Environmentalist are attacking a Canadian oil pipeline approved by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, a self-proclaimed climate change warrior.
Activists with the Oceans Society and Raincoast Conservation Foundation filed a lawsuit Tuesday challenging the approval of the Kinder Morgan Trans-Mountain pipeline, a $6.8-billion project tripling the capacity of the northern Alberta-to-Burnaby pipeline system to nearly 1 million barrels of oil a day.
The group believes that the project could threaten the natural habitat of the area’s killer whales.
“We have consistently said that approving this project is approving the probable extinction of the Southern Resident killer whales,” Paul Paquet, a Raincoast Conservation Foundation senior scientist, said in a press statement Tuesday.
The Trans-Mountain expansion project was not considered a controversial project at the time, because it follows an already existing line that has been shipping oil from northern Alberta to the coast of British Columbia for decades.
Trudeau, for his part, believes the project is an important cog in the effort to keep Canada’s carbon emission levels low.
“What we need to make sure we are doing is that we are keeping it efficient, we are keeping it responsible environmentally and we are preventing it from going above that cap,” the Canadian prime minister said at a conference in response to a question about how pipelines square with Canada’s status as a leader on climate change.
“Putting in a pipeline is a way of preventing oil by rail, which is more dangerous and more expensive,” he said, “The pipelines are very much integrated into our Pan-Canadian framework on fighting climate change.”
Oil leaks from pipelines are safer than leaks created by train derailments and truck wrecks, namely because of the difference in safety measures, according to a study conducted in 2015 by the Fraser Institute, a think tank in Canada.
Moving oil and gas by pipeline in Canada, the researchers noted, was 4.5 times safer between 2003-2013, than moving the same volume the same distance by rail.
Still, the pipeline’s approval could eat into the efficacy of Trudeau’s image as an environmentalist.
Trudeau approved the line’s expansion in November on the same day he rejected an attempt to build the Northern Gateway pipeline, which had become a lightning rod for controversy.
His comments on the country’s pipelines, as well as its tar sands, have raised the ire of Canadian environmentalists.
“There isn’t a country in the world that would find billions of barrels of oil and just leave it in the ground while there is a market for it,” Trudeau told reporters at a press conference announcing the approval.