An expansion of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline is one step closer to commencing construction.
Today (May 19) the National Energy Board (NEB), a federal regulatory agency, granted conditional approval for the project.
The project involves twinning a Kinder Morgan pipeline that runs from Edmonton—where it receives diluted bitumen from the Alberta tarsands—to a port in Burnaby. Upon completion, it would triple the amount of bitumen transported to the Lower Mainland, increasing the number of oil tankers moving through Burrard Inlet from some 60 ships per year to more than 400.
The NEB’s 533-page report on Kinder Morgan’s proposal includes 157 conditions the project must adhere to if it is to go ahead. It states that these conditions will mean that benefits from an expanded pipeline will outweigh potential risks.
“Taking into account all the evidence, considering all relevant factors, and given that there are considerable benefits nationally, regionally and to some degree locally, the Board found that the benefits of the Project would outweigh the residual burdens,” reads an NEB release accompanying the report.
Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain proposal will now proceed to the federal government for final authorization.
In a news release, Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson criticized the NEB's approval.
"Vancouver is firm in our resolve that an expanded Kinder Morgan pipeline’s safety, environmental, and public health risks far outweigh any economic benefit, and is therefore not in the public interest," he said. "The federal government has until the end of the year to make a decision. As mayor, I will be advocating forcefully to Prime Minister Trudeau and the federal government that they should say a definitive ‘No’ to this project."
The B.C. Chamber of Commerce immediately expressed its support for the development.
“This project is a big economic win for B.C. and for Canada,” said the chamber's interim CEO, Maureen Kirkbride, in a media release. “This project will bring construction, operations and other indirect jobs to B.C., while enabling our national oil resources to reach Asian markets.”
The NEB’s approval of the proposed expansion was widely expected. Still, B.C. politicians and environmental organizations greeted the news with swift condemnation.
Andrew Weaver, B.C.’s lone Green MLA and a participating intervenor in NEB hearings for Trans Mountain, took issue with the review process itself.
“Within the limited constraints of the NEB process I submitted nearly 500 questions to Kinder Morgan which focused primarily on the risk and impact of a potential oil spill, the scientific underpinning of the oceanographic analysis used, and the extent of consultation done by the company,” he said in a media release. “It was clear that the process for this project was not about assessing the best scientific evidence, or whether it was in the interests of British Columbians, but was more of a box-ticking exercise.”
Kennedy Stewart, the NDP MP for Burnaby South, offered criticism along similar lines.
“I am not surprised that Kinder Morgan has been rubber-stamped by the National Energy Board," Stewart said in a news release. "The review was rigged by Stephen Harper from the start—he gutted the process and stacked it with Conservative appointees. Despite promising during the election to overhaul the NEB, Trudeau’s Liberals have utterly failed to do so—breaking their promise to British Columbians."
A statement from Sierra Club B.C.’s climate and energy campaigner, Larissa Stendie, said her organization would continue to oppose the project.
“This is exactly what we expected from the National Energy Board, an industry-captured regulator that never met a pipeline it didn’t like or environmental impact it couldn’t ignore,” she said. “The NEB has no credibility and the approval of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline today has no legitimacy in the eyes of the 17 First Nations, 20 municipalities and millions of British Columbians from all walks of life who oppose this pipeline.”
The Vancouver-based Wilderness Committee similarly expressed “outrage” for the NEB’s decision.
“Nobody had much hope the NEB would act in the public interest and reject this project,” said Peter McCartney, a climate campaigner for the group. “Now the ball is in Trudeau’s court to do the right thing—protect our coast and our climate.”