By Tom Fletcher and Jeff Nagel/Black Press
The B.C. government has given the green light for Kinder Morgan Canada’s Trans Mountain oil pipeline expansion and reached an agreement on a fair share of benefits for the province.
Premier Christy Clark now says all five of its conditions for a new heavy oil pipeline have been met or are being satisfied.
Clark said Wednesday an agreement reached with Kinder Morgan will provide investment worth up to $1 billion, consisting of annual payments to the province of $25 to $50 million for 20 years. The resulting “Clean Communities” fund will be available to community groups for protecting and enhancing the environment.
Clark emphasized that the decision was federal, and B.C.’s job was to fight for the best deal possible.
“The Trudeau government were the ones who approved it,” Clark said. “They did it based on science.”
Kinder Morgan Canada president Ian Anderson said his company has also committed to a “B.C. first” policy for hiring and contracting for construction, operation and maintenance of the twinned pipeline.
Trans Mountain has also committed to provide tugs to escort tankers further along their route through the Southern Gulf Islands as far as Race Rocks, plus $150 million to double spill response capacity in the Salish Sea, and cut response time by half.
Aboriginal opportunities were another B.C. condition, and the company has 41 signed benefit agreements with First Nations worth more than $350 million.
Other marine spill commitments include assurances of unlimited funds for spill liability, and a $1-billion cleanup fund, in addition to extensive federal improvements through its Ocean Protection Plan.
The announcement came after Environment Minister Mary Polak and Natural Gas Development Minister Rich Coleman issued an environmental assessment certificate to Trans Mountain Pipeline. The B.C. conditions include wildlife protection, further consultation with aboriginal communities and emergency response.
The province’s 37 conditions contained in the environmental assessment certificate are in addition to the 157 federally set conditions that were contained in the National Energy Board’s approval.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the federal government’s approval for the project Nov. 29, declaring it good for Canada, and “safe for B.C.”
The B.C. government was required to conduct its own environmental assessment after a court ruling that it could not delegate that authority to Ottawa.
The $6.8-billion pipeline twinning from northern Alberta to Burnaby would triple Trans Mountain’s capacity to 890,000 barrels per day, and result in a seven-fold increase in tanker traffic through Vancouver harbour.
The project faces a series of legal challenges from aboriginal groups, environmentalists and municipalities.
Unlike the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline across northern B.C., which was rejected last year by the federal government, the Trans Mountain pipeline largely follows an existing route that has carried oil for more than 60 years.
NDP leader John Horgan said he will “do everything I can between now and election day” in May to stop the project from going ahead, because there is too much risk from shipping diluted bitumen from the Alberta oilseeds.
Bitumen has been shipped intermittently through the TransMountain pipeline since it became available in the late 1980s, either for overseas shipping or refining at facilities in Washington and California.