B.C. blocks Trans Mountain pipeline application

B.C. blocks Trans Mountain pipeline application
Click to view the image full-size. Image courtesy of Kinder Morgan.

British Columbia will not issue a certificate permitting Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Expansion project over concerns about the company’s marine spill cleanup plan, or apparent lack thereof.

In their final written submission to the National Energy Board (NEB) the government’s lawyers wrote Kinder Morgan has failed to submit a plan reflecting “world-leading practices for land oil spill prevention, response and recovery systems to manage and mitigate the risks and costs of heavy-oil pipelines.”

That is one of five requirements the B.C. government laid out for new pipeline construction in the province in 2012.

“During the course of the NEB review the company has not provided enough information around its proposed spill prevention and response for the province to determine if it would use a world leading spills regime,” a government press release read. “Because of this the province is unable to support the project at this time, based on the evidence submitted.”

The Trans Mountain pipeline is a twinning project that would expand to 890,000 barrels per day the existing 300,000 barrels-per-day capacity of the 1,150-kilometre pipeline that carries oilsands bitumen from near Edmonton through the Rockies to Burnaby. It would add a new two-line link from Burnaby to the Westridge Marine Terminal.

The B.C. government, which said it requested more detailed spill response data from the company three times during the review process, will continue evaluating the project based on Kinder Morgan’s ability to meet all five requirements. The other four include:

  • Successful completion of the environmental review process. For the Trans Mountain Expansion project, that would mean a recommendation by the National Energy Board Review Panel that the project proceed;
  • World-leading practices for land oil spill prevention, response and recovery systems to manage and mitigate the risks and costs of heavy-oil pipelines;
  • Legal requirements regarding Aboriginal and treaty rights are addressed, and First Nations are provided with the opportunities, information and resources necessary to participate in and benefit from a heavy-oil project; and
  • British Columbia receives a fair share of the fiscal and economic benefits of a proposed heavy-oil project that reflect the level, degree and nature of the risk borne by the province, the environment and taxpayers.

Alberta disagrees

Premier Rachel Notley was quick to reaffirm support for the project, but not quick enough for Wildrose Opposition Leader Brian Jean.

Notley said in a press release hours after the news broke that she had written to the NEB in support of the project earlier in the day.

“Our government believes this project is good for Albertans and good for all Canadians,” she said. “It will create jobs, spur economic growth, and help fund our province’s transition to a greener, less carbon intensive economy on many levels.”

Pipelines are necessary to help limit emissions from the oilsands, part of the province’s climate change strategy. They are also necessary to help Canada get the most value for its energy exports, which are being sold to the United States at a discount.

“For Alberta to make the kind of investments necessary to transition away from a carbon intensive economy, we need to get full value for our resource exports,” she said. “Right now, we don’t.”

Notley encouraged the company to continue working with the B.C. government and used the event to soapbox about the former Conservative government, saying she would not pick fights with other Canadian jurisdictions in the media.

“We will get pipelines built by working collaboratively with other jurisdictions and having drama-free discussions about pipelines based on their merits (and) by demonstrating clearly and calmly why pipelines help every economy in the country,” Notley said.

Jean said Notley’s statement was too little, too late, accusing the NDP government of offering tacit support for pipeline projects only after they had been rejected, citing her response to President Barack Obama’s decision not to authorize the Keystone XL project.

“In a time of economic uncertainty and when tens of thousands of Albertans are looking for work, we hoped the NDP government would do everything in their power to loudly and proudly support key pipeline projects,” he said in a release. “Instead, we got weak ‘disappointment’ from Ms. Notley when the Obama administration turned down Keystone XL, and ‘shrugging off’ the B.C. government’s opposition to the Kinder Morgan expansion. Albertans deserve better.”

Trans Mountain posted a press release indicating it would work with the B.C. government to fulfill its five requirements but that they contain within them several requirements the company alone cannot satisfy.

“The conditions related to world-leading marine oil spill response, recovery and prevention, addressing Aboriginal treaty rights and BC receiving its “fair share” are all conditions that require multiple parties to come to the table and work together,” it said. “If approved by the NEB, Trans Mountain is confident that the construction and long-term operation of the project will be done to the highest standards of environmental performance, support Aboriginal communities and provide lasting benefits for British Columbians, Albertans and Canadians.”

The project could create $46.7 billion in revenue for the province and 802,000 person-years of employment over 20-plus years.

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