Premier Christy Clark has announced the Trans Mountain Pipleine Expansion has met all five of her conditions for approval – giving the project her blessing.
The announcement came in a media availability this afternoon, shortly after the province said it had granted the project an environmental certificate.
Clark says approval of the project was always a federal decision, with the province’s role to ensure B.C. is protected and gets the best deal possible.
The big surprise: Clark now says the province will get between $25 and $50-million a year for 20 years from Kinder Morgan, blunting one of the main criticisms of the plan – that B.C. takes all of the risk with no reward.
Clark says the project will also createa a jobs bonanza, with an estimated 75,000 person-years of employment, mainly in Metro Vancouver on the terminal side and across the province on the pipeline.
She expects BC will also get the lion’s share of national $1.5 billion coastal response the feds announced in November.
“For example shoreline cleanup in a community, lots of voluteer groups are active doing that. Municipal governments are actively doing that. They could apply to do some shoreline clean up – not necessarily oil related
Clark says the feds have also ensured that the company will add investments and resources as required.
As for environmental approval, a statement from the province says the environmental approval is for the B.C. portion of the expansion project, with 37 new conditions attached.
In a written statement the ministers responsible, Mary Polak for environment and Rich Coleman natural gas development, say these conditions take into account concerns raised by affected communities and Aboriginal groups.
The highly contentious project runs nearly 1,000 kilometers from Edmonton to Burnaby.
Today’s pair of announcements, according to Clark, tick off the last two boxes on her list of “five conditions” necessary to grant approval.
- “Successful completion of the environmental review process.”
- “World-leading marine oil spill response, prevention and recovery systems for B.C.’s coastline and ocean to manage and mitigate the risks and costs of heavy-oil pipelines and shipments.”
- “World-leading practices for land oil spill prevention, response and recovery systems to manage and mitigate the risks and costs of heavy-oil pipelines.”
- “Legal requirements regarding Aboriginal and treaty rights are addressed, and First Nations are provided with the opportunities, information, and resources necessary to participate in and benefit from a heavy-oil project.”
- “British Columbia receives a fair share of the fiscal and economic benefits of a proposed heavy oil project that reflects the level, degree, and nature of the risk borne by the province, the environment, and taxpayers.”
Back in November, Clark hinted that two of the items on this list still needed work – spill response, and B.C. getting its ‘fair share’ of economic benefits from the project.
Earlier that month Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced $1.5-billion over five years for an “Ocean Protection Plan,” however details of how much of that would flow specifically to B.C. for spill response are still vague.
Holding up a jam jar full of thick oil, NDP Leader John Horgan says “there are some messes you just can’t clean up.”
“This is what risk looks like, this has been on my desk for the past two years, not getting clearer. This is what seven-times the tankers on our coast will look like.”
Horgan says the biggest danger of allowing the twinning is that we have no means of cleaning up a spill should one happen on our coast.
“This is like paving the seabed. There is no evidence that I’ve ever seen that this could be cleaned up if it was put into our marine environment,” Horgan says, vowing to make the pipeline an election issue.
That’s a sentiment being widely expressed through environmental circles, with many opponents calling it more betrayal from elected officials.
“This isn’t a fair deal for B.C. I don’t know who in their right mind could consider this a deal in the best interests of British Columbians,” says Peter McCartney with the Wilderness Committee.
He was one of the thousands on the streets of the Cambie Bridge protest last November and is promising more action is coming with more ordinary citizens joining the anti-Kinder Morgan movement.
“We’re sort of re-grouping and there’s a lot of new interest, new activity on this file. People that had kind of assumed the government would take our concerns into consideration have now realized that that’s not happening.”
McCartney says Clark’s endorsement of the project showed when British Columbians wanted her to stand up to Ottawa, she “buckled like a cheap lawn chair.”
“Never be built”
The Tsleil-Waututh First Nation, whose traditional territory the tanker terminal would occupy, released a statement saying despite today’s announcement the pipeline “will never actually built.”
Spokesperson Charlene Aleck says the province has failed to adequately consult with First Nations, and relied on a flawed National Energy Board process.
“One thing is clear they are trying to force a dangerous project on many thousands of people that really do not want it, that is not a recipe for success,” she wrote.
The Tsleil-Waututh say they are currently exploring legal options.
Shovels in the ground
But not all of the reaction west of the Rockies has been negative, with some groups predicting an economic shot in the arm for B.C.
Chris Gardner is VP of the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association of BC and says it presents a massive opportunity for the West Coast.
“It represents opportunities for jobs, skills training, and apprenticeship for workers across British Columbia. It’s a $6.8-billion project that’ll be the largest private sector investment in the province.”
And he’s not alone.
“It’s move forward and get shovels in the ground,” says Stewart Muir with industry-focused non-profit Resource Works.
He says thousands of skilled jobs are on the way, both in construction and for British Columbians who work in Alberta and in the oil patch.
And he says there will be spin-off benefits.
“[It’s] not just a pipeline corridor, it’s an innovation corridor. There’s 157 conditions the environmental groups have pushed the government groups have pushed the government to apply. And a lot of those ar going to require a lot of investment side, in technology.”
Muir says there are multiple layers of environmental protections being applied to help manage the project’s risk.
The mayor of Burnaby, where the pipeline’s terminus sits, says while he is clearly disappointed this is far from the end of the road.
Long time expansion opponent Derek Corrigan says there are a number of legal avenues that are still being pursued to try and stop the project.
“There’s First Nations who are partnering with us on a number of these issues who have separate constitutional status and the ability to keep this matter in the courts for a prolonged period of time, and in the end perhaps, to be successful.”
Corrigan says he doesn’t think the Premier fought for what is best for the people of B.C. with this project.
Until last year, B.C. had intended to stay out of the environmental assessment process for pipelines, having signed an equivalency agreement with the National Energy Board delegating the responsibility.
That move was legally challenged by the Coastal First Nations in relation to the now defunct Northern Gateway Pipeline project, and last January the Supreme Court of B.C. ruled in their favour, finding the province must still conduct its own assessments.
B.C.’s Provincial Environmental Assessment Office cited that decision when announcing plans for this assessment last April.
Full statement from Environment Minister Mary Polak and Natural Gas Development Minister Rich Coleman:
“Today we issued an EA Certificate for the project, understanding that all inter-provincial pipelines are under federal jurisdiction. We have looked at areas where we can improve the project by adding conditions that will build upon those already established by the federal government. “The Environmental Assessment Office recommended 37 new conditions be attached, to address concerns raised by communities and Aboriginal groups during its consultation. We have agreed to all 37 conditions, ensuring the project meets the high standards we demand in British Columbia. “The conditions we have attached will make sure ongoing consultation with First Nations occurs and also provides further protection of wetlands, wildlife habitat and caribou and grizzly populations. They are all legally enforceable, and will help to minimize or avoid altogether potential issues within areas of provincial interest. “Clearly, the project will have economic benefits for British Columbia workers, families and communities. However, we have always been clear economic development will not come at the expense of the environment. We believe environmental protection and economic development can occur together, and the conditions attached to the EA certificate reflect that.”