Ottawa delays Trans Mountain Expansion decision to mid-June
Canada's Minister of Natural Resources Amarjeet Sohi has pushed back his government's final decision on the Trans Mountain Expansion Project (TMEP) from May 22 to June 18, 2019.
In a statement released to the public on Thursday, the minister says the federal Liberals remain committed to doing "things differently" on TMEP, as per the recommendations of the Federal Court of Appeal. Sohi added the delays are due in part to more time required to complete Phase III consultations with Indigenous groups.
Last February, the National Energy Board (NEB) reiterated its recommendation for approval of the project, adding another 16 non-binding recommendations. Most of the new recommendations were in reference to the Southern resident killer whale (SRKW), a major point of contention for anti-pipeline activists, who use additional tanker traffic as a reason to block oil exports from marine terminals.
There are an 74 SRKWs living in the Salish Sea. Their population has fluctuated from a high of 98 in 1995 to a low of 66 in 1973. The whales are classified as an Endangered Species.
The NEB points out that all marine vessels pose a risk to marine life, and crude oil tankers represent only a small fraction of total marine traffic. Large crude carriers also travel very slowly, making them more quiet, less disruptive, and far less likely to collide with marine life than smaller, faster-moving ships.
In their final recommendation report, the NEB adds "regularly operating ferries, tugs, and whale watching boats make substantial contributions to underwater noise, well beyond what will be added by [TMEP]."
If completed, TMEP would boost Alberta's export capacity by 590,000 bbl/day, increasing tanker traffic out of the Port of Vancouver from about one or two shipments per month, to about one shipment daily.