VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – The BC government is creating a huge hurdle for Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline.
Environment Minister George Heyman has tabled a proposal to restrict any increase in diluted bitumen shipments until more spill response studies are done.
He explains he’s not convinced oil transporters are prepared to clean up a heavy oil spill, so an independent scientific advisory panel will be set up to gather input from the public and various stakeholders — including First Nations — before any recommendations are made.
“The people of BC need to know that there is effective spill management across the province and, in particular, for our most environmentally sensitive areas, including coastlines,” says Heyman in a statement.
This would apply to any pipeline, train or truck operator transporting more than 10,000 litres of liquid petroleum products.
The proposed ban creates more questions about the future of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline project, that would almost triple the capacity of the system to 890 thousand barrels of oil a day.
“Our point has always been, we don’t think this is a good project,” Heyman tells the Canadian Press. “We don’t think it’s a good project for BC’s interests or the national interest. We think the potential damage to our economy, our environment, our coasts and First Nations interests is huge.”
There was no specific mention of the Trans Mountain pipeline in Heyman’s news release.
‘Grasping at straws’: Alberta’s premier responds
Alberta Premier Rachel Notley did not mince words as she expressed her opposition to Heyman’s proposal.
“Having run out of tools in the toolbox, the government of BC is now grasping at straws,” Notley told reporters at a hastily-called news conference in Edmonton.
“This is clearly the government of BC overreaching, by far, to try to undo a decision that has already been made appropriately by the right authority.”
Notley went as far as to call the move “both illegal and unconstitutional.”
She adds that rash decisions on the part of government send a message that “the rules are not what they might seem, and therefore jeopardize investment decisions and hundreds of thousands of jobs across a range of important industries.”
Notley says she will wait to hear a response from Premier Horgan when he returns to Canada from his Asian trade mission.
“This is bad. This is bad for British Columbians, this is bad for Albertans, this is bad for Canadians.”
Kinder Morgan, business groups respond
In a statement, Kinder Morgan says it will “actively participate” in the government’s engagement and feedback process. But it also makes it clear the expansion has already been approved by the federal government, which is satisfied with spill response plans already in place.
Meanwhile, the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association (ICBA), a resource sector advocate, is calling for federal authorities to reject the proposal outright.
“It’s time to get to work on this project. This pipeline is in the national interest, which is why the federal cabinet approved it in the first place,” says ICBA president Chris Gardner in a statement.
“When it comes to attracting investment to BC, the provincial government is speaking out of both sides of its mouth,” Gardner adds. “In one breath, they’re in Asia, claiming that BC is open for business and is a safe, predictable place to invest. In the next, they’re putting road blocks in front of duly-approved energy projects and undermining investor confidence.”
ICBA has announced its intention to launch an email campaign to encourage Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr to push back against what they call “the BC government’s overreach and stall tactics.”
Environmental groups cheer news
In a statement, Green Party leader Andrew Weaver is applauding the government for “putting evidence and science front and centre in government decision-making where it belongs.”
He says there is simply not enough information available yet to “properly assess the risk and potential damages associated with a diluted bitumen spill in the Salish Sea.”
Greenpeace Canada is also pleased with Heyman’s proposal, calling it “a major blow to Kinder Morgan.
“The province is proposing what is, in essence, a temporary moratorium on new bitumen exports,” says campaigner Mike Hudema in a statement.
“We know bitumen and water don’t mix; when the scientific panel comes to the same conclusion, Kinder Morgan will be the owner of a brand new pipeline with no ‘on’ switch.”
The West Coast Environmental Law association is also cheering the proposal as a welcome safety measure and an important warning for Kinder Morgan.