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Getting ‘SLAPPed’ by big oil?

Burnaby man refuses to settle with Kinder Morgan, campaigning for legislation to protect democracy

Pete McMartin: Getting ‘SLAPPed’ by big oil?
A survey crew working on behalf of Kinder Morgan in preparation for the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion project records video of protesters on Burnaby Mountain after they forced the workers to leave in Burnaby, B.C., on Wednesday October 29, 2014.

Photograph by: DARRYL DYCK , THE CANADIAN PRESS

Speaking of freedom of expression — and given Paris, who hasn’t lately? — Alan Dutton found himself in B.C. Supreme Court Thursday fighting, he would say, for that same freedom on home ground.

It’s a David versus Goliath case. Dutton is David; Goliath is the giant multinational pipeline company Kinder Morgan. Dutton is armed with his sense of rights and freedoms honed over a lifetime’s work; Kinder Morgan is wielding a multi-million dollar civil lawsuit.

In late October, the company brought the suit against Dutton and four other defendants for, it claims, conspiring to intimidate Kinder Morgan crews attempting to survey Burnaby mountain for the proposed expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline.

The protests on the mountain against the work, the company claimed, caused loss of revenue. It sued for $5.6 million in damages. The five defendants were targeted because they were seen as the main organizers of the protests. Dutton ran the website for BROKE — Burnaby Residents Opposing Kinder Morgan Expansion.

The other four defendants settled out of court with Kinder Morgan.

Dutton refused.

He felt there was something greater at stake here than money: Our democratic rights.

So rather than settle with Kinder Morgan — which claims that Dutton was present during one of the heated confrontations on the mountain, and which Dutton vehemently denies — Dutton and his lawyer were in B.C. Supreme Court this week with an application to get the suit dismissed.

They failed.

Dutton’s application was dismissed late Wednesday. Kinder Morgan’s suit stands, though whether the company continues to ask for damages or just court costs is an unknown.

Not that it matters to Dutton. He still plans on fighting Kinder Morgan and taking it to court.

He and his lawyer will also see if there are grounds to appeal the dismissal.

“I have no intention of settling. If there is a court proceeding that has its own momentum that I can’t stop, I have no idea what comes next,” said Dutton.

“But there is no settling with Kinder Morgan. Kinder Morgan has dragged my name through the mud.

“But the worst part of this is that when you meet the other environmental groups, they’re going to tell you, ‘We don’t know what our rights are anymore, we don’t know if we can meet anymore, we don’t know what the limits are. When are we going to be charged? How can we have any kind of security that we can meet to talk about strategy and meet to talk about stopping Kinder Morgan? How can we have these kinds of discussions when a major transnational corporation can come and sue us?’ This is a major issue. It’s not against one person. This is something that has been used against people for a very long time.

“Democracy is under attack.”

Dutton sees Kinder Morgan’s action as a SLAPP suit — a strategic lawsuit against public participation. They’re used by corporations to intimidate or silence critics and protests against them. About half the U.S. states have legislation against them, while Quebec is the only province that does. B.C. enacted anti-SLAPP legislation in 2001, but the incoming Liberal government soon took it off the books.

“By the mere fact of being part of a protest may leave you open to being subject to a massive civil suit without any evidence of a commission of a crime or commission of conspiracy or any wrongdoing whatsoever, Canadians need to understand what can happen in cases like this, and how seriously we need to take these cases.”

Dutton’s resolve comes from a career of defending rights and fighting racism. As a student at the University of Victoria, he was involved in organizing farm workers. He was executive director of the Canadian Anti-Racism Education and Research Society. He’s taken on the Ku Klux Klan and Nazi groups. He received a Mosaic human rights award from the B.C. Attorney-General for his work combating racism. He’s taught at SFU and UVic. He’s now retired but still does consulting work in the field.

“I believe the law is fundamentally flawed,” Dutton said, “when an innocent person must face a civil suit from a major corporation simply because they organized a protest. And that’s why we need anti-SLAPP legislation in this country. In B.C., we have none, and that’s why I’m facing a $5.6 million suit.”

“I will not settle. I will not settle for money, if the money is tied to a gag order. I am going to speak about SLAPP suits (because) SLAPP suits are a major issue for the anti-racist movement, for the environmental movement, for the union movement. SLAPP suits are a fundamental part of our lives. We need to have legislation against SLAPP suits to protect our fundamental rights.”

