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Alberta premier says B.C. pipeline court challenge ‘makes no sense’

Click to play video 'Provincial pipeline spat becoming constitutional crisis' Provincial pipeline spat becoming constitutional crisis
WATCH: Liberals and the Trans Mountain pipeline — a big political vulnerability for them – Apr 20, 2018

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley says the B.C. government’s attempt to get court backing in a bid to thwart the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion would put Canada in “economic gridlock” if it succeeds.

British Columbia is seeking control over increased levels of diluted bitumen coming into the province because of concerns of increased risk to the environment.

READ MORE: B.C. government asking courts to rule on new permitting system to restrict bitumen flow 

Notley says if the B.C. Court of Appeal agrees the government has the right to do so, that would open the door to provinces regulating all kinds of goods coming in from the rest of Canada — to the detriment of the economy as a whole.

Notley says her government will seek intervener status in the court proceedings and she expects B.C. will fail.

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She also says the legal move is illogical.

Watch below: Opposition shadow minister for natural resources – and Alberta MP – Shannon Stubbs joins us from Ottawa to talk about what should be done immediately to resolve the Trans Mountain pipeline dispute.

Click to play video 'Conservative federal MP Shannon Stubbs on pipeline dispute' Conservative federal MP Shannon Stubbs on pipeline dispute
Conservative federal MP Shannon Stubbs on pipeline dispute – Apr 26, 2018

She notes that B.C. wants control over more bitumen coming into the province via pipeline on environmental safety grounds, but is OK with current levels already coming in.

“It makes no sense,” Notley said Thursday from Slave Lake, Alta. “If bitumen were so hazardous, why would we only be looking at the (extra) incremental bitumen that’s in the new pipeline?

“This isn’t about environment. This is about the new pipeline … I think the courts will see right through it.”

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In Calgary, United Conservative Leader Jason Kenney said the court reference is one more delay tactic in a pipeline project that is already on the edge of an abyss.

READ MORE: Kenney says Kinder Morgan pipeline battle ‘a complete violation’ of Canadian economic union 

Operator Kinder Morgan has stopped extra spending on the project and is to decide by the end of May if it will go forward, given the opposition from B.C.

Kinder Morgan said it wants clarity on its ability to build in B.C. and the protection of its shareholders.

“The comments and proposed legislation put forward by the province of B.C. today signal the province’s continued intention to frustrate the project,” the company said in a statement on Thursday.

The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers calls the move discriminatory and redundant and “just another stall tactic to tie the project up with more red tape after Ottawa gave in the green light 18 months ago.”

The group said in a news release that the government of Canada now needs to exercise its Constitutional authority and move the project forward.

READ MORE: Kinder Morgan CEO says Trans Mountain pipeline may be ‘untenable’

Kenney said Notley’s government has not been strong enough to dissuade B.C. or to get Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government to take action on a project that it already approved.

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“None of this gives Kinder Morgan the certainty it needs to proceed with this $7-billion, job-creating investment that would help us get a fair price for our oil,” said Kenney.

READ MORE: Alberta suspends ban on B.C. wine after Horgan backs down on restricting bitumen

Alberta has retaliated to B.C.’s position, even banning wine imports from its neighbour at one point. It has also threatened to slow the flow of oil and natural gas to B.C.

READ MORE: Sask. aims to introduce export permits for oil and gas due to B.C.’s Trans Mountain delays 

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe said his province has yet to determine if it will seek intervener status in the case, but he called on the federal government to assert its jurisdiction over the project that Ottawa approved in 2016.

“We’ll see where all this goes,” he said.

Federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna said she is willing to address some of B.C.’s environmental concerns, but added that Ottawa has already taken steps to mitigate damage in the event of a spill, including increased capacity to tow ships and creating five new emergency response stations.

McKenna released a letter that said the federal government will consider forming a joint scientific advisory panel with B.C. to take stock of the research available on oil spills, including current models of how to respond in the event of an incident involving a number of different petroleum products.

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B.C.’s Environment Minister George Heyman said B.C. has been meeting for months with federal officials on spill prevention issues and the province has already invited Ottawa to participate in a science panel on bitumen in the environment.

In addition to asking the court to review proposed amendments to the Environmental Management Act that would give the province the authority to regulate the impacts of heavy oils, the province will also ask if federal legislation would override its changes to the law, he said.

Eby said the reference case does not apply to oil tanker traffic, which the provincial government has said will increase seven-fold if the pipeline expansion is completed.

“Ships were excluded for a couple of reasons, one was practicality, the other is simply it appears to be an area of federal jurisdiction,” he said.

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Many environmental groups fear an increase in tanker traffic out of Burnaby along marine routes that are at times extremely narrow, compounds the risk of a major spill.

— With files from Dirk Meissner, Dean Bennett in Edmonton and Ryan McKenna in Regina.

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