The National Energy Board (NEB) has given conditional approval of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Expansion Project.
This is Kinder Morgan’s $5.4 billion Trans Mountain pipeline project that runs from Alberta to Burnaby.
The approval comes with 157 conditions, including regulatory and/or overarching requirements as well as requirements pertaining to project engineering and safety; emergency preparedness and response; environmental protection; people, communities and lands; economics and financial responsibility; and, project-related marine shipping.
Kinder Morgan wants to triple the capacity of its line, which transports diluted bitumen, but the controversial proposal has been met with fierce opposition from environmentalists and many locals.
Burnaby Mountain has been the site of several protests.
Earlier this week, the federal government appointed a panel to conduct an environmental review of the project.
The NEB recommendation follows a public hearing process and a environmental assessment of the project.
In response to the announcement, Andrew Weaver, leader of the B.C. Green Party, said in a statement he is not surprised by the announcement that to him appeared rigged from the start.
“As a participating intervenor I watched as other intervenors withdrew in frustration because they knew their participation was futile.”
“Within the limited constraints of the NEB process I submitted nearly 500 questions to Kinder Morgan which focused primarily on the risk and impact of a potential oil spill, the scientific underpinning of the oceanographic analysis used, and the extent of consultation done by the company. It was clear that the process for this project was not about assessing the best scientific evidence, or whether it was in the interests of British Columbians, but was more of a box-ticking exercise.”
Sven Biggs, pipeline campaigner for Stand, agrees with Weaver.
“The NEB has never said no to an oil pipeline,” he said.
“The real question is what Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will do – the final decision is his. He has promised to listen to First Nations and communities, and if he does that, the very clear answer he will hear is – ‘No, this pipeline will never be built,’” added Biggs.
Alberta’s Energy Minister Margaret McCuaig-Boyd reacted positively to the NEB recommendation Thursday afternoon.
“Today’s recommendation by the National Energy Board fits a responsible national approach to energy infrastructure,” she said in a news release. “Canada is balancing the need for much stronger action on climate change with the need to pay for that action, by sustainably developing our natural resources – including our energy resources.
“Finding this balance will create jobs and economic prosperity, and help Canada overcome the current commodity price shock.”
McCuaig-Boyd also said she believes with her government’s carbon levy, as well as a plan to phase out coal and invest in renewable energy, Alberta is now a world leader in addressing climate change and that improved pipeline infrastructure plays a role in the plan.
“To pay for this important and necessary transition to a lower-carbon economy, we need to move up the value chain and we need to diversify our markets, so that we get the maximum value from the energy products that are permitted under our climate-change plan,” she said. “Today’s decision is an important step in that direction.”
While the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade “applauds” the recommendation, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson was disappointed calling the project a “threat to Vancouver’s successful economy and environment.”
“Our fragile waters here would see a seven-fold increase in oil tankers and put at risk what is Canada’s most successful city economy,” Robertson said at a press conference on Thursday afternoon.
“A catastrophic oil spill here would have a devastating impact on the city’s economy, not to mention the impact it would have on the waters and shores here in Vancouver that are revered to so many people around the world.”
Robertson said the NEB’s decision, which in his opinion left out “some of the most critical pieces of analysis”, is a call to action and will spend the coming months to vigorously advocate to the Prime Minister and his cabinet that the pipeline expansion is not in the best interest to the West Coast, Canada and First Nations communities.
However the NEB continued to tout the benefits of the expansion project.
In a statement they sited the economic benefits of “unlocking access to world markets where higher prices are paid for oil, resulting in greater tax revenue for Canada” that will result in an additional $73.5 billion in revenues; as well as creating a “safer, stronger project”.
Environment Minister Mary Polak weighed in saying the province’s position “has always been clear and consistent. We will only support new heavy-oil pipelines in British Columbia if our five conditions can be met.”
And while Polak says she’s pleased to see some of the NEB’s conditions reflect B.C.’s five conditions, meeting all five will be a challenge.
“A significant amount of work has already gone toward establishing and meeting the five conditions, but we are not yet in a position to consider support for any heavy-oil pipeline in B.C.,” Polak said in a statement.
FULL COVERAGE: Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion
Polak went on to say they set the bar high for a reason.
“We need to ensure B.C.’s concerns around the environment, First Nations’ participation and overall economic benefit are taken seriously,” Polak said.
“The responsibility for meeting the five conditions is complex and will take a great deal of effort from both industry and governments.”