Ecojustice Blog – Climate change Posted on June 25, 2015 (updated: March 29, 2017)

B.C. needs to step up to ensure Kinder Morgan meets ‘5 conditions’

Karen CampbellLawyer
Oil spill by Jay-P via Flcikr
Oil spill by Jay-P via Flcikr

As more municipalities come out against the proposed Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, the review process continues to chug along.

Earlier this week, we ­— on behalf of Living Oceans Society — filed a motion with the National Energy Board requesting that the Province of British Columbia answer questions relating to the five conditions it has imposed on Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline expansion application.

As you may remember, three years ago — in the midst of widespread public opposition to Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline — the province outlined five conditions that must be met in order for heavy oil pipelines (like the Kinder Morgan project) to be supported by the B.C. government. Announced by Premier Christy Clark, who was up for re-election, the conditions were a recognition of the grave concerns many British Columbians have about major pipeline projects that put B.C.’s coast at unacceptable risk. The conditions include requirements related to oil spill response and prevention, respect for Aboriginal and treaty rights, and analysis of a project’s costs and benefits to British Columbians.

But so far, it has been difficult to see how National Energy Board’s current process can possibly address Premier Clark’s conditions. The province has elected to file no evidence during the process, which begs the question of how the province intends to determine the Kinder Morgan project’s costs and benefits to British Columbians — especially since it has signed away its responsibility to conduct its own independent environmental assessment.

The problems with the Board’s process on the Kinder Morgan project are well-documented. Between its restrictive, undemocratic approach to public discourse, reliance on paper submissions and the company’s often unhelpful responses, including its baffling position that oil spilled in water won’t harm fish, it has become increasingly clear that if the Board recommends that the project be approved, real doubts will remain.

And that’s why we filed this motion on behalf of our client Living Oceans Society. It is time for the B.C. government to step up and design a credible British Columbia review process under the B.C. Environment Assessment Act. Given the Kinder Morgan project’s potential impact on B.C. communities, it is essential that British Columbians have a fuller picture of the environmental, health and safety issues at stake. It certainly appears to be the only way for the project to possibly meet Premier Clark’s five conditions.

Meanwhile, a group of law students have taken it upon themselves to build on online issue based platform for distilling and sharing expert evidence and reports so that the public is better able to understand and critique the assumptions and conclusions in Kinder Morgan’s pipeline application. This useful tool is a great way for people to engage with what can be an inaccessible process and develop a deeper understanding of the issues at play.

We encourage you to check it out and share it with your networks:

Final arguments in the Kinder Morgan review process are expected to take place in early fall. As always, we’ll keep you posted on next steps.

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Photo credit: Jay-P via Flickr

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