An oil tanker being loaded at Westridge Terminal at the end of the existing Trans Mountain pipeline in Burnaby.

An oil tanker being loaded at Westridge Terminal at the end of the existing Trans Mountain pipeline in Burnaby.

New Trans Mountain pipeline review flags tough questions

Panel re-floats idea of Kinder Morgan switching to less contentious terminal at Delta or in Washington State

A separate federal review ordered into Kinder Morgan’s proposed Trans Mountain oil pipeline twinning has flagged a series of tough questions for Justin Trudeau’s government as it prepares to render a final decision.

The ministerial review aimed to address gaps in the previous National Energy Board review of the $6.8-billion project.

The Trudeau Liberals had denounced the NEB process as flawed during the federal election but environmental groups have viewed the subsequent review as an exercise aimed at papering over the problems to allow federal approval of the project.

Instead, the new report grimly paints the “enormity” of the decision ahead in stark terms, pointing to “two solitudes” of divergent opinions in risk-averse B.C. and job-hungry Alberta.

That final decision is required by December on the recommendation by the NEB that the project proceed, on the basis that its benefits to the country as a whole outweigh the impacts and risks.

Key questions, the review found, include whether the pipeline expansion can be reconciled with the Liberal government’s new climate change commitments, as well as aboriginal rights, particularly in light of Ottawa’s embrace of a UN declaration of indigenous rights to “free, prior and informed consent” on major projects.

Given the changing economics of the project – the price of oil has plunged since Trans Mountain was proposed – and changing government priorities, it asks, how can Canada be confident that the rewards do outweigh the risks.

Likewise, it questions how policy makers can reconcile loosely defined concepts such as “social licence” and the “national public interest” that might be cited to override fierce local objections.

The panel that reported Thursday to Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr consisted of former Tsawwassen First Nation Chief Kim Baird, former Yukon premier Tony Penikett and former Alberta government official Annette Trimbee.

Defining social licence

Intense protests are expected in B.C. if the Trudeau government proceeds to grant final approval.

On the issue of social licence, the report reminds the prime minister of his words – from 2013 – that “government grant permits, but only communities grant permission.”

The expansion would triple Trans Mountain capacity to 890,000 barrels per day and result in a seven-fold increase in oil tanker traffic through Burrard Inlet to about 35 a month, which opponents say would greatly increase the risk of an impossible-to-clean spill of diluted bitumen.

“It will be for the federal government to interpret whether there is a national public interest and whether it has the capacity to imply or engender a more broadly based social licence, even in instances when local communities stand firmly in opposition.”

The panel did hear support for the pipeline in communities like Kamloops and Clearwater, and broadly in Alberta.

But the report underscored the “depth of concern” heard from public hearings on the B.C. coast on issues such as the increase in tankers, and accompanying risk to the environment, tourism and other industries.

Recent spills from a freighter off Stanley Park in 2015 and a fuel barge that ran aground off Bella Bella last month intensified public concern.

Inland objections included fears that a pipeline rupture into the Fraser could destroy the salmon fishery, or that a spill seeping into aquifers in the Fraser Valley could make ground water undrinkable.

Alternate route eyed

The report also raised for reconsideration the idea of abandoning the Burnaby terminal and the need to run tankers through Vancouver harbour, and instead have the pipeline end at Deltaport or divert south of the border at Abbotsford to Cherry Point in Washington State.

“Government must decide whether the Trans Mountain pipeline is a worthwhile risk – and whether its current route is the right one,” the report says. “If approved, what route would best serve aquifer, municipal, aquatic and marine safety?”

The idea of an alternative terminal came up frequently, with multiple presenters suggesting the 60-year-old pipeline’s current route to Burnaby is a “historical accident” not a first choice.

“They said they doubted that anyone, designing an optimum route today, would choose to thread the pipeline through some of the most densely populated parts of British Columbia and into its busiest waters.”

Kinder Morgan has rejected the idea of a new pipeline terminal at Deltaport as too expensive, the report notes, but it adds the company did not address the scenario of a new terminal just to the south in the U.S.

