January 12, 2016 - 8:30 AM
VANCOUVER - Kinder Morgan is failing British Columbia's test for proceeding with a proposed pipeline expansion, so far unable to prove it will meet key safety requirements or serve the province's best interests, the environment minister says.
Mary Polak said the company has not provided enough evidence in its plans for the Trans Mountain pipeline to convince the government it can meet five pre-conditions for approval.
The province said in its final written submission to the National Energy Board on Monday that it is unable to support the pipeline expansion from Alberta to the West Coast.
"We're saying that at this time in the NEB process they have not met (the test)," Polak said Monday in a teleconference with reporters. "It does not close the door on them meeting that test in the future."
British Columbia's stand comes as Kinder Morgan attempts to clear the final hurdles in the federal environmental assessment process. On May 20, a three-member panel is set to inform the federal cabinet whether it approves the project. Ottawa then has three months to make its decision.
The energy board considers issues specific to environmental effects likely to be associated with a project. The B.C. government's submission, therefore, only highlights concerns about Kinder Morgan's proposed spill prevention and response regime, pertaining to the ocean and land, Polak said.
But the government was also not satisfied that the company had achieved mandatory targets related to First Nations or ensuring the province receives its fair share of economic benefits, she said.
Polak said the onus is on Kinder Morgan to uphold its pledge to meet the province's conditions.
"These are real conditions, they're not a straw man put up to ensure that nobody can ever meet them."
Ian Anderson, president of Kinder Morgan Canada, said he's "confident" that Trans Mountain will be able to satisfy the province by the time the regulatory process is complete.
But he said the conditions include several requirements the company cannot fulfil alone, noting multiple parties including the federal government must work together on issues including world-leading marine oil spill response, addressing aboriginal treaty rights and ensuring B.C. gets fair benefits.
"I think we've made great strides," Anderson said in an interview. "But ... it requires the co-operation of the federal government on the marine side. I think that we have time. We've done a lot of work to satisfy the conditions up until now."
Anderson said he could not estimate the costs associated with meeting the conditions.
"Until the final ink is dry, it's only then that we'll know the final consequences."
Reaction was mixed among various groups with stakes in the proposed expansion.
Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson supported the province's stance, noting the city also holds a "wide array of substantial concerns" that could put its forecasted economic growth in jeopardy.
John Ranta, chairman of the Thompson-Nicola Regional District, disagreed with B.C. and said he represents the point of view of communities that would benefit from possible jobs and other financial benefits.
"It's a disappointment to hear that the province is turning their back on a mega-project," he said.
The premier's office in Alberta said B.C. had simply restated its position by outlining requirements for all heavy-oil pipelines.
"Fundamentally, there is nothing new in this filing. We encourage Kinder Morgan to continue working with the federal government and the government of B.C. on these issues."
Many environmental advocacy groups lauded the province, including Sierra Club BC, ForestEthics Advocacy, Dogwood Initiative, Wilderness Committee, Environmental Defence and Greenpeace.
Several noted the new federal government promised to revamp the Kinder Morgan review completely, but so far no changes have been made at the energy board.
"We're hoping Ottawa steps in before the Harper-appointed board approves another flawed project on the basis of incomplete evidence," said Dogwood Initiative spokesman Kai Nagata, referring to the former Conservative government led by Stephen Harper.
The project, estimated in 2013 to cost at least US$5.4 billion, would double an existing pipeline that runs from a community near Edmonton to the Vancouver area. It would nearly triple capacity to 890,000 barrels a day.
The energy board is scheduled to hear oral arguments from interveners in Burnaby, B.C., next week, and will hold another hearing in Calgary next month.
News from © The Canadian Press, 2016