Martyn Brown: George Heyman’s new message to Kinder Morgan—life’s a bitumen, suck it

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      If your #bcpoli week wasn’t already packed enough with the ICBC fiasco and the B.C. Liberal leadership race, along comes B.C. environment minister George Heyman with a new message to Kinder Morgan: life’s a bitumen, suck it.

      To the supreme joy and relief of those of us opposed to the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion project, Heyman has today announced new measures to protect B.C.’s environment from bitumen spills.

      He has declared the NDP government’s intention to introduce sweeping new regulatory measures that should have and could have been taken long ago by the former Clark government.

      Chief among those reforms will be new regulatory restrictions on the increase of diluted bitumen transportation.

      If Kinder Morgan thought that government regulators were already doing too much to slow down its plans to move its toxic sludge to Asian and other export markets, Heyman has an answer.

      In essence, the NDP has happily announced that the “tar sands” of bureaucracy aimed at protecting British Columbians’ interests are about to get even stickier for Big Oil.

      Whatever the courts decide in answer to the challenges that opponents, including the B.C. government, have argued should stop Kinder Morgan, the Horgan administration’s new regulations might just be the final nail in that project’s coffin. 

      Anyone who thought that the NDP wasn’t serious about living up to its election commitment to use every legal tool as its disposal to stop Kinder Morgan should think again.

      Heyman’s playing for keeps—to prevent unnecessary risk and damage to B.C.’s environment and community interests, without due regard for Aboriginal rights and title. And to prevent a widely opposed pipeline that stands to threaten Super, Natural British Columbia with a seven-fold increase in heavy oil tanker traffic.

      Hallelujah,  I say.

      Heyman’s proposed new regulations will be aimed at achieving the following:

      • improving marine oil spill prevention, preparedness, response and recovery;
      • newly regulating oil-spill response-time requirements that are aligned with practices of other regulators, and with similar established time frames in neighbouring jurisdictions;
      • improving geographic response plans, to identify and map sensitive, natural, cultural, or significant economic resources at risk from spills;
      • enhancing restitution for the impacts of oil spills on the use and enjoyment of public spaces and resources. That includes impacts on beaches, parks and forests, on the enjoyment of wildlife, wilderness spaces, food resources, recreation and drinking water, and on “the intrinsic value of archaeological and cultural sites”; 
      • and creating an independent scientific advisory panel to inform future regulations on spill responses that will address scientific uncertainties outlined in the Royal Society of Canada expert panel report, The Behaviour and Environmental Impacts of Crude Oil Released into Aqueous Environments.

      Heyman’s detailed proposed regulations will be posted by the end of February, following extensive consultations with First Nations, stakeholders, and communities.

      All in all, it’s great news for British Columbia and a new ray of hope for our planet in combatting global warming and the mindless rush to exploit nonrenewable fossil fuels.

      It is also yet another example of how the Clark government’s anemic oversight on this file had failed British Columbians, especially First Nations, as it also sold out our environment.

      Some NDP supporters might be legitimately mad at the Horgan government for its decision on Site C, for its qualified support for LNG, or for its inaction on climate change.

      But today’s announcement is courageous and long overdue. 

      It is a powerful testament to the NDP’s commitment to build on its previous actions to protect B.C.'s interests in the face of a project that should never see the light of day.

      It is credit to Heyman & Co. that they are standing up for B.C.’s autonomy and environment with a regulatory improvement strategy that can only help to better protect our precious land and marine ecosystems, as it also serves our communities.

      Martyn Brown was former B.C. premier Gordon Campbell’s long-serving chief of staff, the top strategic adviser to three provincial party leaders, and a former deputy minister of tourism, trade, and investment. He also served as the B.C. Liberals' public campaign director in 2001, 2005, and 2009, and in addition to his other extensive campaign experience, he was the principal author of four election platforms. Contact him via email at