Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has given the green light for a second time to a $5.5 billion pipeline expansion that has attracted strong opposition from environmentalists and some indigenous groups.
Trudeau, an ardent supporter of green energy, has found himself defending the 620-mile Trans Mountain pipeline expansion since his government first approved it in 2016. The project is meant to bring petroleum from oil sands near Edmonton, Alberta, to tanks in Burnaby near Vancouver on Canada's Pacific Coast.
Last year, opponents won a suit in Canada's Federal Court of Appeals to temporarily halt the expansion, but Trudeau's government subsequently purchased the existing 715-mile pipeline from the Canadian division of Kinder Morgan Energy Partners LP for about $3.5 billion in an effort to move the project ahead.
At Tuesday's news conference in Ottawa announcing that the project was back on, Trudeau justified the move by saying the money reaped from the pipeline would be channeled back into green projects.
"We need to create wealth today so we can invest in the future," he said. "We need resources to invest in Canadians so they can take advantage of the opportunities generated by a rapidly changing economy, here at home and around the world."
Trudeau said the pipeline would deliver oil to the Pacific Coast for shipment to Asia, reducing Canada's dependency on selling its petroleum to the United States.
Green Party Leader Elizabeth May was quoted by the CBC as calling Trudeau's promise to funnel profits from pipeline into clean energy technology a "cynical bait-and-switch that would fool no one."
"If you're serious about fighting climate change, you invest public funds in renewable energy," May said. "And there's no guarantee that this pipeline will ever turn a profit anyway."
The majority of First Nations communities have signed off on the expansion, but some still oppose it.
The expansion is designed to move nearly a million barrels of oil each day — triple the flow from the existing pipeline. That is expected also to significantly boost tanker traffic on Canada's Pacific Coast from just 60 vessels a year to more than 400, according to The Associated Press.
However, opponents of the Trans Mountain expansion warn that the risks of spills will rise dramatically.
Trudeau said he expects "shovels will be in the ground" this year.