NEB approves Trans Mountain pipeline expansion—with conditions

Conceptual design for Westridge Marine Terminal in Burnaby, part of the propsed Trans Mountain pipeline expansion
Conceptual design for Westridge Marine Terminal in Burnaby, part of the propsed Trans Mountain pipeline expansion

Business groups are in favour. Environmentalists, not so much

The National Energy Board has approved Kinder Morgan’s proposed Trans Mountain Expansion Project subject to 157 conditions. The board found that the project, which would triple the capacity of the Trans Mountain pipeline system in Western Canada, can be constructed, operated and maintained in a safe manner and is in Canada’s best interest.

Business organizations are welcoming the decision. “This project is a big economic win for B.C. and for Canada,” said BC Chamber of Commerce interim CEO Maureen Kirkbride in a statement. “This project will bring construction, operations and other indirect jobs to B.C., while enabling our national oil resources to reach Asian markets.”

The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers is also pleased. “This decision is a milestone for the future of Canada,” said CAPP president and CEO Tim McMillan in a statement. “The NEB is sending a clear message to Canada: building the infrastructure to get our resources to market is in the best interest of our country.”

The Greater Vancouver Board of Trade urges the federal government to now “respect the science-based regulatory process of the NEB and thus approve the project based on the expert opinion of Canada’s independent regulator.”

Environmentalists, on the other hand, are urging the federal government not to approve the pipeline. Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson said in a statement that he is deeply disappointed but not surprised, and that an expanded pipeline is not in the public interest because the safety, environmental and public health risks of an expanded pipeline far outweigh any economic benefit: “As Mayor, I will be advocating forcefully to Prime Minister Trudeau and the federal government that they should say a definitive ‘NO’ to this project.” Greenpeace’s statement also asks Trudeau to reject the pipeline, saying, “We can’t build more pipelines and meet the international climate commitments that Canada agreed to in Paris.”

The NEB report notes that more than 85 per cent of the proposed route parallels existing disturbances, and that the project is unlikely to cause significant adverse environmental effects due to environmental protection procedures and mitigation—except for endangered Southern killer whales, which would be affected by increased marine traffic. The NEB feels this is offset by the likelihood of other marine traffic also increasing in the future, and also by initiatives to support the whales’ recovery being undertaken by Trans Mountain, Fisheries and Oceans Canada and other organizations.

The NEB would also impose a condition requiring Trans Mountain to develop an offset plan for the project’s construction-related greenhouse gas emissions. As for spills, the board found that while the consequences of large spills could be high, the likelihood of such events occurring would be low given the extent of the mitigation and safety measures that would be implemented.

While the NEB feels that the legal requirement for consultation with and consideration of Aboriginal groups has been met, Trans Mountain would be required to continue consultation with potentially affected Aboriginal groups throughout the life of the project should it proceed.

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