BY BILL PHILLIPS
Provincial cabinet ministers are voicing concerns over the proposed expansion of the Kinder Morgan pipeline project and are now seeking legal advice on what the province can do about it.
“Our government made it clear that a seven-fold increase in heavy oil tankers in the Vancouver harbour is not in B.C.’s best interests,” said George Heyman, minister of environment and climate change strategy, in a press release. “Not for our economy, our environment, or thousands of existing jobs. We will use all available tools to protect our coastal waters and our province’s future.”
The press release, however, does not specifically state the government is seeking to stop the project. Victoria is seeking to “protect British Columbia’s interests” in the face of the proposed expansion of the Kinder Morgan pipeline and increased tanker traffic. The project has received federal approval.
The province has secured Thomas Berger, QC, OC, OBC as external counsel to government in the legal action related to Trans Mountain Expansion Pipeline.
“We are committed to fighting for B.C.’s interests and it is government’s desire to seek intervenor status in legal challenges to federal approval of the pipeline expansion and increased oil tanker traffic off B.C.’s coast,” said Attorney General David Eby. “Mr. Berger will provide legal advice to government on the options for participation in legal challenges, and those hearings are scheduled to begin in federal court later this fall.”
The province will also fulfil its duty of meaningful consultation with Indigenous people concerning this project, including consultations regarding potential impacts to Aboriginal rights and title – a responsibility that has been identified in a number of court cases. In particular, that duty must be fulfilled as consultation relates to environmental assessment certificate (EAC) requirements. Until these consultations are completed in a way that meets the province’s legal obligations, work on the project on public lands cannot proceed.
“Going forward we will be reviewing policies to outline how our government expects to further meet our commitments to First Nations as well as to all British Columbians with regard to defending our air, land and water,” said Heyman. “This policy review will clarify government policy for decision-makers as they evaluate future permits and work plans.”
The province will continue to explore other tools to hold Kinder Morgan’s project plans to the “high standards” of environmental protection and Indigenous consultation that British Columbians expect, said the release.
While the press release doesn’t specifically mentioned halting the Kinder Morgan pipeline, Green Party leader Andrew Weaver did.
“I am very pleased by the government’s announcement today,” said Weaver, in a press release. “Employing every tool available to the new government to stop the expansion of the Kinder Morgan pipeline is a key commitment in our Confidence and Supply Agreement. I applaud Premier Horgan’s strong leadership on this issue and his government’s demonstration that it intends to make good on this crucial promise.”
Weaver said the Green Party feels the National Energy Board process that led to the project’s approval was flawed.
“Government has a responsibility to base major decisions affecting the lives and livelihood of so many people on sound evidence, and in the case of TransMountain that standard was not met,” he said. “In fact, expert panels from both the US National Academy of Sciences and the Royal Society of Canada have highlighted the fact that there would be be little ability to clean up a diluted bitumen spill in the coastal environment.”
Weaver was the only MLA in the B.C. Legislature that acted as an intervenor in the National Energy Board hearings on the TransMountain pipeline expansion project. Adam Olsen, now MLA for Saanich North and the Islands, was also an intervenor.
“It is time to change the relationship with First Nations in British Columbia and this new minority government has a chance to do things differently when it comes to working with First Nations on projects that impact their communities,” said Olsen, who is a member of the Tsartlip First Nation.