Those who hoped the re-election of Christy Clark’s Liberal government in British Columbia would mean her eventual endorsement of the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline were reminded Friday the project has a long way to go to win the province’s essential backing.
In its final submission to the Northern Gateway Pipeline Joint Review Panel, B.C. says it cannot support the project as presented because proponent Enbridge Inc. has been unable to address British Columbians’ environmental concerns.
“We have carefully considered the evidence that has been presented to the Joint Review Panel,” B.C. environment minister Terry Lake in a statement. “The panel must determine if it is appropriate to grant a certificate for the project as currently proposed on the basis of a promise to do more study and planning after the certificate is granted. Our government does not believe that a certificate should be granted before these important questions are answered …‘Trust me’ is not good enough in this case.”
While environmental organizations applauded the tough talk, B.C. also said its position on Northern Gateway is not a rejection of heavy-oil projects. It says all proposals, such as Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion or David Black’s Kitimat Clean refinery project, would be judged on their merits.
B.C. said it stands by its five conditions — including top oil spill response and a fair share of the benefits for the province to offset the environmental risks — to allow heavy oil pipelines through B.C.
The province’s statement was submitted to the panel as it concludes its regulatory review. Final arguments start June 17 in Terrace, near Kitimat, the proposed pipeline’s end point.
The province’s position is a blow to Enbridge, which has maintained the pipeline will use the top safety measures available.
“As a British Columbian, I am personally committed, as is Northern Gateway, to building a pipeline project that meets the highest possible safety and environmental standards anywhere in the world and a project that creates new jobs and opportunities for British Columbians,” Enbridge executive vice-president Janet Holder said in a statement.
B.C.’s stance gives it a strong position as it enters into discussions with Alberta and Saskatchewan on how to make heavy oil pipelines more acceptable in the province.
In an interview on Wednesday, during a visit to Alberta, Mr. Lake, said provinces’ premiers are expected to meet “shortly” and B.C. has left open “a pathway to yes” to the projects that involves meeting the five requirements laid out last July.
If Alberta, in particular, didn’t take seriously B.C.’s message that it needs to see a fairer tradeoff between the pipeline’s risks and rewards, it should have gotten it now.
Read B.C.’s full submission to the Joint Review Panel on Northern Gateway below:
BC Submission to NGP JointReviewPanel 130531 by National Post