The National Energy Board has approved Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Expansion Project, but not without 157 conditions.
The 533 page decision is the culmination of three years of hearings, amidst countless protests over the $6.8-billion plan to twin the existing pipeline.
There has been very vocal opposition to the plan to carry diluted bitumen from the oil sands to Burnaby, with the ultimate goal of exporting that product.
Despite that, the NEB says the national, regional and some local benefits outweigh concerns.
It adds the project “would not likely cause significant adverse environmental effects.”
157 conditions must be met
The conditions outlined in today’s report are extensive, and cover everything from emergency preparedness and response, the protection of the environment, more consultation with those affected – including Indigenous communities, and safety concerns.
Some of the conditions need to be met before construction begins, others prior to operation, and other conditions for the operation of the pipeline.
One condition requires Kinder Morgan to quantify the greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) released through construction, and another condition requires the company to establish a plan to offset GHG emissions throughout the entire project.
Concerns raised about the impact of the project on firefighting capabilities in Burnaby are also addressed.
The NEB is requiring Kinder Morgan to assess the resources required at the Burnaby Terminal, have more consultation with the City of Burnaby and first responders, and to have a plan for responding to a fire in the “worst case scenario.”
Board believes benefits are vast
The crux of the approval rests on an economic argument that the project is good for Canada, Alberta and BC, as well as some local governments and communities.
It says the project gives better market access for Canadian oil, creates thousands of jobs, and increases government revenue.
In terms of jobs, thousands of jobs are expected during the construction phase. Hundreds of long-term jobs are also expected during the lifespan of the project.
However, the NEB was not able to provide a dollar figure for what type of economic impact the project would have on the Canadian economy.
Reaction to the NEB’s announcement is already streaming in.
BC Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver says in a statement he’s not surprised, suggesting the approval process appeared rigged from the start.
“People who were involved with this did not believe this process was fair all the way along. There was no intervention. People quit halfway through. Others gave up. I read carefully through the marine spill response section of this. It is clear that they just selectively ignored the expert evidence from very highly regarded oceanographers.”
He adds he submitted five hundred questions to Kinder Morgan focusing on the risk and impact of a potential oil spill among others, but calls it more of a “box-ticking exercise”.
He is reiterating earlier calls that the science or capacity is not in place to deal with a diluted bitumen spill on the coast.
Today’s decision doesn’t mean the project is good to go.
Other than meeting all of these conditions, the federal government still has to give the go ahead.
Just this week the Liberal government announced it is implementing a three-person panel to review the environmental impacts of the project and overall support for the plan.
The BC government is also planning its own review, and currently says it’s opposed to the project as is.
Burnaby Mountain protests
In 2014 anti-pipeline protesters set up camp on Burnaby Mountain in an effort to block Kinder Morgan from doing survey work along a proposed route for the pipeline expansion.
At one point more than a dozen people were taken in to custody, including an 11-year-old child.