The new B.C. government stepped up its battle against Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline project Thursday, hiring former B.C. Supreme Court Justice Thomas Berger as legal advisor and announcing plans to join court challenges to the pipeline expansion.
“We are committed to use every tool to defend B.C.’s coast [from] threat of tanker traffic,” Environment Minister George Heyman said at a news conference. “Our government made it clear that a sevenfold increase in heavy oil tankers in the Vancouver harbour is not in B.C.’s best interests. Not for our economy, our environment, or thousands of existing jobs.”
The $7.4-billion project would triple the capacity of the existing oil pipeline from Alberta to Burnaby.
Heyman and Attorney General David Eby said B.C. would seek intervenor status in challenges to the pipeline by First Nations and others scheduled to being this fall in the Federal Court of Appeal.
Eby and Heyman also announced that they would continue to consult with First Nations on land rights and titles.
“Going forward we will be reviewing policies to outline how our government expects to further meet our commitments to First Nations as well as to all British Columbians with regard to defending our air, land and water,” said Heyman.
Ottawa, the former B.C. government and the National Energy Board (NEB) have already approved the expansion.
Berger, 84, headed the federal government’s MacKenzie Valley Pipeline review in the mid-1970s, which led to the project being scrapped.
In a statement, Kinder Morgan said that it remains willing to meet with the provincial government to work through any concerns.
“We are committed to working with the province and permitting authorities in our ongoing process of seeking and obtaining necessary permits and permissions,” said Ian Anderson, president of Kinder Morgan Canada Limited.
“We have undertaken thorough, extensive and meaningful consultations with Aboriginal Peoples, communities and individuals and remain dedicated to those efforts and relationships as we move forward with construction activities in September,” added Anderson.
Jessica Clogg, executive director and senior counsel at West Coast Environmental Law Association, praised the government’s actions.
“The provincial government is absolutely doing the right thing — legally, morally and constitutionally — by taking a sober second look at the project and steps it can take to protect B.C. communities and Indigenous peoples,” she said in a statement.