VICTORIA — British Columbia granted environmental approval on Wednesday to the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline.
The federal government gave its approval for Kinder Morgan Canada’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.
Premier Christy Clark recently said five conditions the province placed on the project were close to being met. She said the government was still working with Ottawa on spill response and it was preparing to negotiate an economic benefits package with Kinder Morgan that reflects B.C.’s risks associated with the pipeline and increased tanker traffic.
The expansion would triple the capacity of the existing pipeline, which runs from near Edmonton to Burnaby, B.C., and increases tanker traffic seven-fold.
Environment Minister Mary Polak and Natural Gas Development Minister Rich Coleman acknowledge 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 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.
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 ministers were required to release their 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.
They 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,” the ministers 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.”
Some environmental groups, mayors in British Columbia communities affected by the project and aboriginal leaders have opposed the pipeline expansion.
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 a news release.
“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. British Columbians aren’t stupid. Those conditions were never worth the paper they were written on.”