British Columbia Premier Christy Clark says Kinder Morgan’s proposal to expand the Trans Mountain pipeline has met her government’s requirements for approval.
“The project has met the five conditions,” said Clark. “We always said the five conditions were a path to ‘yes’ and that if the project met the five conditions we would say ‘yes’, and that’s where we are today.”
NDP leader John Horgan said he’s opposed to the project because it poses too great an environmental risk to B.C.’s coast.
The project would triple the capacity of Kinder Morgan’s existing pipeline between Edmonton, Alberta and Burnaby, B.C. and add about six oil tankers a week leaving Vancouver. It received conditional approval from the federal government in November.
The B.C. government announced Wednesday that it had given provincial environmental approval, with 37 conditions, to the project. Clark also said Kinder Morgan has now met her requirement to make sure B.C. received a “fair share” of fiscal and economic benefits.
Kinder Morgan has committed to paying B.C. up to $1 billion as a share of revenue from the project, which the province will use to fund grants to community groups doing environmental protection work, Clark said.
A government backgrounder says the company will pay the province between $25 million and $50 million for 20 years, depending on whether or not the pipeline is operating at full capacity on its spot market contracts, for a total payment between $500 million and $1 billion.
The other three requirements, which Clark said in November had already been met, involved ensuring “world class” marine oil spill response, world class response to spills on land and addressing the legal requirements regarding Aboriginal and treaty rights.
It was up to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the federal government whether or not to approve the project, while the province’s job was to protect the interest of British Columbia, Clark said.
Asked about how the approval might affect the provincial election scheduled for May, Clark said it is an illustration of how she and the government have shown principled leadership.
“This comes as a surprise to absolutely no one that Christy Clark and her wealthy backers want to proceed with this pipeline,” the NDP’s Horgan said. “What we learned today was this notion that she was putting up a defence is now over.”
Completing the project will lead to a seven-fold increase in tanker traffic leaving Vancouver and passing the southern end of Vancouver Island, Horgan said.
“They are in my opinion ignoring the risk to our economy and our environment,” he said. “Someone has to defend the coast, and that’s going to be me and those who want to band with me.”
Horgan acknowledged that people in the interior of the province may be more likely to support the project than people on the coast are. “This is not a partisan question, it’s a B.C. challenge.”
Holding a small jar of bitumen, he said, “I believe the people of British Columbia, regardless of how they vote, see this and say, ‘Why in the world would we take the risk that this would be found in our marine environment,’ and I share that view.”
Horgan also noted that several First Nations, including the Tsleil-Waututh, Musqueam and Squamish, have vocally opposed the project. “The First Nations issue has certainly not been met,” he said.
A government backgrounder says Kinder Morgan has had “over 30,000 points of contact with First Nations” through the engagement process, that Trudeau “has confirmed the substantial progress that’s been made on consultation and accommodation,” and that the company has signed 41 agreements worth $350 million with B.C. First Nations.
Charlene Aleck, a spokesperson for the Tsleil-Waututh Nation Sacred Trust Initiative, was quoted in a press release saying, “It’s disappointing to see this lack of leadership to protect the coast or adequately consult with First Nations communities but today’s announcement is far from the end of the story.”
The National Energy Board process was inadequate and the First Nation is exploring legal options, she said. “They are trying to force a dangerous project on many thousands of people that really do not want it, that is not a recipe for success. Regardless of today’s announcement, the Kinder Morgan pipeline will never actually be built.”
The leader of the BC Green Party, Andrew Weaver, said in a press release, “I reviewed the exact same material as the BC Government as an official intervenor and I can tell you unequivocally, the evidence does not support this decision. The evidence does not support their assurances that we can adequately respond to a heavy oil spill, nor does it backup the government’s misleading claims about the economic effects this pipeline will have.”
“It is simply deceitful for the Premier to claim her five conditions have been met,” said Burnaby South NDP MP Kennedy Stewart in an emailed statement. “In the end, she has turned her back on the majority of British Columbians who oppose this pipeline... Political leaders can put all the paper conditions they like on this pipeline — it only takes one oil spill to devastate our rivers and coast.”
The Dogwood Initiative environmental group called Clark’s decision a “sellout” and pointed out the BC Liberal Party had since 2005 received combined donations of more than $700,000 from Kinder Morgan, Trans Mountain, the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers and oil sands companies with contracts to ship their product on the new pipeline.