Meet Rachel : Our Eyes And Ears Behind Pulse Check

June 5, 2017

For the past two months, Rachel Chapman has been the eyes on the ground for Pulse Check, Communica’s bi-monthly newsletter focusing on activities of supporters and critics surrounding Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Expansion Project (TMEP). Rachel has attended numerous rallies and events. Being at the forefront of the discourse on TMEP gives her a unique opportunity to access the people driving the conversations surrounding TMEP.

Q: What perspective does being on the ground give you vs. reading information online?
A: Attending the events allows me to make a more informed analysis, as the activities related to the project are far more nuanced than what is reported on in traditional media. I am able to see the whole picture and provide my own interpretation and analysis instead of reading others’ interpretations online. As an advocate for industry, I find I have a different perspective than much of what is reported. I am also able to ask questions and receive in-depth answers. Sometimes I act as a silent observer and other times I directly engage with speakers and attendees. It is really interesting to hear their personal motivations for being so active in opposing the project. Being on the ground also gives me a better sense of the mood surrounding the event. For instance, following the BC election, the atmosphere of the events felt increasingly optimistic as leaders who opposed the project hold the balance of power. Being able to incorporate that perspective in Pulse Check offers great insight that you just can’t glean from online sources.

Q: What is the most challenging aspect of working on Pulse Check?
A: The most challenging aspect of working on Pulse Check is doing the analysis. It’s not enough to just summarize what I’ve seen. I want to consider how what I am seeing affects the project and the opposition’s discourse on TMEP, and more importantly, what the subscribers of Pulse Check need to know. It is important to focus on the needs of my audience so I can provide an analysis that will be a useful tool for them. Though it is the most difficult part of my job,the analysis is what differentiates Pulse Check from other news sources and is therefore the most rewarding aspect of my work.

Q: What role has social media played surrounding the TMEP?
A: Social media has played a critical role for the project’s opposition. It is a platform for people to express their views and makes it free and easy to promote events. Hundreds of people showed up at the Walk for the Salish Sea [from May25 to 28], and during the walk people tweeted live updates of where they were so that others could join in. Another way it has been important is in the spreading of information. A lot of what is posted on social media demonstrates the power and influence of false information. We live in an era of alternative facts, and there is a great need for more significant balanced and neutral voices on social media. The issue of pipeline safety is a perfect example. There are numerous concerns about an oil spill, but as we know this will be one of the safest and closely monitored pipelines in the country. We, as industry representatives, should consider how we can do more to educate people about the measures that will be in place.

Q: What has been the most surprising thing you have witnessed on the ground?
A: I often hear protestors saying that we need to switch to renewable energy sources. I agree, renewable energy is an important option for Canada to meet its climate action targets. However, a lot of people fail to recognize that we cannot make this switch overnight. This pipeline fits into Canada’s long-term energy transition strategy and will allow us the time and revenue to invest in energy alternatives. I also find it interesting that while people are so opposed to it,there is little regard for how integral fossil fuels are to our society and day-to-day life. Everything from our cell phones we use to Tweet about these opposition rallies to the sunscreen we use in the summer to our bikes we ride to lessen our environmental footprint – all are made using petroleum products.

Q: Based on your research, what do you think will happen to the TMEP moving forward with the new BC government?
A: I believe the TMEP will still move forward. The political environment is very unsettled in BC right now but the project is under federal jurisdiction and has already received a number of the necessary permits and approvals. I think if the pipeline was really as dangerous as the opponents say, it would not have gotten this far in the approval process. The new provincial government could impede the project by withholding permits and dragging out the process, but ultimately I believe the project will move forward.


To continue to follow Rachel’s attendance at TMEP events and see her analysis, stay tuned to Pulse Check. You can signup here for your monthly subscription. Her fresh perspective and bird’s eye view will provide you with the in-depth information about the supporters and critics shaping the conversation about the project. For a peek at what she’s done thus far, check out the May first and second and editions.