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Trudeau Pledges Taxpayer Money, New Laws to Salvage Controversial Pipeline

Protest in Burnaby Mountain in BC on April 7. Protect the Inlet / Flickr

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Sunday he is ready to offer financial aid and new legislation to push forward the contentious Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion that will triple production of tar sands going from Alberta to British Columbia.

Houston-based developer Kinder Morgan has threatened to scrap the $7.4 billion (USD $5.9 billion) project unless political and legal opposition is resolved by May 31. The energy giant's move came after fierce opposition from environmental activists and Indigenous groups, as well as escalating tension between the Albertan and British Columbian governments.


But after a meeting with the premiers of Alberta and British Columbia on Sunday, Trudeau insisted the project will go ahead.

"The Trans Mountain pipeline expansion is of vital strategic interest to Canada," he said. "It will be built."

"I have instructed the minister of finance to initiate formal financial discussions with Kinder Morgan, the result of which will be to remove the uncertainty overhanging the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project," Trudeau noted.

Trudeau added that he is seeking federal jurisdiction over the pipeline "We are actively pursuing legislative options that will assert and reinforce the government of Canada's jurisdiction in this matter," he said.

But British Columbia's Horgan said after the meeting he will continue to fight the pipeline expansion due to the threat of oil spills in the province.

"My obligation is to the people of B.C., and I will defend that until I am no longer premier," Horgan said Sunday.

However, he said he will back down if the court rules against his government, the Globe and Mail reported.

In a statement from the Protect the Inlet initiative, the Indigenous-led group reminds the federal government that Kinder Morgan's project does not have their consent.

"The Prime Minister is saying they are in negotiations with Kinder Morgan to ensure an end to uncertainty. What he is ignoring is that we are the uncertainty. We will not be bought and we will block this pipeline," Will George, Watch House guardian and project leader, said.

Greenpeace Canada's climate and energy campaigner Mike Hudema also commented, "If Trudeau believes he can ram this pipeline through, he is misreading both the constitution and the electorate, while underestimating the opposition on the ground."

"Bailing out failing projects, strong-arming Indigenous communities by ignoring their right to consent, and bypassing calls for science-based decision making are ways to create a crisis, not solve one," he said.

Kinder Morgan told Reuters it would not comment on Trudeau's remarks "until we've reached a sufficiently definitive agreement on or before May 31 that satisfies our objectives."

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A second U.S. jury has ruled that Roundup causes cancer.

The unanimous verdict was announced Tuesday in San Francisco in the first federal case to be brought against Monsanto, now owned by Bayer, alleging that repeated use of the company's glyphosate-containing weedkiller caused the plaintiff's cancer. Seventy-year-old Edwin Hardeman of Santa Rosa, California said he used Roundup for almost 30 years on his properties before developing non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

The decision comes less than a year after a jury awarded $289 million to Bay-area groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson over similar claims. The amount was later reduced to $78 million.

"Today's verdict reinforces what another jury found last year, and what scientists with the state of California and the World Health Organization have concluded: Glyphosate causes cancer in people," Environmental Working Group President Ken Cook said in a statement. "As similar lawsuits mount, the evidence will grow that Roundup is not safe, and that the company has tried to cover it up."

Judge Vince Chhabria has split Hardeman's trial into two phases. The first, decided Tuesday, focused exclusively on whether or not Roundup use caused the plaintiff's cancer. The second, to begin Wednesday, will assess if Bayer is liable for damages.

"We are disappointed with the jury's initial decision, but we continue to believe firmly that the science confirms glyphosate-based herbicides do not cause cancer," Bayer spokesman Dan Childs said in a statement reported by The Guardian. "We are confident the evidence in phase two will show that Monsanto's conduct has been appropriate and the company should not be liable for Mr. Hardeman's cancer."

Some legal experts said that Chhabria's decision to split the trial was beneficial to Bayer, Reuters reported. The company had complained that the jury in Johnson's case had been distracted by the lawyers' claims that Monsanto had sought to mislead scientists and the public about Roundup's safety.

However, a remark made by Chhabria during the trial and reported by The Guardian was blatantly critical of the company.

"Although the evidence that Roundup causes cancer is quite equivocal, there is strong evidence from which a jury could conclude that Monsanto does not particularly care whether its product is in fact giving people cancer, focusing instead on manipulating public opinion and undermining anyone who raises genuine and legitimate concerns about the issue," he said.

Many regulatory bodies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, have ruled that glyphosate is safe for humans, but the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer found it was "probably carcinogenic to humans" in 2015. A university study earlier this year found that glyphosate use increased cancer risk by as much as 41 percent.

Hardeman's lawyers Jennifer Moore and Aimee Wagstaff said they would now reveal Monsanto's efforts to mislead the public about the safety of its product.

"Now we can focus on the evidence that Monsanto has not taken a responsible, objective approach to the safety of Roundup," they wrote in a statement reported by The Guardian.

Hardeman's case is considered a "bellwether" trial for the more than 760 glyphosate cases Chhabria is hearing. In total, there are around 11,200 such lawsuits pending in the U.S., according to Reuters.

University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias told Reuters that Tuesday's decision showed that the verdict in Johnson's case was not "an aberration," and could possibly predict how future juries in the thousands of pending cases would respond.


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