Alberta Premier Notley says B.C. ‘grasping at straws’ in attempt to restrict bitumen shipments

Alberta Premier Notley slams B.C. proposal to restrict shipments of diluted bitumen
WATCH ABOVE: Alberta Premier Rachel Notley slams the B.C. government's proposal to restrict shipments of diluted bitumen, calling it illegal and unconstitutional.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley did not mince words when reacting to the B.C. government’s proposal 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.

“Having run out of tools in the toolbox, the government of British Columbia is now grasping at straws,” Notley said during a news conference at the Alberta legislature Tuesday afternoon. “I’m saying it’s both illegal and unconstitutional.

“It is so far beyond the scope of what they have the legal ability to do. They are creating a mockery of our legal system and it truly does jeopardize investor confidence.”

Earlier Tuesday, B.C. Environment Minister George Heyman said the province plans to ban the increase of oil exports until it can determine through an advisory panel that shippers are prepared and able to properly clean up a spill.

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READ MORE: BC government strikes another blow to stop Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion

The move is the government’s latest effort to hinder development of Kinder Morgan Inc.’s Trans Mountain expansion project.

Notley has been in support of the pipeline as a way to get Alberta’s crude to new markets. The premier described B.C.’s proposal as political game-playing.

“This is clearly the government of B.C. overreaching — by far — to try and undo a decision that has already been made appropriately by the right authority.”

Notley went on to say these types of “rash actions” send a message “to the world that in B.C. and in Canada, the rules are not what they might seem.”

WATCH BELOW: Premier Rachel Notley reacts to the B.C. government’s proposal to put a restriction on the amount of diluted bitumen that can be transported into the province. Tom Vernon reports.

Rachel Notley fires back at B.C. over proposed bitumen restrictions
Rachel Notley fires back at B.C. over proposed bitumen restrictions

“This is going to significantly bring into question investor confidence in Canada if we can’t get these things straight… Job creators need to be able to trust lawmakers. Today’s announcement suggests that in B.C., they cannot.”

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LISTEN: Economist David Yager tells Danielle Smith what led to the B.C. bitumen restrictions

READ MORE: Burnaby, Trans Mountain spar over proposed pipeline route

The Canadian Energy Pipeline Association (CEPA), which has been collaborating with the B.C. government on land-based spill preparedness and response since 2012, said it is “extremely concerned.”

“These restrictions have never been part of the five-year consultation process and come as a surprise to industry,” the organization said in a media release.

“Extensive research has already been conducted into the behaviour of diluted bitumen and the nature of the product is well understood. Everything — from its properties, to how it’s transported and cleaned up in the case of a spill — has been thoroughly studied and the information is known and available to the government of British Columbia.”

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CEPA called the move “yet another transparent attempt to frustrate a major energy infrastructure project.”

“CEPA’s members already meet the highest safety and environmental standards, and adhere to world-leading spill preparedness and response practices.”

Heyman said the B.C. government will establish an independent scientific advisory panel to study the issue, and will also seek input from First Nations, industry, local governments, environmental groups and the general public over the coming months.

Kinder Morgan said it would actively participate in the engagement and feedback process that the province has announced, while pointing out that the Trans Mountain expansion project was already thoroughly studied before it secured approval.

The Trans Mountain expansion project would nearly triple the capacity of its pipeline system to 890,000 barrels a day.

With files from Global News’ Richard Zussman and The Canadian Press.