Christy Clark cabinet issues order-in-council to get around court ruling on environmental assessments

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      The B.C. Liberal goverment recently announced that some natural-gas projects won't have to undergo provincial environmental assessments.

      This is despite the government losing a court decision to First Nations. They objected to the province's refusal to subject the Northern Gateway pipeline to a review by the Environmental Assessment Office.

      The Spectra South Peace pipeline, Spectra's Dawson gas plant, Spectra's Fort Nelson North plant, Nova Gas Transmission's Groundbirch pipeline, and Nova Gas Transmission's Horn River mainline extension were exempted under an order-in-council last week.

      According to a B.C. government news release, the regulation addresses the implications of a B.C. Supreme Court judge's ruling in Coastal First Nations v. British Columbia.

      In January, Justice M. Marvyn Koenigsberg found that an "equivalency" agreement between the province and the federal government was "invalid". 

      The equivalency agreement nullified a provincial environmental assessment for the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline. That project was evaluated by the federal Joint Review Panel.

      "The new regulation is limited to addressing the implications of the court decision on projects that had already been constructed after being reviewed and approved by the National Energy Board under the equivalency agreement, the established regulatory process at the time," the government news release stated.

      Premier's former aide works for Spectra

      Premier Christy Clark's former deputy chief of staff, Kim Haakstad, is Spectra Energy's manager of technical workforce strategy. The parent company's head office is in Texas.

      In July 2012, Clark attended the grand opening of Spectra Energy's Dawson processing plant. She visited the company's Fort Nelson plant during the 2013 election campaign.

      Meanwhile, the National Energy Board revealed in a March 3 field-inspection report that there is "no integrity management program" for buried piping at Spectra's Fort Nelson facility.

      According to the field-inspection report, the company has told the regulatory body that it is "developing such a program for completion at an anticipated future date".

      The document pointed out there's a regulatory requirement for "a processing plant integrity program that sets out...methodologies for monitoring the processes and components and for mitigating identifiable hazards at the plant". 

      During the 2013 provincial election campaign, Spectra Energy donated $33,000 to the B.C. Liberals and $35,000 to the B.C. NDP.