In a monumental decision, the federal government has approved two major pipelines, including the controversial Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain expansion.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the green light today for Kinder Morgan’s proposal to triple the capacity of its Alberta to Burnaby pipeline, and along with approval for Enbridge’s Line-3 pipeline expansion.
The Northern Gateway however, has been rejected.
“To Canadians, if I thought this project was unsafe for the B.C. coast, I would reject it,” says Trudeau. “We are convinced it is safe for B.C., and it’s the right one for Canada.”
He says the expansion gives hope to those working in Alberta.
The backlash to the announcement from environmentalists is already coming in.
Peter McCartney with the Wilderness Committee insists the Kinder Morgan expansion won’t go ahead.
“We’re going to make sure this pipeline is never built. We’re going to fight it in the courts, at the polls in the next provincial election, and we’re going to fight it in the streets. There’re so many opportunities to stop this thing, and Justin Trudeau does not have the final say,” he said.
NDP MP Kennedy Stewart didn’t hold back his criticism of the decision either, calling it a “sneak attack.”
“This is the tough yes for him, he used a sneak attack today. No heads up to the media, no heads up to MPs, no speeches in Parliament, trying to slide it under the radar, but that’s not what’s going to happen with this decision.”
BC NDP leader John Horgan said the proposal isn’t in the province’s interest, before taking a shot at the premier for what he called an abdication of responsibility for the project.
“The premier’s response is to say over to you Prime Minister, that’s what got us into this trouble in the first place. Christy Clark gave away our ability to make these decisions to the Harper Conservatives, now she’s saying to the Trudeau Liberals’ ‘It’s up to you.’ I believe the responsibility pf the Premier of B.C. is to stand up for B.C.,” he said.
Premier Clark has yet to comment on the proposal, however Environment Minister Mary Polak issued a statement saying the province stands behind its “five conditions” which must be met to get provincial approval.
Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson was also quick to respond to Trudeau’s announcement, saying he was profoundly disappointed with the decision.
“…approving Kinder Morgan’s heavy oil pipeline expansion is a big step backwards for Canada’s environment and economy. This project was approved under a flawed and biased Harper-era regulatory process that shut out local voices and ignored climate change and First Nations concerns,” read the statement from Robertson.
He says the government’s decision on Kinder Morgan is a missed opportunity for Canada towards a clean energy future.
Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan, whose city hosts the pipeline’s terminus, released a statement calling the approval disappointing.
““The City of Burnaby remains adamantly opposed to this proposal and we are now seeking legal advice on how best to continue to fight it,” he said.
A rally in opposition to the project’s approval is expected Tuesday night.
Excited to move forward
But not everyone is upset at the move.
Kinder Morgan pipeline supporter and Vancouver-born oil worker Bernard Hancock says his friends and family are celebrating the news.
Hancock says it’s a lifeline for workers hit hard by the decline in oil prices.
“Obviously I’m pretty happy today that we’re going to go ahead here. I think this does mean a lot for those in Alberta who are looking for a sign of something positive, this is a positive sign for this industry,” he said.
LISTEN: B.C. based oil worker cautiously optimistic about pipeline approval
The Greater Vancouver Board of Trade is also backing the move, which it says will generate more than a billion dollars in local construction spending, along with creating thousands of high-paying jobs and help attract new investment to the region.
In a statement, Kinder Morgan President Ian Anderson called the decision “a defining moment for our project and Canada’s energy industry.”
“The decision follows many years of engagement and the presentation of the very best scientific, technical and economic information. We are excited to move forward and get this project built,” says Anderson.
Trans Mountain will continue to seek all necessary permits and is planning to begin construction in September 2017.
Trans Mountain Expansion
The $6.8 billion-dollar Kinder Morgan expansion will expand the existing 1,150-kilometre pipeline between Alberta and Burnaby.
The proposal was first put forward in 2013.
Earlier this year, the National Energy Board approved the expansion, subject to 157 conditions.
The proposal will involve 980 kilometres of new pipeline, 12 new pump stations, and 20 new tanks.
The new line will carry heavier oil known as bitumen diluted with a chemical condensate, pumping close to 900,000 barrels a day.
This would almost triple its current capacity.
A recent poll by Insights West and Dogwood Initiative showed strong opposition from British Columbians to increased oil tanker traffic on the province’s south coast.
The poll also found that 62 per cent of those polled, agreed a Kinder Morgan approval would contradict Prime Minister Trudeau’s promises on climate leadership.
The federal government had until December 19 to make a decision on the fate of the Kinder Morgan expansion but opted to announce the fate of all three pipeline projects.
Enbridge Line 3
The proposed Line 3 will replace a decades-old line that runs between Hardisty, Alberta to Superior Wisconsin.
The $7.5 billion-dollar project will replace a total of 1,660 km of pipeline.
Once the pipeline is replaced, it will have the capacity to carry 760,000 barrels a day – approximately double of what it carries now.
Enbridge had its first meeting with the National Energy Board (NEB) on November 30, 2015 in Calgary.
The NEB recommended the approval of the Line 3 replacement but subject to 89 conditions.
Export will increase from 390,000 to 760,000 barrels a day, with the potential to expand to 915,000.
The Northern Gateway’s pipeline route would have run approximately 1,177 km from Bruderheim, Alberta, across B.C. to the port of Kitimat.
The $7.9 billion-dollar proposal would have carried an average of 525,000 barrels of oil per day westbound, and an average of 193,000 barrels of condensate per day eastbound.
The proposal had been in the making for more than a decade.
In June 2014, the government of Canada announced the approval of the project but made it subject to 209 conditions set out by a joint review panel.
But the Federal Court of Appeal ruled that the federal government had failed in its duty to consult with aboriginal people after Ottawa approved the pipeline.
The company’s president said they would not be appealing the court’s decision and would instead continue with consultation.
Back in September, a survey by Insights West showed 50 per cent of British Columbians opposed Northern Gateway, while 35 per cent supported it.
The pipeline had faced strong opposition from environmental groups, as well as First Nations because it would pass through B.C.’s Great Bear Rainforest.
A balancing act
Just hours before the decision came down, senior economist Marc Lee, with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives said it was important for Trudeau to consider the political and legal ramifications of saying yes or no to any of the three major pipeline projects.
“It’s definitely a tough balancing act. I think there’s a lot of political risk in approving a pipeline through British Columbia, direct electoral risk playing into the next federal election. But just a bunch of legal risk of whether those pipelines would get built at all and the immense public opposition that it would stir.”
Lee said a best-case scenario would be if a Trump administration puts the Keystone XL pipeline back on the table, it would allow the feds to say no to both Kinder Morgan and Northern Gateway.
With files from Matt Lee