Trudeau government buys time to decide on Kinder Morgan plan to expand Trans Mountain pipeline

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      The government of Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wants more time to decide on two controversial oil pipeline projects.

      One of these is the proposed expansion by Kinder Morgan Inc. of its Trans Mountain pipeline, which runs from Edmonton in Alberta to Burnaby in B.C. The other is the Energy East pipeline from Alberta to New Brunswick.

      The National Energy Board (NEB) will finish hearing oral arguments regarding the Trans Mountain project, and will submit its report to the cabinet in May this year.

      Under the law, the government has three months, until August 2016 to accept or reject the NEB’s recommendations.

      Today (January 27), the federal government announced that Minister of Natural Resources Jim Carr will seek an extension of four months to the legislated time limit.

      This means that the Trudeau government may make a decision in December 2016 on the Trans Mountain project that will nearly triple oil shipments B.C.’s Lower Mainland to 890,000 barrels a day.

      The planned extension was made known as the government revealed its “interim approach” to natural resources projects.

      In a statement, Carr and Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna laid down these five principles regarding the review of resource development projects:

      1. No project proponent will be asked to return to the starting line — project reviews will continue within the current legislative framework and in accordance with treaty provisions, under the auspices of relevant responsible authorities and Northern regulatory boards; 

      2. Decisions will be based on science, traditional knowledge of Indigenous peoples and other relevant evidence;

      3. The views of the public and affected communities will be sought and considered;

      4. Indigenous peoples will be meaningfully consulted, and where appropriate, impacts on their rights and interests will be accommodated; and

      5. Direct and upstream greenhouse gas emissions linked to the projects under review will be assessed.

      In connection with Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain expansion, the government pledged to do the following:

      1. Undertake deeper consultations with Indigenous peoples and provide funding to support participation in these consultations;

      2. Assess the upstream greenhouse gas emissions associated with this project and make this information public; and,

      3. Appoint a Ministerial Representative to engage communities, including Indigenous communities potentially affected by the project, to seek their views and report back to the Minister of Natural Resources.

      In an interview with the Georgia Straight on Tuesday (January 26), Burnaby South MP Kennedy Stewart of the NDP suggested that the interim measures expected to be rolled out by the Trudeau government will not stop the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

      Stewart said that the Trudeau administration favours the project, and will only delay its decision.