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BC clears final hurdle for pipeline approval

BC clears final hurdle for pipeline approval

The federal Liberals have committed $1.5 billion over the next 5 years to "make Canada a world-leader in marine safety." Funds from the Oceans Protection Plan will be used to improve spill response and conduct more research into cleaning oil spills.

Activists from both sides of the fence see this as a sign the Liberals will approve expansion of the Trans Mountain Pipeline later this year. Trudeau did not confirm or deny the speculations.

In 2012, the BC government stated they would only support a "heavy oil" pipeline through their province if 5 conditions were met, which included implementing a "world-leading" marine oil spill response and recovery system, practices for spill prevention, Aboriginal treaty rights and the sharing of economic benefits.

As set out in our government's heavy oil policy paper, Requirements for British Columbia to Consider Support for Heavy Oil Pipelines, the following requirements must be established:
  • 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.

Earlier this summer, BC's Energy Minister Bill Bennett said the only outstanding issue was marine spill response, which falls under federal jurisdiction. Presumably, this latest announcement from the federal government meets BC's final condition, clearing the way for approval of the Trans Mountain Expansion.

As a compromise, the Liberals are rumoured to being close to finalizing a moratorium on crude oil tankers on the northern coast of BC, as promised during the last federal election campaign.

Transport Canada Minister Marc Garneau was in the northern coastal town of Bella Bella earlier this week, touring the site of a diesel spill after a tugboat sank last month. 

The tugboat belonging to Texas-based Kirby Offshore Marine ran aground in the Seaforth Channel while pushing an empty fuel barge, spilling an estimated 110,000 litres of fuel. 


The channel is already part of the Voluntary Tanker Exclusion Zone, but tugboats are small enough to cross through the zone. Earlier this week, another barge carrying sand and gravel flipped over on route from Seattle to Alaska. Barges are commonly used in inland marine travel and have become increasingly popular in the transportation of crude oil, particularly in the US. Barges are much cheaper than tankers and far more fuel efficient than transport by rail.

Garneau assured the community a crude oil tanker ban will be in place by the end of the year. However, the local Heiltsuk First Nation would like to see the ban extended to tugged barges. 

Oil differentials set to narrow - eventually

Oil differentials set to narrow - eventually

Dissecting Alberta's labour market: not getting better but at least not getting worse

Dissecting Alberta's labour market: not getting better but at least not getting worse