of areas in the vicinity of the LNG plant in Kitimat, as well as an increase in the release of nitrogen oxide emissions [5] [6]. In terms of social consequences, it has been brought up that the pipeline project ignores Indigenous rights and their treaty agreements.

Stakeholders in This Issue

First Nations

The project for the Coastal Gaslink was announced in June 2012, following this announcements there have been multiple interactions in between the First Nations groups which may be affected by the pipeline and Coastal Gaslink. In September of 2018 Coastal Gaslink reported having signed agreements with all 20 First Nations who may be impacted by the pipeline.[7] The agreements signed were designed specifically for each community and provided indigenous groups with job opportunities and sources of revenue lasting beyond the construction of the pipeline. These agreements were signed by the elected chiefs of each nation.[8]

First Nations have traditionally been self-governed through hereditary chiefs. Hereditary chiefs represent a long-standing tradition and culture of governance within first nations. However, the introduction of the Indian Act in 1876 forced communities to elect leaders.[9] First Nations in Canada now have both forms of leadership, the hereditary chiefs carry the responsibility of ensuring traditions, culture and protocols are respected and passed down to future generations, whilst the elected chiefs are accountable to the federal government.

Costal Gaslink still faces opposition from First Nations as the elected chiefs and hereditary chiefs do not represent or share the same interest. This has led to complications in the construction of the pipeline in areas which cross Wet'suwet'en territory.

Wet'suwet'en Nation

The proposed Coastal Gaslink project would run through 190km of Wet’suwet’en territory.[10] This has caused many issues within the Wet’suwet’en nation as the Wet’suwet’en have a term known as “yintahk”, this term embodies a world view the Wet’suwet’en live by. Through this world view the Wet’suwet’en nation does not see themselves as separate from nature or their territories, they are owned by the land just as much as they own the land. The Wet’suwet’en nation therefore has a duty to be stewards of the land and protect its resources.

The construction of the Coastal Gaslink Pipeline will cause damage to the Wet’suwet’en territory and its resources which goes against their world view of yintahk. The Wet'suwet'en nation therefore sees this as an infringement on the Wet’suwet’en title, rights and culture.[11]


LNG Canada

Arguably the most major stakeholder in this pipeline project is LNG Canada, the company responsible for the entire project. Within LNG Canada are multiple other companies; namely Shell, PETRONAS, PetroChina, Mitshubi and KOGAS [12]. These 5 companies are described as being companies at the forefront of innovative LNG production and transportation to the markets.

TransCanada Corporation

TransCanada is a pipeline company that LNG Canada hired to run the Coastal GasLink Pipeline project [13]. They are responsible for designing the pipeline, building and operating it.


The National Energy Board

The National Energy Board (NEB) is a federal regulatory agency that is responsible for approving, or not, the construction, operation and abandonment of pipeline projects [14]. The NEB is responsible for the environmental assessment that is done before major projects are approved for construction.

Benefits of the Pipeline

Economic Benefits

Job Creation

Economic growth is one of the largest arguments in support of the implementation of the TransCanada Coastal Gaslink Pipeline in BC. The gas link's online informational page boasts, “Coastal GasLink is so much more than a proposed natural gas pipeline; it is a mass economic opportunity for the country at large and B.C. at a local level.” [15] Said economic growth will come through several avenues including job creation, increased local spending, and tax revenue generated from the project. The long term monetary benefits that come with the construction of such a project are indubitable. As leader of the conservative party, Andrew Scheer said, “Give a province $1.6 billion and you might feed them for a couple weeks, but let them build a pipeline to get our energy to market and you’ll feed them for a generation.” [16]

Job Creation & Jobs for Indigenous Peoples

By allowing more Canadians to secure well paying jobs, their income is able to be invested back into our country’s economy through personal expenses that support their personal lifestyle. This economic gain adds to overall prosperity as a nation and benefits cities and local businesses. According to Natural Resources Canada, in 2017 Canada’s energy sector directly employed more than 276,000 people and indirectly supported over 624,000 jobs. The project will support the growth of this sector that is already providing plenty of job opportunities for pipeline workers, suppliers, contractors and other businesses from across Canada. The expansion project provides job opportunities for several stakeholders including Indigenous groups, communities, companies, industry associations and other parties along the pipeline route. [17] As claimed by Coastal Gaslink, this project will create “an estimated 2,000 to 2,500 high quality, well-paying jobs [over] the four year construction period and 16 to 35 permanent positions during operation.”[15] These positions will require a wide variety of specializations from labourers and equipment operators, to skilled tradespersons and project managers. Further, several jobs will be created for local indigenous people as, “construction will also requir[e] Aboriginal and local resources for right-of-way clearing, gravel processing, access road development, camp and storage site preparation, materials hauling, right-of-way grading, pipeline ditching, site clean-up and reclamation.” [15] It is said that, “more than one-third of all field work will be conducted by Indigenous Peoples” and since the project was announced in 2012, they’ve held more than “15,000 engagements with Indigenous groups to listen to their views, gather feedback and plan a route” [15]. On the whole, the construction of the TransCanada Coastal Gaslink Pipeline will create jobs which will intern support the growth of both the local and national economy.

