BC Premier Christy Clark’s decision to oppose formally the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline means the project is all but dead.
The announcement, which came in the form of the BC government’s final written submission this morning to the National Energy Board-led review panel for the project, is only mildly surprising. Enbridge has suffered setback after setback throughout the multi-year review and even the Harper government – which retains the final say over the project due to the Liberal Government’s secretive handing away of provincial sovereignty on the matter – has backed away from its ardent support for the embattled pipeline builder. In recent months Harper has shifted his focus to pushing through the proposed Keystone XL pipelinefrom Alberta to the US Gulf Coast.
“British Columbia thoroughly reviewed all of the evidence and submissions made to the panel and asked substantive questions about the project, including its route, spill response capacity and financial structure to handle any incidents,” Environment Minister Terry Lake noted.
“Our questions were not satisfactorily answered during these hearings.”
That leaves one other major expansion route for the Alberta Tar Sands to foreign markets: US energy giant Kinder Morgan’s proposal to triple its pipeline capacity to the port of Vancouver. This would result in a twenty-fold rise in tanker traffic through the Salish Sea compared with the early 2000s, before the company purchased the old Trans Mountain pipeline from Edmonton to North Burnaby.
“The position adopted by B.C. on the Northern Gateway Pipeline project as currently proposed is not a rejection of heavy-oil projects,” the Clark Government stated in its final Enbridge submission, leaving the door open to Kinder Morgan.
This makes no sense.
The basis upon which Clark rejected Enbridge – the company’s failure to meet five conditions established by the Liberal Government a year ago – applies equally to Kinder Morgan’s plan.
These conditions are as follows:
- Successful completion of the environmental review process. In the case of Enbridge, that would mean a recommendation by the National Energy Board Joint Review Panel that the project proceed;
- 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; and
- 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
The Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion, much like Enbridge, already fails in most of these areas.
The Coast Salish First Nations, through whose unceded traditional territories the pipeline and tankers would transit, have made their opposition clear over the past year.
Marine safety experts have repeatedly warned that neither the government nor Kinder Morgan are adequately prepared for a coastal oil spill. The company on retainer to provide these services, Western Canadian Marine Response Corporation, acknowledged at a Vancouver City Council meeting two years ago that it was certified to clean up a spill of 100,000 barrels, while these tankers would carry 650,000 barrels – possibly more if the company pushes to dredge Second Narrows and move up to larger Suezmax carriers.
The risks from the tanker route, while different from the proposed Enbridge project, are equally severe. These tankers would pass the economic heart of the province, its major population centres, its most important salmon estuary, important whale habitat, the vital farmland of the Fraser River Delta, the Gulf Islands, southern Vancouver Island and our political capital in Victoria. Throughout this journey, these ships would face daunting navigational challenges. Estimates for the cost of an oil spill in the Vancouver area range up to $40 Billion.
An oil spill on BC’s south coast would decimate our “Super, Natural BC” brand, which is at the heart of our $13.4 Billion tourism economy.
As for the economic benefits of the Kinder Morgan expansion to British Columbians…what benefits? A few dozen long-term jobs in the expanded Burnaby tanker terminal? Pitiful royalties and tax revenues for the province?
If the Enbridge pipeline isn’t up to Christy Clark’s standards, then the proposed Kinder Morgan expansion shouldn’t be either.