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Hummingbirds succeed in halting controversial pipeline construction

Work will stop until 21 August after the discovery of an Anna’s hummingbird nest during construction of TransMountain pipeline

An Anna’s hummingbird. The migratory bird is not endangered, but it is protected under federal law. Photograph: Mike Blake/Reuters

Activists and protesters have tried fruitlessly for years to stop the construction of the controversial TransMountain oil pipeline in western Canada.

Now, a tiny hummingbird have succeeded where others have fallen short, forcing construction on the multibillion-dollar project to halt for the next four months.

Environment and Climate Change Canada has ordered work to stop until 21 August after the discovery of an Anna’s hummingbird nest in a tree felled during construction of the pipeline.

The migratory bird is not endangered, but it is protected under federal law, and community groups in southern British Columbia had raised the alarm that TransMountain was chopping down trees in vulnerable nesting areas.

“Cutting vegetation and trees or carrying out other disruptive activities such as bulldozing or using chainsaws and heavy machinery in the vicinity of active nests will likely result in disturbance or destruction of those nests,” the department said in a statement, adding that because of the season, “migratory birds are particularly vulnerable at this time”.

Concerned residents have closely monitored construction near the city of Burnaby amid fears that protected birds and their nests were being ignored by the company as it presses ahead with construction.

“Our members have confirmed eight active nests on this site, but there are hundreds, likely thousands more bird nests along the 1,500km of the pipeline route. And yet, construction continues without adequate government monitoring or protection,” Sarah Ross from Community Nest Finding Network said in a statement.

TransMountain, which was purchased by Justin Trudeau’s government in 2018, said the stop-work order applied to a 900 meter tract of land but doesn’t impact its planned completion date in late 2022. It also plans to continue on whatever construction is still permitted under the order.

Marred by cost overruns in recent months, the C$12.6bn ($10bn) project will nearly triple capacity of the existing pipeline, moving 890,000 barrels of crude oil each day to the Pacific Ocean when complete.

In a statement, the company said it tries to clear trees outside of critical nesting seasons, but admitted “this is not always feasible”.


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