Environmental Assessment Certificate Issued
The British Columbia government announced on January 11, 2017, that it issued an environmental assessment certificate to Trans Mountain Pipeline ULC for the B.C. portion of the Trans Mountain Expansion project.
While the project, which Kinder Morgan will own and operate, falls under the Canadian regulatory responsibility of the National Energy Board (NEB), B.C.’s environmental assessment certificate includes 37 conditions intended to supplement the 157 conditions required by the NEB.
Trans Mountain also issued a January 11 release on welcoming the news.
British Columbia Premier Christy Clark leaves after responding to the federal government approval of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion project, during a news conference in Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday November 30, 2016. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau approved the $6.8-billion project that will nearly triple the capacity of the pipeline that carries crude oil from near Edmonton to the Vancouver area to be loaded on tankers and shipped overseas. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Project Green Light
The province’s announcement is yet another endorsement for the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion project. The Federal government gave its approval for Trans Mountain last year after the NEB also rendered a favorable review of the pipeline project.
The B.C. decision became possible after the government reached an agreement with Kinder Morgan for up to $1 billion over a period of 20 years. From the Trans Mountain news release:
In a negotiated commitment, Trans Mountain has agreed to contribute a minimum of $25 million to a maximum of $50 million each year depending on shipments in excess of contracted volumes, over the 20-year life of the Project. Proceeds will be dedicated to a newly formed B.C. Clean Communities Program to be accessed by communities for local projects that protect, sustain and restore B.C.’s natural and coastal environments.
The payment has raised questions about weather this sets a precedent for future energy projects in other provinces. Reporter Kelly Cryderman explored this topic and the notion of buying ‘political acquiescence’ in a recent Globe and Mail article. The big question is how this agreement between Kinder Morgan and B.C. will influence other types of shipments, such as rail and trucking.
Conditions for Approval
In the B.C. government’s announcement, Environment Minister and Natural Gas Development Minister made clear that the economic development in the region will not come at the expense of the environment. The B.C. government had put up five conditions which had to be met before Trans Mountain would be eligible for approval.
The five requirements all new pipeline projects must meet before they get provincial approval include:
- Successful completion of the environmental review process. This means the project requires a recommendation by the National Energy Board Joint Review Panel.
- B.C government also required that the pipeline projects deploy world leading response, prevention and recovery systems for marine oil spills. This condition clearly highlighted the importance of mitigating the risks of heavy oil pipelines and shipments.
- The project must have world leading practices in place for preventing and responding to land oil spills. There also needs to be a recovery system in place.
- All legal requirements necessary to participate in and benefit from a heavy oil pipeline project must be fulfilled. This includes aboriginal and treaty rights.
- British Columbia must receive a fair share of the economic and fiscal benefits of the proposed pipeline expansion. These benefits should reciprocate the degree and nature of the risk the environment, the province and the taxpayers have to undertake.
Funding for Environmental Programs
The last condition is what led to Kinder Morgan agreeing to provide up to $1 billion to British Columbia. The money will go towards B.C.’s Clean Communities program and conditions included oil spill response and remediation planning but the project still faces opposition from environmental groups.
As reported by the Huffington Post, the New Democrat opposition leader J. Horgan held up a small glass jar filled with heavy oil shortly before the B.C. government announcement. The province’s opposition leader wanted to demonstrate challenges facing a potential clean-up on the coast if there is a major oil spill.
Similarly, Peter McCartney of the Wilderness Committee also blamed the British Columbia government to go against the wishes of its citizens. And Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver believes that Trans Mountain poses a massive threat to the province. He has stated there is no evidence to back up the misleading economic claims made the government.
Premier Christy Clark says that it is their job to stand for British Columbia. She also stated that, as per the terms of the environmental assessment certificate, the financial agreement with Kinder Morgan Canada would provide the province with money that will be invested in local environmental projects. This will ensure that the pipeline expansion has no negative impact on B.C.’s marine environment.
Construction on Trans Mountain is scheduled to begin in September 2017 with completion expected in late 2019.