Byron Smith was disappointed but not very surprised by today's decision by the Trudeau government to approve a controversial plan to twin the Trans Mountain pipeline that carries Alberta oil through Langley to Burnaby.
"I'm not very happy," said Smith (picture below) , who lives on the 31-acre farm his family owns near the pipeline route and is one of a group of residents who have lobbied against the project.
Smith told the Times the federal announcement earlier this month of a $1.5-billion ocean protection plan to handle tanker and fuel spills on the B.C. coast was "a pretty clear indicator" the pipeline would get the go-ahead.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also announced a decision against Enbridge's Northern Gateway oil pipeline across northern B.C. to Kitimat.
"If I thought this project was unsafe for the B.C. coast I would reject it," Trudeau said in Ottawa.
"This is a decision based on rigorous debate, on science and on evidence. We have not been and will not be swayed by political arguments, be they local regional or national."
The PM said more pipeline capacity is needed to keep oil from traveling by rail across the country, at greater risk to communities.
Kinder Morgan's $6.8-billion project would triple Trans Mountain capacity to 890,000 barrels per day and result in a seven-fold increase in oil tanker traffic through Burrard Inlet.
Township mayor Jack Froese said the announcement means the uncertainty over the pipeline project has ended.
While the Township filed a nine-page list of concerns about the pipeline when the Trans Mountain Expansion (TMX) Ministerial Panel reviewing the project came to Langley City earlier this year, Froese said it is incorrect to say the Township was against the project.
"I never opposed it (and) council never opposed it," Froese (picture below) told the Times.
He said the Township will continue to work to have those concerns addressed, and some progress has been made.
The written submission estimated the expansion of the 17-kilometre line through Langley could mean $12.8 million in added costs to taxpayers over the next 50 years as the municipality spends extra to build infrastructure around the pipeline, such as water lines, sewers, storm drains, roads, sidewalks, bike lanes and ditches.
Maegen Giltrow, legal counsel for the Township, told the panel the proposed twinning of the existing pipeline operated by the Kinder Morgan company would leave municipalities vulnerable to “considerable risk” from pipeline failures and emergencies, threaten well water quality and create a “substantial financial burden upon local taxpayers.”
The written submission said that based on previous incidents involving pipeline leaks, the Township has “significant concerns that Trans Mountain is not adequately prepared to respond to pipeline-related emergencies, and that local communities are at risk.”
Kwantlen First Nation members have protested the project, with artist Brandon Gabriel organizing several demonstrations, saying the line will see "890,000 barrels of oil travel daily through sacred lands and waters.”
In his initial reaction, Gabriel indicated further protests were likely.
"I am excited because now I get to see my indigenous brothers and sisters come together and stand up for our unrelinquished and asserted land and water rights like never before," Gabriel told the Times.
A spokesperson for the Dogwood Initiative said First Nations will challenge the approval in court, while British Columbia retains jurisdiction over dozens of permits required for construction.
"I feel betrayed by this decision,” said Dogwood campaigner Sophie Harrison.
Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson said he was "profoundly disappointed" with the decision, calling it a "big step backwards for Canada's environment and economy."
Peter McCartney, Wilderness Committee climate campaigner, called the decision "outrageous."
“Canadians — and especially British Columbians — have said loud and clear that we don’t want this reckless pipeline coming anywhere near the Pacific coast,” McCartney said in a statement.
McCartney said more court cases against the projects are expected, and the decision is sure to be an issue in next spring’s provincial election.
The cabinet decision follows a ministerial panel review that earlier this fall flagged a series of unresolved questions over the project.
Those included whether the pipeline expansion can be reconciled with the Liberal government's new climate change commitments, as well as Aboriginal rights, particularly in light of Ottawa's embrace of a UN declaration of indigenous rights.
That panel and other politicians have also urged Ottawa to consider forcing the pipeline's new twin to bend south to a new terminal, at either Deltaport or Cherry Point in Washington State, to avert an increase in tankers through Burrard Inlet and minimize on-the-ground opposition in Burnaby.
Langley-Aldergrove MP Mark Warawa said he was "neutral" on the Kinder Morgan project.
"I've not been supportive or opposed," Warawa told The Times.
He said he supports a "science-based" decision, which the National Energy Board made in approving the line with strict conditions.
"If it's not done right, it will have negative impacts," Warawa said.
Warawa added he was "disappointed" by the Trudeau government decision against Northern Gateway, calling it a political decision that had little to do with science.
Cloverdale-Langley City’s Liberal MP John Aldag said the government’s decision to approve the Trans Mountain expansion, while rejecting Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline, and announce a moratorium on crude oil tankers along B.C.’s north coast, were the right things to do.
“I believe these decisions struck the right balance in fulfilling our environmental responsibilities with the rejection of the Northern Gateway proposal and validation of the crude oil tanker on our North Coast which will preserve the Great Bear Rainforest and Sea for future generations while opening up new opportunities for Canadians by ensuring that Canadian resources have an expanded path to global markets," he said.
Provincial review nearing end
Minister of Environment and Langley MLA Mary Polak (pictured below) said a seven-month long review of the pipeline by the BC Environmental Assessment Office will soon be completed.
"Our government has been consistent in fighting for British Columbia with the five conditions for any new or expanded heavy-oil pipeline," Polak said.
"That remains the case today, and we will work to ensure each of our conditions are met.”
Those conditions are: Successful completion of the environmental review process; "World-leading" marine oil spill response, prevention and recovery systems' land oil spill prevention, response and recovery systems; meeting legal requirements for Aboriginal and treaty rights; and a "fair share of the fiscal and economic benefits."
The favorable decision on the Trans Mountain line was hailed by Ian Anderson, president of Kinder Morgan Canada.
“This is a defining moment for our Project and Canada’s energy industry,” Anderson said.
“This decision follows many years of engagement and the presentation of the very best scientific, technical and economic information. We are excited to move forward and get this Project built, for the benefit of our customers, communities and all Canadians.”
Anderson said the project will mean $46.7 billion in taxes and royalties for governments, more than 800,000 person years of employment and allow oil producers to capture an additional $73.5 billion in revenues.
Construction is expected to start in September 2017, with an in-service date for the twinned pipeline anticipated in late 2019.
The Trudeau government also today approved the Line 3 pipeline upgrade by Enbridge from Alberta to Wisconsin. That $7.5-billion project will increase oil exports from 390,000 to 760,000 barrels per day and could be expanded further to 915,000 barrels.
- with files from Black Press