Georgia Strait Alliance hammers Premier John Horgan for province's legal position in Trans Mountain pipeline case

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      After NDP Leader John Horgan became B.C. premier, he made the following statement on his Facebook page"We're going to use every tool in our toolbox to defend our coast from the threat of increased oil tanker traffic."

      It was a comment he also made during the 2017 B.C. election campaign.

      Nearly two years later, a B.C. environmental group has accused Horgan of breaking that promise when it comes to the $9.3-billion Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion.

      It concerns the province's legal position in a challenge filed by the Squamish Nation against the former B.C. Liberal government's approval of the project.

      The Christy Clark regime chose to rely on a federal process rather than conduct a review through the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office.

      The Georgia Strait Alliance points out on its website that this federal approval "was so flawed" that it was quashed in the Federal Court of Canada last year.

      The Squamish Nation is arguing that B.C.'s approval should be overturned.

      "Unfortunately, BC is fighting the case, defending the Trans Mountain pipeline approval," the Georgia Strait Alliance says. "Their conduct flies in the face of their commitment to use every tool in the toolbox to defend our coast, increasing the chance this risky project goes ahead. It also breaks their promise to take reconciliation with First Nations seriously."

      Premier John Horgan is coming under fire from the Georgia Strait Alliance.

      The group has urged the province to reverse its legal position and "ask the judge to overturn the provincial environmental approval that the Trans Mountain expansion was granted".

      "Once that certificate is overturned, we can have a made-in-BC assessment, one that makes First Nations reconciliation a priority, and examines understudied issues like human health impacts, up and downstream climate impacts, the behaviour of bitumen if spilled in the Salish Sea, the effectiveness of existing oil spill resources at removing it, and more," the Georgia Strait Alliance says. "But this will only happen if we hold Premier Horgan to his word."

      Watchdog suggests feds paid too high a price

      The Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion project would triple diluted bitumen shipments from Alberta to Burnaby to 890,000 barrels per day.

      It would also result in a nearly seven-fold increase in oil-tanker traffic in Burrard Inlet.

      Last August, the Federal Court of Canada invalidated the National Energy Board's approval of the Trans Mountain project.

      That was due to Ottawa's failure to meet its constitutional obligations to consult adequately with affected First Nations and its failure to account for the potential impact of the project on endangered marine species, including southern resident orcas.

      Last year, the federal government bought Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain pipeline system for $4.4 billion.

      Finance Minister Bill Morneau has said that the feds would eventually like to sell these assets back to the private sector.

      In a report released this week, the parliamentary budget office determined that Ottawa likely paid too high a price, noting that the system had a value of between $3.6 and $4.6 billion.

      This price assumed that the pipeline expansion would have been built on time and on budget.

      "One significant finding of this study is that delays in pipeline construction, an increase in construction costs and/or changes in the risk profile of the [Trans Mountain Expansion Project]...can negatively influence the final sale price that the Government can negotiate," the report noted.