As for what happens in the wake of Wednesday’s dismissal:

“I’d love to go to court,” he said.

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Langley Township wants to hear from residents on pipeline twinning

The Township of Langley is preparing to seek more answers about the Kinder Morgan pipeline project, and is encouraging residents who have an opinion on the project to voice their concerns.

The Township has been granted corporate intervener status in the National Energy Board’s hearing on the proposal to twin the Trans Mountain Pipeline, which runs through north Langley.

The municipality remains focused on several fundamental issues, including:

1. The potential environmental and socio-economic effects of the proposed project;

2. The suitability of the design and location of the proposed project;

3. Potential impacts of the project on landowners and land use;

4. The cost to taxpayers related to the installation and long-term operation of the pipeline;

5. Kinder Morgan’s co-operation in adhering to municipal bylaws and policies; and

6. Kinder Morgan’s accountability in adequately responding in case of an incident.

The Township will submit a request for more information to the National Energy Board by Jan. 9, 2015. Residents with relevant information regarding these issues must send their submissions to the Township before then.

Email publicinput@tol.ca or mail or deliver submissions to: Pipeline Input, c/o Township of Langley Engineering Division, 4700 – 224 Street, Langley, BC V2Z 1N4

This is the second round of public input that has been sought by the Township for submission to the National Energy Board.

In the summer, Kinder Morgan revised its corridor alignment to run through or around Redwoods Golf Course and through the industrial part of North West Langley toward Port Kells. While Kinder Morgan has responded to Township questions, more detailed responses are being sought.

For more information, contact the Township’s Engineering Division at opsinfo@tol.ca or visit tol.ca/pipelineinput.

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Concerns about pipeline expansion

Concerns about pipeline expansion

By Alex Butler - Abbotsford News

Lynn Perrin of the PIPE UP Network (Pro-Information Pro-Environment United People) spoke to council on Monday and asked where the city stands on the proposed Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion.

Perrin raised concerns about the proposal – 42-kilometers of pipeline runs through Abbotsford – which would increase its capacity from 300,000 barrels per day to 890,000.

Both PIPE UP and the city have intervener status in the upcoming National Energy Board (NEB) hearing on the proposal.

Perrin said there have been three leaks from the pipeline in Abbotsford: in 2000, 2005 and 2012.

She said that in 2005 it took a week for the spill to be found and addressed. Emergency responders didn’t know what was in the spill and weren’t in the proper response gear, she said. In 2012, the spill happened at 2:39 a.m. and emergency responders didn’t know until 9:15 a.m, said Perrin.

Perrin said the U.S. Department of Transportation has fined Kinder Morgan nearly $1 million in civil fines for breaking 27 U.S. pipeline safety rules.

Perrin requested that Abbotsford join others communities like Burnaby and Vancouver and not support the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion.

Mayor Henry Braun said the city has asked a long list of questions of Kinder Morgan – some of which are yet to be answered – and he would like to have all the information before a decision is made.

Coun. Patricia Ross said she has many concerns about the proposal and wants to see that the company is taking concerns and the potential impact seriously and “I’m not seeing that...”

But Ross said that taking a stance of full-out opposition at this time may not be the best way of approaching the issue.

Ross said they had worked with the NEB during the Sumas Energy 2 process – an American project that would have built a power plant near the border and was defeated after a large public outcry and a six-year process – and had received respect for not immediately opposing the plan.

“I believe that the reason why the city and the Fraser Valley got such a high level of respect from the NEB … is because we did not jump to opposition before all the facts were in.”

While other communities have come out in opposition to the Kinder Morgan expansion, Ross said that to be taken seriously by the NEB it is best to wait until all the information is available.

She said the Fraser Valley Regional District and city are not taking an outright position of opposition at this point, but both are “very much involved in representing the concerns of our citizens.”

Braun said there will be a report on the Kinder Morgan project coming to council with more information, as there are currently some questions from the city that have not yet been answered.

The second round of information requests must be submitted by Jan. 16, 2015 and a report will come to council on the proposal in the first quarter of 2015.

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PIPE UP Network Delegations

The PIPE UP Network recently presented delegations to the Township of Langley Mayor and Council and also the City of Abbotsford Mayor and Council:

Please click this link to view the Township of Langley Delegation - December 8, 2014:

http://tol.ca.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=140&meta_id=11344

Please click this link to view the City of Abbotsford Delegation - December 15, 2014

http://abbotsford.insinc.com/player_archive_sl.php

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