Regulator approves twinning of Kinder Morgan pipeline into B.C.
Published Thursday, May 19, 2016 7:41AM PDT
Last Updated Thursday, May 19, 2016 6:33PM PDT
After a review lasting almost two years, Canada's National Energy Board has recommended to approve the more than $5-billion twinning of Kinder Morgan's controversial Trans Mountain pipeline -- with 157 conditions.
Expanding the pipeline is "in Canada's public interest" according to the regulator, which cited a boost in jobs and government revenues, though it warned increases in tanker traffic could lead to "significant effects" to the environment, including the recovery of the southern resident orca population.
But the process didn't look at the impact that the twinned pipeline would have on rising greenhouse gases from increased oil production that could lead to climate change -- one of the major concerns of those who oppose the pipeline.
"The project contains considerable benefits to the job market, as well as local and regional economies," said the NEB's Chief Economist Collette Craig during the technical briefing. "The economic benefit of this project is significant."
This isn't the final green light -- the pipeline must also pass environmental reviews and be approved by the Liberal government in December. The Cabinet can also ask the NEB to reconsider parts of this report.
That's exactly what Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson will campaign against. He said the economic benefits proposed by the pipeline will vanish in the case of an oil spill, with huge costs to the Vancouver economy should crude oil or diluted bitumen be spilled in Burrard Inlet.
"This city sells itself because of what we have here," he said. "All of that is at risk if there's an oil spill."
The government has already appointed a panel to engage in additional consultation among indigineous groups along the pipeline route: Kim Baird, Tony Penikett and Annette Trimbee.
The existing Kinder Morgan pipeline extends from Edmonton to the Westridge Marine Terminal in Burnaby, on Burrard Inlet. The twinned pipeline would have almost three times the capacity, at 890,000 barrels a day.
About 90 per cent of the pipeline route parallels that pipeline, though some 987 kilometres of new pipeline could be built. A total of 193 kilometres of pipeline, from Hinton, Alta. to Rearguard, B.C. through Jasper National Park would be reactivated.
To handle the increased oil coming to the Westridge Marine Terminal in Burnaby, the facility would be expanded. Other estimates have said that the number of tankers would increase sevenfold from five a month to 30.
The "considerable benefits" include increased access for Canadian oil to world markets, thousands of construction jobs, new business growth, and government revenues. It estimated 443 jobs per year, with 300 of those jobs in B.C.
The NEB consider climate change in its decision, though that was the major motivator of the many protests that have dogged this project, from protests on Burnaby Mountain in late 2014 to "kayaktivists" that approached the Westridge Marine Terminal and tried to stop an oil tanker in the past few days.
Protests outside the Westin Bayshore Hotel, where the NEB held its Vancouver press lockup, sounded the alarm about the project's potential to kickstart the oil and gas industry, which would lead to higher greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.
"It's very obvious to me that the NEB didn't listen to the people," said Shirley Samples. "Pipelines are dinosaurs. We need to move to renewable energy."
The NEB found the pipeline project would generate just over a million tons of greenhouse gases -- an increase of about 0.06 per cent nationally. Some of its conditions included monitoring and quantifying greenhouse gases emitted by the project. For the first time, Kinder Morgan has to buy carbon offsets during construction, it said.
Climate Change Canada's assessmenet of upstream greenhouse gas emissions of the project is due May 20.
The board also was concerned about the increased emissions from tankers, which it doesn't regulate. But it described the probability of a spill to be "low." The NEB doesn't regulate shipping and Kinder Morgan doesn't own the marine transport vessels.
The B.C. government has already recommended against the Kinder Morgan pipeline because of concerns about cleaning up oil spills on the coast. In the afternoon B.C. Environment Minister Mary Polak said she believed the NEB conditions mirrored the five conditions the province had set -- but she said she was still not convinced on whether the coast's spill response was adequate.
"There's a long way to go on the marine side," she said.
Despite the steep decline in oil prices, the NEB said "there is adequate supply to support the capacity of the project and the NEB is satisfied there is sufficient market to absorb the volumes."
Kinder Morgan has said construction will begin in 2017 and should be finished by 2019. The NEB says Kinder Morgan has until 2021 to start building the pipeline.
Mayor Gregor Robertson says fossil fuels are a "sunset industry" and climate change costs must be at the forefront. pic.twitter.com/eReLxDYDRB— Jon Woodward (@ctv_jon) May 19, 2016
Outside the NEB lockup at the Westin Bayshore - protesters gathered here. pic.twitter.com/QAcRXdQSHP— Jon Woodward (@ctv_jon) May 19, 2016