Local Spending and Local Economic Benefit in Northern BC

With the proposed route which will run from the Dawson Creek area to the proposed LNG Canada facility near Kitimat, B.C., construction will create demand in local surrounding local economies for “construction and maintenance equipment, food services, accommodation and more in the local market.” [15] It is proposed that projected construction costs are over $6.2 billion, with at least 32 percent of that spend taking place in BC. Further, after construction is complete, additional $42 million is forecast to be spent each year, mainly in B.C.[15]. Although there has been some resistance to construction at a local level, the company behind a controversial pipeline project has actually gained the support of many local workers; “Coastal GasLink has been holding a series of job fairs and networking events this year in northern towns and Indigenous communities to connect job seekers with contractors involved in the pipeline's construction.” (Wilson, 2019)[18] In fact, it seems as though, prospective workers outweigh protesters, claims pipeline company representative Suzanne Wilton. It is evident that despite downsides, local British Columbians are aware of the benefits that the pipeline will afford them and their local economy in the long run.

Tax Revenues

Tax Revenues gained from the project are estimated to be “$20.88 million in annual property tax” [19] which will benefit and support community services such as fire protection, policing, schools, hospital districts and waste management. This is an added benefit to the local community in Northern British Columbia.

Convenient Transport of Supplies

Pipelines are responsible for only 1% of emissions.

Crude oil, water and natural gas is transported over great distances from Canadian regions to processing plants and refineries[20]. These useful sources of energy are converted into fuels such as diesel, gasoline, as well as clean regulated water. They are then distributed to homes and businesses, since these materials are beyond valuable for human survival. This energy plays a large and impactful role on the average Canadian's life. They heat homes, businesses and public places, as well as power vehicles, and create and manufacture products that are used by people on a daily basis. Pipelines are able quickly and safely transport large quantities of necessary materials to individuals. The Canadian Energy Pipeline Association's member companies transported 3 million barrels of oil each day through pipelines[20]. Pipelines operate 24/7 underground, and are able to transport crude oil and other materials that would fill 15 000 truckloads and 4200 rail cars[20].


It is described by the CEPA that pipelines are more cost effective than other transportation options such as rail and truckloads. Pipelines are known to have a lower carbon footprint [20].

Decreases Greenhouse Gas Emissions

TransCanada strongly states that their ongoing goal is to responsibly manage their environmental footprint, meaning that they will reduce land consumption and water usage[21]. Pipeline experts state that pipelines are able to lower greenhouse gas emissions, and ultimately protect the environment from pollution. A decrease in greenhouse gas emissions is necessary to establish positive changes to our climate and environment, and pipelines are seen as the most efficient option regarding this issue for transporting natural gas. The alternate option would be more expensive transportation such as trains. The Coastal GasLink claims to safely deliver natural gas, since it is one of earth’s cleanest energy sources, which is used to heat homes and manage household appliances. The GasLink would allow British Columbia to replace higher carbon emitting fuels such as coal, ultimately reducing global greenhouse gas emissions [22]. The CEPA has multiple strategies to reduce greenhouse gas production, which results in Canada only being responsible for less than 2% of greenhouse gas emissions across the globe. It is proven through Environment Canada that factors such as manufacturing, electricity, waste disposal, road transportation, residential and agriculture contributes to Canada's entire percentage of emissions. Pipelines only take up 1% of , meaning that if materials were to be transported via rail, greenhouse gas emissions would increase.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Greenhouse gases trap heat, and are caused by all human activity. The largest source of emissions is from burning fossil fuels in order to produce electricity, transportation, and heat[23]. The transportation sector brings about the largest portion of gas emissions in Canada, from burning fossil fuels for vehicles. A greater amount of greenhouse gases result in air pollution, harm to ecosystems and water pollution. Other methods of transportation would result in a higher portion of gas emissions than pipelines produce. First of all, the combustion of natural gas produces extensive amounts of sulfur and mercury, which results in smog [24]. Secondly, oil and gas drilling disturbs natural land and ultimately harms ecosystems, including wildlife habitats such as streams and forests. Lastly, oil and gas developments are associated with health risks through water contamination, disallowing individuals to drink clean water. [24]

