A tanker loads with oil at Kinder Morgan's Westridge Marine Terminal in Burnaby

NEB advances Trans Mountain oil pipeline

Tentative green light from federal regulators was widely expected, decision now rests with Trudeau government

Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline twinning now has the endorsement of the National Energy Board, which has recommended the federal government approve the project subject to a long list of conditions.

The tentative green light from regulators was not unexpected – the NEB has never rejected a pipeline proposal outright.

The NEB review panel found the $6.8-billion project is in the national interest, unlikely to cause significant adverse environmental effects, and its benefits outweigh any “residual burdens.”

The report did flag significant adverse effects from increased tanker traffic, causing impacts to southern resident killer whales, but it notes marine shipping is projected to increase with or without the pipeline, and tankers would be a small fraction of that.

Wider access to world markets for Canadian oil, government revenues, and thousands of construction jobs were among the benefits listed.

It found there is a very low probability of a serious spill from the pipeline, a tanker, a tank terminal or pump stations, and that risk is acceptable.

The federal government must now meet a December deadline to approve or reject the project.

Meanwhile, following an election commitment by the federal Liberals to revamp and restore trust in the flawed pipeline review process, a three-member panel will conduct new consultations with communities and first nations and advise cabinet. The panel consists of former Tsawwassen First Nation Chief Kim Baird, former Yukon premier Tony Penikett and University of Winnipeg president Annette Trimbee.

Even if Ottawa gives final approval, big hurdles remain.

During NEB hearings, the province said it could not yet support the pipeline because its conditions for new heavy oil pipelines have not been met.

“We still have a long way to go with respect to marine spill preparedness and response,” B.C. Environment Minister Mary Polak said Thursday, adding there’s also more work to be done on land spill response, and significant work required to resolve first nations concerns and ensure there are net benefits for B.C.

Even if B.C. comes on board – and there has been speculation a deal could involve Alberta agreeing to buy B.C. electricity – the project still faces aboriginal court challenges, a plan by environmentalists to force a referendum using B.C.’s initiative legislation, and the threat of civil disobedience during construction.

The second pipeline would nearly triple Trans Mountain’s capacity to 890,000 barrels per day, resulting in a seven-fold increase in tankers plying Vancouver harbour.

While portions of the 1,150-kilometre pipeline route from Alberta to the terminal in Burnaby closely follows the existing pipeline built in 1953, it would follow a largely new route through the Lower Mainland.

That means traversing farmland and neighbourhoods, and in some cases cutting through parks, such as Surrey Bend Regional Park and Bridal Veils Provincial Park near Chilliwack.

Various cities and regional districts lodged their objections at NEB hearings on the project, while other prominent interveners pulled out of the process last summer, denouncing it as rigged in favour of Kinder Morgan.

157 conditions

The NEB’s recommendation to approve comes with 157 conditions, up from 145 draft conditions previously circulated.

Kinder Morgan would be required to update earthquake analyses, including studies of seismic faults and liquefaction-prone areas.

Another condition requires it to update risk assessments at the Burnaby and Sumas terminals to quantify the risk of a “boil over” fire, flash fires or vapour cloud explosions, as well as any potential “domino effect” from a failure at one storage tank compromising others.

Kinder Morgan must also assess firefighting resources that would respond to its Burnaby terminal or tank farm and consult with affected municipalities.

The NEB is also requiring Trans Mountain to track its greenhouse gas emissions related to construction and operation, and develop a plan to offset the construction emissions.

The review did not consider the downstream effect on climate change from burning oil overseas.

The report also concedes there will be significant increased greenhouse gas emissions from tanker traffic, which can’t be offset.

Kinder Morgan would have until Sept. 30, 2021 to begin construction of the pipeline, after which certificates expire. The company aims to start construction in 2017 and finish it by late 2019.

B.C. environmental groups said the project has no social licence and predict it will never be built.

“A raft of court cases is already underway, and citizens have already been arrested in protest at the project,” said Christianne Wilhelmson of the Georgia Strait Alliance. “Communities clearly do not grant permission to Kinder Morgan, so permits cannot be granted by the government.”

Anti-pipeline activist John Vissers, of the group Pipe Up, said the project will contribute to global warming by increasing the burning of fossil fuels. He also expressed concern about the age of the original pipe.

“Sixty-year-old infrastructure should be replaced before we allow expansion of that industry,” Vissers said.

– with files from Tyler Olsen

 

EXPLORE OUR INTERACTIVE TIMELINE

National Energy Board report on Trans Mountain expansion by Jeff Nagel

Just Posted

COMMUTER ALERT: Serious pedestrian crash closes Pacific Highway

Traffic along 176th Street, 4th to 8th Avenue, is blocked while Mounties continue to investigate.

Giants owner Ron Toigo to get BC Sports Hall of Fame W.A.C. Bennett Award

Head of Langley-based hockey team to be honoured at May induction gala

UPDATED: Touching note left on Langley veteran’s windshield

A veteran hopes the writers of a note know how much he was touched by their kind words. They do.

VIDEO: Young Langley boy uses his grief to help other kids suffering loss

Thursday Langley Hospice hosts its Paint the Town Blue campaign to spotlight child bereavement.

LETTER: Canada should not be selling weapons abroad

A Langley man is critical of Canada for selling arms that are being used to kill civilians.

People flocking to Vancouver Island city to see hundreds of sea lions

Each year the combination of Steller and California sea lions take over Cowichan Bay

Baloney Meter: Will tougher penalties for gang members make Canada safer?

Since 2013, gang-related homicides in Canada’s largest cities have almost doubled

Early data suggests no spike in pot-impaired driving after legalization: police

Some departments said it’s too early to provide data, others said initial numbers suggest stoned driving isn’t on the rise

Protesters confront Environment Minister in B.C.

Protesters wanting more for killer whales confront Catherine McKenna

Humans reshaping evolutionary history of species around the globe: paper

University of British Columbia researcher had the paper published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society

Toronto ‘carding’ activist Desmond Cole stopped by police in Vancouver

Cole says his experience reveals what daily life is like for black and Indigenous residents

Tubing, skating, light display part of new winter festival in Vancouver

Set to open Nov. 23, the six-week festival will take over Vancouver’s Concord Pacific Centre

Commercial trucks banned from left lane of Coquihalla

B.C.’s Ministry of Transportation has introduced a new program that hopes to prevent accidents and closures on the Coquihalla Highway.

B.C. on track to record same number of overdose deaths as last year

128 people died of overdoses in September, bringing the total to more than 1,100 so far in 2018

Most Read