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Professor in a tree over TransMountain Pipeline vows not to come down

Lynda V. Mapes, The Seattle Times on

Published in News & Features

SEATTLE -- At 63, professor Tim Takaro didn't see himself as a tree sit protester.

But now he's living 82 feet up in the air on a sling between two cottonwoods, in a one-man protest against the expansion of the TransMountain Pipeline.

Takaro is a Vancouver-area physician and professor of health sciences on sabbatical from Simon Fraser University. He has published studies about the health risks of the pipeline expansion, spoken at review hearings for the project and petitioned his government to stop it. So far, to no avail.

The estimated $12 billion to $15 billion project was purchased by the Canadian government from developer Kinder Morgan in 2018.

The expansion twins an existing pipeline from Alberta to British Columbia, nearly tripling the capacity to move tar sands oil from the interior of the country to the sea, with the goal of capturing better prices in overseas markets. The expansion is well underway, with an estimated 5,000 people at work on the project, despite multiple court challenges and the steadfast opposition to the project in B.C., including from many First Nations.

"So I find myself up a tree," Takaro said in a phone interview Friday.

 

He's living in tent pitched on a fold-out shelf, suspended from a line slung between cottonwoods right in the path of the planned expansion. The trees along the Burnett River in New Westminster just outside the Vancouver area are scheduled to be cut for the pipeline project between now and Sept. 15 -- so Takaro decided to do what he could to save the trees, and the planet.

He set up his tree sit last week in a grove southeast of where the Trans-Canada Highway crosses North Road in Burnaby. He has been up there since, supplied by supporters on the ground. So far, no police have come. A security guard from the pipeline stopped by briefly Friday, but soon left.

"We understand there are a variety of views regarding the TransMountain Expansion Project and respect the right to peaceful, lawful expressions of opinion," a spokesperson for TransMountain wrote in an email to The Seattle Times on Friday.

The company maintains the pipeline is safe and a boost to the Canadian energy industry and customers, including in Washington, that depend on products refined from Canadian dilbit, or diluted bitumen oil. That includes gasoline and jet fuel made at Washington refineries supplied by a spur from the pipeline that crosses the border at Sumas, Whatcom County.

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