The B.C. government has delivered another blow to the Kinder Morgan pipeline twinning project. The province announced plans Tuesday morning to put a restriction on the amount of diluted bitumen that can be transported by pipeline or rail until the province can better understand the ability to mitigate spills.
“The potential for a diluted bitumen spill already poses significant risk to our inland and coastal environment and the thousands of existing tourism and marine harvesting jobs,” said B.C. Environment Minister George Heyman. “British Columbians rightfully expect their government to defend B.C.’s coastline and our inland waterways, and the economic and environmental interests that are so important to the people in our province, and we are working hard to do just that.”
Any restriction on the flow of diluted bitumen, or dilbit as it is known, would prohibit an expansion of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline.
The government is launching an independent scientific panel in February that will be responsible for determining whether the province has the ability to clean up spills. The estimate is the report could take about two years to complete.
The government wants specific research on the effects of a spill in B.C. and is also seeking consultation with industry, first nations and the public.
The announcement comes as part of the province’s second phase of regulations to improve response and recovery of potential spills. The government is still looking at how it will enforce a measure to restrict the flow of dilbit.
“We will have all sorts of suggestions from people on how to implement this, on how to enforce it if we do and what the stands should be,” said Heyman.
The federal government has approved the Kinder Morgan pipeline twinning. The $7.4-billion project will expand an existing 1,150-kilometre pipeline between Edmonton and Burnaby. The expansion would see three times more bitumen moved to the B.C. coast everyday and a seven-fold increase in tanker traffic.
Before Tuesday’s announcement, Kinder Morgan was expected to have the project completed by Dec. 2020 depending on regulatory, permit and legal approvals.
Tuesday’s announcement has widespread support from the Green Party, environmental and First Nation groups that oppose the pipeline twinning.
Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver took to Twitter to applaud Heyman and the government.
“I am please to see Minister Heyman putting evidence and science front and centre in decision making,” said Weaver in a statement.
Environmental groups were quick to point out this seems to them to look like an end to the Trans Mountain pipeline twinning.
“If the B.C. government enforces this and backs their words up with action it should be the nail in the coffin for Kinder Morgan, it is a real signal that the B.C. government is throwing up road blocks to this project,” said Torrance Coste, Vancouver Island campaigner for the Wilderness committee. “It’s a very bad day for Kinder Morgan and a good day for the rest of us.”
The province also announcing Tuesday the review will look at spill response times, geographic response plans and compensation for loss of public and cultural use of land in the case of a spill.
Alberta premier fires back
Alberta Premier Rachel Notley says the B.C. government is “grasping at straws” in an attempt to stop the pipeline expansion. Notley says B.C. is playing political games with the project and could put thousands of jobs in jeopardy by unfairly delaying or blocking the project.
“The BC Government has every right to consult on whatever it pleases with its citizens. It does not have the right to re-write our constitution & assume powers for itself that it does not have,” said Notley in a statement posted on Twitter. “Job creators need to be able to trust law makers. Today’s announcement suggest that in BC they cannot. British Columbians – indeed all Canadians – deserve better.”