A B.C. economist accuses the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office of being "asleep at the wheel" when it comes to monitoring the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain oil pipeline expansion project.

Robyn Allan, an economist and former intervenor in the Trans Mountain expansion review, expressed alarm over what she viewed as a weak response from B.C. over the pipeline company's apparent violation of conditions required to build the project.

"It appears to me that BC EAO is asleep at the wheel," she said. "Where have they been? Is it really doing its job?"

The pipeline expansion project, if built, would triple the capacity of the existing Trans Mountain pipeline to carry up to 890,000 barrels of petroleum products including diluted bitumen from Alberta to Burnaby, B.C. Proponents of the project say thousands of direct and indirect jobs and millions in tax revenue would be created by the project, but the project has been met with significant opposition in parts of B.C. due to factors such as a nearly seven-fold increase in oil tanker traffic to the Burrard Inlet.

Allan said B.C. doesn't seem to be doing its part to ensure the company meets conditions it promised to fulfill for the pipeline expansion.

B.C., federal regulations distinct but connected

On Sept. 22, Kinder Morgan received a letter from the federal pipeline regulator, the National Energy Board, ordering it to stop putting down special mats in B.C. streams meant to keep fish out of the way of future construction around the expanded Trans Mountain pipeline.

The company was violating the National Energy Board Act by starting construction before all the conditions had been met for the project, the letter said. Even though the project received both B.C. and federal approval, it still needed to meet 157 conditions required by the NEB, and another 37 conditions from the B.C. government.

One of these many conditions, outlined in section 8 of the B.C. Environmental Assessment Certificate, was that the company had to notify the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office within 72 hours (at the latest) after being made aware of non-compliance.

Allan mentioned this condition in a letter to B.C. Environment Minister George Heyman in late September, but says she didn't hear back. This week, the BC EAO confirmed the company never notified it about the anti-spawning mats or the warning from the NEB.

"(The company) had not contacted the EAO regarding installation of spawning deterrents along the pipeline route," B.C. environment ministry spokesperson David Karn told National Observer in an email on Thursday. He added that the EAO is nevertheless aware of the anti-spawning mats, and is in contact with the company.

He said the NEB conditions and the BC environmental assessment certificate are "distinct documents" issued by Ottawa and B.C. respectively, and that "noncompliance with the NEB certificate does not necessarily suggest a similar noncompliance of the provincial (environmental assessment certificate)."

Allan said this argument makes little sense, noting that then-Premier Christy Clark signed an equivalency agreement stating that the NEB's review process and conditions would become B.C.'s own. Although B.C. was eventually required to conduct its own assessment, she said violating the federal conditions should be something the company has to report to provincial authorities.

"Every tool" in the toolbox?

Allan said the BC EAO's lukewarm response to Kinder Morgan's actions shows a mismatch between the government's rhetoric and its actions regarding the proposed pipeline expansion. Both the BC NDP and BC Green Party stated opposition to the pipeline expansion during the campaign, and Premier John Horgan has promised to use "every tool in the toolbox" to fight it.

"British Columbians have been led to believe by our newly elected government that it will do everything possible ... to protect our environment," Allan said. "We now have a clear admission that Kinder Morgan has violated conditions by using the anti-spawning mats before it was given permission to do so. ... We were told the province would do everything it could. Why aren't they revoking the (environmental assessment) certificate? What's B.C. going to do about this?"

She said one of the "tools" B.C. can use is to revoke the environmental assessment certificate on grounds that Kinder Morgan violated conditions. But she said there's little indication the province would take that step.

Environment ministry spokesperson Karn said the BC EAO has recently written to the company to "clarify the requirement for plans to be accepted prior to pipeline construction, and to request clarification ... regarding the ongoing compliance of the project" with the environmental assessment certificate.

Kinder Morgan declined to respond to provide further information on its procedures.

Keep reading

After a government-to-government meeting with a united front of first nations in Alert Bay, Premier Horgan confirmed that Marine Harvest should not be restocking their pen and yet today they did just that - and with a police escort. The Swanson Occupation could become Standing Rock North if we don't keep our eyes on these two situations. The government is looking the other way while industry pushes them around - could it be that they are afraid that they will be taken to court if the province doesn't do as they are told? Marine Harvest will not honour the rights of indigenous Canadians, will the BC and Canadian government. Does it have to go to court every time? The honour of the Crown is what it ultimately comes down to because the treaties were not made with the Canadian government.

It's so disappointing to see the new B. C. government slipping on this campaign promise! No one can hide behind the excuse that there is too much to do! The NDP knew that 16 years' worth of destruction would be tough to fix. That's what the "many hands" idiom is all about!
The power in undertaking such a drastic act as putting an immediate halt to Kinder Morgan's illegal activities is no different than the first time a parent disciplines a badly behaving child. It's really hard, the first time, and much tougher on the parents than on the child! Subsequently, the child expects to be watched, and the behaviour improves!

Keep on writing Robyn. I love reading your theories. And so does Kinder Morgan. They know you are honest and truthful. Thanks Robyn.