BY BILL PHILLIPS
Premier John Horgan is disappointed with the federal government’s approval of the TransMountain pipeline project, but accepts the project will move ahead.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Tuesday that the government has re-approved twinning the pipeline it bought last year for $4.5 billion.
“I’m disappointed with the decision,” Horgan said to reporters this afternoon, adding he spoke with Trudeau this morning and stressed the province’s concerns about the “consequences of a catastrophic marine spill and the impact on not just on our marine environment but our economy here in British Columbia.”
He said he stressed to Trudeau that British Columbia has taken “consistent and balanced” approach available under the rule of law.
“Although I regret the federal government’s decision, it is within their authority to make that decision,” Horgan said. “It is now up to (Environment Minister) George (Heyman) and I and the government of British Columbia to ensure that as this project proceeds we have no impact on our marine life, no impact on our natural environment and we do not put at risk one of the hottest economies in the country.”
The province recently lost an appeals court ruling seeking clarification of the province’s jurisdiction to manage materials, such as bitumen, coming through the province and is now taking seeking a ruling from the Supreme Court of Canada.
“We have made application to go to the Supreme Court,” Horgan said. “And I believe that’s what British Columbians would want us to do. This is not just about this project, it’s about protecting provincial jurisdiction and ensuring that the government can protect those things that are so important to British Columbians.”
He stressed, again, that the province has not delayed or rejected any permits for the project.
Heyman said the provincial government still feels the project poses a risk to the environment, the B.C. coast and the economy.
“We continue to assert that there are potential catastrophic consequences from a bitumen spill,” he said. “Today’s decision was the federal government’s to make and that’s never been in question.”
Horgan said it was a little bit disingenuous for Ottawa to declare a “climate emergency” on Monday and approve a bitumen pipeline the next.
“It does ring somewhat hollow that on one day you can claim that there’s an emergency and on another day you can accelerate the increase of emissions in Canada,” he said, pointing to the province’s Climate Action Plan to work to reducing emissions. “It is odd to have a symbolic resolution one day and then a definitive statement the next day that could have catastrophic consequences.”
Both Horgan and Heyman declined to follow the government’s lead and declare a climate emergency.
“We believe the best way to deal with a climate emergency is not to declare one but to have a clear climate action plan to address it,” he said. “That’s what we have in B.C., that’s what we need in Canada.”
BC Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson said the decision is good news for the province.
“Today’s decision by the federal government sends a clear message to John Horgan and the NDP: The time for obstruction is over – their government needs to get out of the way and support this project,” he said in a statement. “The majority of British Columbians support this project, including more than 40 First Nations who signed benefits agreements to support the pipeline expansion. Today’s decision will bring jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars to local communities along the pipeline route. It will also provide an increased supply of refined and refineable product in the line, which will lead to greater price relief at the gas pumps. It’s a great day for B.C. and a great day for Canada.”