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As the Texas-based oil giant Kinder Morgan celebrates victory in the National Energy Board's recommendation for approval of its Trans Mountain expansion project, governments in Metro Vancouver are vowing not to accept defeat.
Municipal leaders across Vancouver, Burnaby, Victoria and more will rally together over the coming months to lobby the federal government to reject the project at the end of the year. If approved, they say the expansion would run straight through six or seven communities in Vancouver’s Lower Mainland, disrupting operations and generating extra infrastructure and utility costs, while putting more than 200,000 people at risk from a catastrophic failure in pipeline operations.
"I am deeply disappointed, but not surprised with the National Energy Board’s decision to approve the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion," Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson said in a public statement. "This proposal is a bad deal for Vancouver and our entire region. The 600 per cent increase in oil tanker traffic in our local waters dramatically increases the risk of an oil spill, which would have devastating impacts on our environment and our thriving economy."
The City of Vancouver stated in a previous announcement that the city's brand as a "green, clean and sustainable" city was worth $31 billion, and that an oil spill could damage the brand value by up to $3 billion.
The risks far outweigh the benefits, he explained, which in this case, include increased access to diverse markets for Canadian oil, thousands of construction jobs, billions of dollars in provincial and federal tax revenue and royalties, and — as the NEB argues — improved capacity for local Indigenous groups, communities, and businesses.
The Trans Mountain expansion is a proposal to triple the capacity of an existing pipeline that runs from Alberta's tar sands to the waters of Burnaby, B.C. to 890,000 barrels of diluted bitumen per day. The operation, once completed, would involve 987 kilometres of brand new pipeline, 12 new pump stations, and 20 new tanks.
Only communities can grant permission
The City of Burnaby, too, led by Mayor Derek Corrigan, has done everything in its power to stop the expansion from ploughing through its neighbourhoods and will continue to do right up until a federal cabinet ruling. In 2014, the municipality saw saw more than 100 citizens arrested during a protest against the project on Burnaby Mountain, and the following year Corrigan asked the federal government to cancel NEB hearings for the pipeline, citing extraordinary matters of conflict of interest.
Last November however, Burnaby lost a court battle against Trans Mountain to put the project to rest for good, but the mayor said he hasn't lost faith that Trudeau and his cabinet will see reason. In an interview with National Observer, he vowed to use all the resources available to him to hold the Liberal leader to account for promises made that while governments grant permits, "only communities can grant permission."
At the provincial level, B.C. Environment Minister Mary Polak offered a mixed review of the NEB's recommendation for approval, issued Thursday along with 157 stringent technical, environmental, and financial conditions.
Her government has set its own conditions for approving large energy projects, including completion of the environmental review process, well-placed marine and land-based spill response, First Nations participation and benefit from operations, and a fair share of economic benefits for the province.
B.C. not in a position for a heavy oil pipeline
"A significant amount of work has already gone toward establishing and meeting the five conditions," Polak said in a statement, "but we are not yet in a position to consider support for any heavy-oil pipeline in B.C."
Her ministry will follow up with Kinder Morgan over the summer to ensure that all the conditions are being met, particularly those dealing with adequate First Nations consultation and whether any additional accommodations may be required by Indigenous communities along the pipeline route.
Despite her apprehension however, a report by Desmog Canada, a local investigative advocacy publication, found that the B.C. government is already prepping for the Trans Mountain expansion's construction. Last week, it passed legislation that changes the boundaries of Finn Creek Provincial Park in response to a request from Kinder Morgan that it redraw the borders of four provincial parks to make way for the new pipeline.
It later clarified with DeSmog Canada saying, “this proposed boundary adjustment would not be brought into force unless and until the project is approved by the National Energy Board, the Province is satisfied its five conditions have been met, and the Province has issued an environmental assessment certificate. Until such time, this boundary adjustment does not permit any form of construction of the proposed pipeline.”