VICTORIA — Premier Christy Clark announced British Columbia's support for the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline Wednesday, saying the project meets her government's five conditions for approval and includes a revenue-sharing agreement worth up to $1 billion.
Clark said she's now convinced Kinder Morgan Canada's $6.8-billion project will protect B.C. from potential environmental damage with world-leading spill prevention and response measures.
The project also promises $20 billion in economic growth over the next 20 years, she added.
The federal government gave its approval for the pipeline expansion late last year after the National Energy Board recommended it go ahead if 157 conditions are met. Clark's government granted provincial environmental approval for the project Wednesday.
"The project has met the five conditions," Clark said at a news conference at the B.C. legislature. "We fought for these conditions for 4 1/2 years."
The expansion would triple the capacity of the existing oil pipeline, which runs from near Edmonton to Burnaby, B.C., and is expected to increase tanker traffic seven-fold.
Among B.C.'s five conditions are world-leading marine and land oil spill response, protection and recovery measures for B.C.'s coast and land areas. The conditions also include environmental reviews, First Nations consultations and participation and economic agreements that reflect the level and nature of the risk the province bears with a heavy oil project.
"It is a federal decision, and they made it," said Clark. "But what is our job is, is to stand up for British Columbia. It's to fight to make sure our coasts, our land base, our communities are protected and benefiting from any change in the movement of heavy oil across our province."
She said the financial agreement with Kinder Morgan will provide up to $1 billion to the province over the next 20 years that will go toward a B.C. Clean Communities Program that will fund local environmental projects.
Alberta Premier Rachel Notley said the announcement is good news for B.C. and Alberta after years of failure by conservative federal and provincial governments to get a pipeline approved.
"I am very happy. It is good news for Albertans," she said.
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.
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.
B.C. Green party Leader Andrew Weaver said the project represents a massive threat to the province's environment.
"The evidence does not support their assurances that we can adequately respond to a heavy-oil spill, nor does it backup the government's misleading claims about the economic effects this pipeline will have," he said in a statement.
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.
"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.
The Vancouver area Tsleil-Waututh Nation said First Nations were not adequately consulted about the project and legal options are being explored.
"Regardless of today's announcement, the Kinder Morgan pipeline will never actually be built" said Charlene Aleck, of the nation's Sacred Trust Initiative, said in a statement.
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.
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.