Oppositions to the Pipeline

Threat to Waterways, Air Quality & Wildlife

Michael Sawyer, a resident from Smithers, a town in northwestern British Columbia, is pushing for the project to be reviewed by the National Energy Board (NEB) on the grounds that it has not sufficiently been investigated with regards to potential environmental impacts. The project has been approved by a provincial environmental review; however, Sawyer, an environmental consultant, has criticized this review[25].

Environmental Assessment Process

An environmental assessment was executed in 2013 to identify potential threats that the pipeline will have. Without this assessment, the pipeline can not receive an Environmental Assessment Certificate required to construct the pipeline. In October 2014, an Environmental Assessment Certificate was issued for the project[26]. Michael Sawyer took issue with this assessment as it was done on a provincial level, by the British Columbia Environmental Assessment Office, and he argued that they did not fully investigate all the potential environmental risks that the pipeline may create. Potential environmental impacts include a decline in air, water and land quality, as well as negative effects on wildlife, vegetation and fish [27].

Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) Plants: Threats to Waterways & Air Quality

The pipeline will be transporting natural gas to the LNG facility located near Kitimat, B.C., where it is then liquified. This is done as it is easier to store in this state, as well as transport in ocean tankers[28].

It has, however, been estimated by a northwest B.C. environmental organization that this LNG plant will lead to an increase in the release of nitrogen oxide above existing levels. This area could see an increase of up to 500 percent above their existing levels[29]. These emissions could lead to the creation of acid rain which causes a number of negative side effects. Acid rain harms waterways and fish, as well as creates smog, which in turn causes respiratory problems for children and elderly people[30].

Possible negative impacts for air quality were investigated by the SkeenaWild Conservation Trust in their report, “Air Advisory: The Air Quality Impacts of Liquified Natural Gas Operations Proposed for Kitimat, B.C.”[31]. The report pointed out possible increase in emissions of volatile organic compounds, namely carbon monoxide and sulphur dioxide, in the Kitimat area. They concluded that it is vital that the public be more aware of the potential environmental and health impacts of these LNG plants, and that they will be the ones who have to bear the burden of potential consequences.

Endangered Caribou Herds

Caribou herds are being severely threatened in B.C. Sawyer is arguing that these caribou herds will go extinct if the pipeline is built. This is due to clearing of their habitat, boreal forests in Northern B.C, which is rich in biodiversity, and home to various other species also vulnerable to extinction. This caribou species is one that is supposed to be under the protection of the Species At Risk Act[32], but is directly threatened by the construction of the pipeline.

Habitat Destruction: Clearing

As with the above-mentioned caribou herds, construction of the pipeline interrupts multiple natural systems that exist in the proposed areas. Habitats destroyed will render species vulnerable, forcing them to relocate or potentially die out.

The Coastal GasLink Pipeline Project website describes their plans for clearing. TransCanada secured rights to strips of land, otherwise known as right-of-way, prior to construction. This is the area that the pipeline will be constructed on. It is stated that about 10 metres of land across the pipeline will be managed, and that vegetation will be regularly cleared [33]. While the pipeline will be underground, there will be valve sites and compressor stations visible. These may become boundaries for animals in these areas, interrupting their typical flows of movement, and changing their habitats. For caribou herds, a keystone species in this area, this may change the way the entire ecosystem functions.

Fracking: Potential Impacts on Water Resources and Public Health

Fracking wells in northeastern B.C. by Garth Lenz via The Narwhal.

Fracking is a very water-intensive process, and one that requires large amounts of clean water. In the process, much of this water is wasted. Studies done at Stanford on fracking have found that the process can also contaminate groundwater, thus threatening the safety of drinking water for the residents of the area of the LNG plant in Kitimat [34]. As a result of this contamination, the health of the public is then put at risk.

Effect of LNG on Climate Change

LNG has been promoted as a less carbon-intensive form of energy than coal. There is truth in this statement in that less carbon is emitted when burning natural gas, however, what has been called “fugitive emissions” that are lost in the atmosphere during extraction and transportation has been highlighted [35]. These fugitive emissions threaten BC’s hopes and plans of reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the future.


