An oil tanker is boomed off and docked at Kinder Morgan's Burnaby terminal to take on oil from the Trans Mountain pipeline. The number of tankers plying Burrard Inlet would increase from five per month to 34 if the pipeline is twinned.

B.C. NDP oppose oil pipeline approval

Criticism continues to grow as NEB hearings loom for Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain expansion project

B.C. New Democrats have staked out a formal position against approval of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain oil pipeline expansion ahead of final arguments later this month before the National Energy Board.

In comments filed with the NEB, the NDP caucus urged the regulators to “recognize that because of the significant risks and the flawed and undemocratic process used to evaluate the project, it cannot be allowed to go forward.”

The letter signed by party leader John Horgan and environment critic Spencer Chandra Herbert criticizes the NEB for presiding over a process that’s “fundamentally flawed and broken” and failed to answer key questions from intervenors, while allowing Kinder Morgan to conceal parts of its emergency spill response plans.

The NDP MLAs say those factors, as well as the exclusion of climate change as an issue to be considered, have led to a widespread public view that the NEB is “a public charade used to create the illusion of impartial consideration of projects, when in fact, these pipeline hearings have predetermined outcomes.”

The $5.4-billion project would nearly triple the Trans Mountain pipeline’s capacity to 890,000 barrels per day between northern Alberta and Burnaby, resulting in a seven-fold increase in oil tankers plying Vancouver harbour.

The provincial government did not table written arguments ahead of a May deadline for intervenors but is expected to lay out its position during the hearings, which begin Aug. 24.

The province has maintained it will not approve any new heavy oil pipeline that doesn’t meet its conditions for world-class spill response capability on land and at sea, addressing aboriginal rights and opportunities, and a fair share of benefits for B.C. It opposed the Northern Gateway pipeline on the basis none of those conditions were met, but the Enbridge project still got conditional approval from the NEB and federal government.

The NEB is scheduled to release its draft conditions for construction of the Trans Mountain pipeline on Aug. 12.

Opposition also continues to come from the City of Burnaby, which indicated it will not step up policing for the project hearings and asked the NEB to make other security arrangements.

Other prominent intervenors have previously withdrawn from the process, in some cases declaring it to be “rigged.”

Various groups have urged the province to pull out as well and conduct its own review of the project.

While the B.C. NDP oppose the Kinder Morgan project, federal NDP leader Tom Mulcair declined to take a position under repeated questioning from Green Party leader Elizabeth May in an Aug. 6 debate. (See clip below.)

Mulcair said the project needs to be weighed carefully as part of a “thorough, credible process” and not be prejudged.

B.C’s NDP lost the 2013 provincial election after then-leader Adrian Dix came out against Kinder Morgan during the campaign rather than wait for the review process to unfold, a move the B.C. Liberals used to portray the party as against economic development.

Meanwhile, Trans Mountain spokesperson Ali Hounsell said the steep drop in oil prices over the past year has not hurt the viability of the project, which has binding, long-term contracts with 13 oil shippers who factored in the potential for market fluctuations.