VICTORIA — British Columbia gave its blessing Wednesday to the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline as Premier Christy Clark announced all five conditions her government placed on the project have been met with a financial deal that will help fund environmental protection projects.
Clark said one of the final conditions will see Kinder Morgan Canada provide up to $1 billion to the province over the next 20 years that will go toward a B.C. Clean Communities Program.
"We fought for these conditions for 4 1/2 years," she said at a news conference.
Clark's announcement came after the provincial government granted environmental approval to the expansion of the pipeline earlier in the day.
Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Expansion Project's Westeridge loading dock, at bottom with green tanks, is seen in Burnaby, B.C. (Photo: Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)
The federal government gave its approval for Kinder Morgan's $6.8-billion expansion of the pipeline late last year after the National Energy Board recommended it go ahead if 157 conditions are met.
The expansion would triple the capacity of the existing pipeline, which runs from near Edmonton to Burnaby, B.C., and is expected to increase tanker traffic seven-fold.
B.C.'s conditions included world-leading oil spill response and prevention, First Nations participation in the project, a fair share of its economic benefits for the province, and successful environmental reviews.
The project still faces opposition from environmental groups, some mayors of B.C. communities affected by the pipeline and aboriginal leaders who have threatened legal action to block it.
Shortly before Clark's announcement, New Democrat Opposition Leader John Horgan said he plans to "use every tool in our tool box" to stop the pipeline expansion.
Premier Christy Clark leaves after responding to the federal government approval of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion project in November 2016. (Photo: Darryl Dyke/The Canadian Press)
He held up a small glass jar full with what he said was heavy oil to show how thick and difficult it would be to clean up if there was a spill.
"This is what risk looks like to our coast," said Horgan.
Peter McCartney of the Wilderness Committee accused the government of "blatantly" aligning itself against the wishes of its own citizens by granting the environmental approval.
"Those conditions were never worth the paper they were written on."
"Right when we need our leadership to stand up to Alberta and Ottawa, they buckle like a cheap lawn chair," he said in an interview.
"We've known all along that the government's five conditions were political posturing instead of a real assessment of the risks and benefits for B.C." he said in a news release." British Columbians aren't stupid. Those conditions were never worth the paper they were written on."
Ian Anderson, the president of Kinder Morgan Canada, said the deal it negotiated means the company will contribute a minimum of $25 million to a maximum of $50 million a year depending on how much bitumen is transported through the pipeline over its 20-year lifespan.
"We believe this represents a positive outcome for our company, customers and for British Columbians and all Canadians who will benefit from the construction and operation of an expanded pipeline," he said in a news release.
The company has also agreed to give qualified and competitive B.C. companies the first opportunity at jobs for building, operating and maintaining the pipeline.
Construction expected to begin in September
Anderson said Trans Mountain is planning to begin construction in September.
Environment Minister Mary Polak and Natural Gas Development Minister Rich Coleman said in a news release that the energy board has the primary responsibility for ensuring the project is developed, constructed and operated in a safe and secure manner.
B.C.'s environmental approval comes with 37 conditions on top of the energy board's requirements, including the consultation of aboriginal groups, the development of a species-at-risk plan, and that a plan is established to mitigate and monitor the impact of the project on grizzly bears.
Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Expansion Project's Westeridge loading dock is seen in Burnaby, B.C. (Photo: Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)
The provincial government also wants research conducted on the behaviour and cleanup of heavy oils spilled in freshwater and marine aquatic environments to provide spill responders with improved information.
The B.C. government was required to release its decision on the project by this month to comply with a B.C. Supreme Court ruling that found the province needed to conduct its own environmental assessment instead of relying on the National Energy Board process.
The minister's said the province looked where it could improve the project by adding conditions.
"Clearly, the project will have economic benefits for British Columbia workers, families and communities," they said in the statement. "However, we have always been clear economic development will not come at the expense of the environment. We believe environmental protection and economic development can occur together, and the conditions attached to the (environmental assessment) certificate reflect that."