This project has several contradictory arguments for and against its construction. Those who are in support of the pipeline argue that it will bring mass economic benefit through job creation, local spending, and tax revenues. Further, TransCanada Corporation, the company responsible for this project, have stated that this method of natural gas transportation is more favourable when compared to that of rail or road. However, there have been environmentalists who argue against the proposed “environmental consciousness” of the project, stating that not all of the risks are being investigated.

To fully take a stance on the pipeline project, it is important to note all of the contrasting views and consider them before coming to a decision.


  1. TransCanada Corporation. Coastal GasLink, TransCanada. Retrieved on 8 February 2019.
  2. TransCanada Corporation. Pipeline Route, Coastal GasLink Pipeline Project. Retrieved on 30 March 2019.
  3. TransCanada Corporation. Economic Benefits, Coastal GasLink Pipeline Project. Retrieved on 8 February 2019.
  4. The Narwhal. B.C. LNG and Fracking - News and Information. Retrieved on 12 February 2019.
  5. TransCanada Corporation. Environmental Assessment Process, Coastal GasLink Pipeline Project. Retrieved on 8 February 2019.
  6. The Canadian Press. Will LNG industry increase air pollution in northern B.C.?, CBC, 22 November 2018. Retrieved on 8 February 2019.
  7. Coastal Gaslink. Relations/ Aboriginal Relations. Retrieved 26 March 2019.
  8. Coastal Gaslink. Relations/ Aboriginal Relations. Retrieved 26 March 2019.
  9. Indigenous Corporate Training inc. Hereditary Chief. Retrieved 28 March 2019.
  10. Wetsuweten. Title and Rights and Coastal Gaslink. Retrieved 30 March 2019.
  11. Wetsuweten. Title and Rights and Coastal Gaslink. Retrieved 30 March 2019.
  12. LNG Canada. The Companies behind LNG Canada. Retrieved 30 March 2019.
  13. TransCanada. About TransCanada. Retrieved on 30 March 2019.
  14. National Energy Board. What does the NEB do?. Retrieved 30 March 2019.
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 15.3 15.4 15.5 "Economic Benefits". Costal Gaslink. 2019.
  16. Audette-Longo, Trish (2018). "As pipelines, oil tensions divide Canadians, Trudeau pledges commitment to unity".
  17. "More Jobs and a Stronger Economy". 2019.
  18. "Prospective workers outweigh protesters, claims pipeline company rep". 2018.
  19. "Economic Benefits". 2019.
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 20.3 "Oil and Gas on the Move: It's what Pipelines do Best!". About Pipelines. 2012.
  21. "A Bold, Bright Energy Future: Strategies". TransCanada. 2019.
  22. "Coastal GasLink Pipelines Project Benefits". GasLink. 2019.
  23. "Sources of Greenhouse Gas Emissions". Environmental Protection Agency. 2016.
  24. 24.0 24.1 "Environmental Impacts of Natural Gas". Union of Concerned Scientists. 2013.
  25. Link, Ron. Northwest rises up against pipeline challenger, Terrace Standard, 31 October 2018. Retrieved on 8 February 2019.
  26. TransCanada Corporation. Environmental Assessment Process, Coastal GasLink Pipeline Project. Retrieved on 1 April 2019.
  27. TransCanada Corporation. Environmental Assessment Process, Coastal GasLink Pipeline Project. Retrieved on 1 April 2019.
  28. TransCanada Corporation. The more you know about LNG, the more Coastal GasLink makes sense, Coastal GasLink Pipeline Project. Retrieved on 1 April 2019.
  29. The Canadian Press. Will LNG industry increase air pollution in northern B.C.?, CBC, 22 November 2018. Retrieved on 8 February 2019.
  30. The Canadian Press. Will LNG industry increase air pollution in northern B.C.?, CBC, 22 November 2018. Retrieved on 8 February 2019.
  31. The Canadian Press. Will LNG industry increase air pollution in northern B.C.?, CBC, 22 November 2018. Retrieved on 8 February 2019.
  32. Lavoie, Judith. How this man's legal challenge could stall LNG Canada, The Narwhal, 2 October 2018. Retrieved on 10 February 2019.
  33. TransCanada Corporation. Coastal GasLink Pipeline Project. Retrieved on 31 March 2019.
  34. Cox, Sarah. LNG Canada project called a 'tax giveaway' as B.C. approves massive subsidies , The Narwhal, 3 October 2018. Retrieved on 10 February 2019.
  35. The Narwhal. B.C. LNG and Fracking - News and Information. Retrieved on 12 February 2019.

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This conservation resource was created by Will. It is shared under a CC-BY 4.0 International License.