“This would obviously require a closer engagement with U.S. authorities and likely approval from the Environmental Protection Agency,” the report said of the Cherry Point alternative, but it echoed one engineer’s comments that it would offer clear advantages of being closer to open sea, would use a site that has handled oil tankers for decades, and would avoid dense urban areas.

Alberta wants a new pipeline to tidewater so oil can be sold to the highest international bidder, rather than remain landlocked and limited to lower U.S. prices.

But the report notes it’s unclear when or if oil prices will rise to a level that makes the expanded pipeline competitive.

On the issue of climate change, the report also cites the prime minister’s past comments that while a shift to alternative energy is essential, that will take time and oil will remain a needed fuel in the interim.

Development opponents in B.C. attack pipeline proposals based on varying local objections, but the report noted many of the same groups also oppose the biggest renewable energy project on the horizon – the B.C. government’s Site C hydroelectric project.

@jeffnagel

jnagel@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

 

Trans Mountain expansion ministerial review report by Jeff Nagel on Scribd

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Sept. 10, 2020 — In the photo is a W.L. McLeod student wearing a mask in a school bus, on his first day back-to-school. This year, due to COVID-19, students will have a different year than most. The President of B.C. Teachers’ Federation told Black Press Sept. 9, that she had a lot of mixed feeling about how ready the education system is for students to be coming back-to-school. Meanwhile, Libby Hart, Principal of W.L. Mcleod Elementary School in Vanderhoof said,” We know some of the families are still unsure, but most of our families have been great in connecting with us and talking to us.” Photos continued on Page 7. (Aman Parhar/Omineca Express)
‘Significant’ changes coming to Fraser Health school exposure notices, says Surrey superintendent

Jordan Tinney tweeted that there will be 3 letters sent out to a school community

This is the second rally this week, organized in support and solidarity of the farmers in India. The first was on Wednesday, Dec. 2, which started at the Cineplex parking lot in Strawberry Hill and ended in Vancouver by the Indian consulate. (Photo: Our Avaaz/Instagram)
Second car rally planned in Surrey in support, solidarity of farmers in India

It will start at the Cloverdale Recreation Centre on Saturday

Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum during a meeting in 2019 of the city’s Public Safety Committee, which he has dissolved, instead creating the Police Transition Advisory Committee. (File photo: Amy Reid)
LETTER: Surrey’s mayor isn’t trustworthy

Reader asks if we should believe the mayor

Shawn Canil, a Cloverdale-area resident, turns heads with the truck he’s decorated for Christmas. (Photo: Tom Zillich)
Truck’s Christmas decorations lift spirits on Cloverdale man’s commute

‘When I see them smiling, I know it’s worth it,’ pickup driver Shawn Canil says

A reminder to students at Surrey’s Strawberry Hill Elementary to physically distance during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo: Lauren Collins)
5 Surrey schools reporting COVID-19 exposures

INTERACTIVE TABLE: Search for schools, organize by exposure dates

A snow moon rises over Mt. Cheam in Chilliwack on Feb. 8, 2020. Friday, Dec. 11, 2020 is Mountain Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Dec. 6 to 12

Mountain Day, Dewey Decimal System Day and Lard Day are all coming up this week

Robert Riley Saunders. (File)
First Nations Leadership Council demands justice for victims of B.C. social worker

Union of BC Indian Chiefs calls actions of Robert Saunders ‘nothing short of complete depravity’

Demonstrators, organized by the Public Fishery Alliance, outside the downtown Vancouver offices of Fisheries and Oceans Canada July 6 demand the marking of all hatchery chinook to allow for a sustainable public fishery while wild stocks recover. (Public Fishery Alliance Facebook photo)
Angry B.C. anglers see petition tabled in House of Commons

Salmon fishers demand better access to the healthy stocks in the public fishery

(Hotel Zed/Flytographer)
B.C. hotel grants couple 18 years of free stays after making baby on Valentines Day

Hotel Zed has announced a Kelowna couple has received free Valentines Day stays for next 18 years

Farmers raise slogans during a protest on a highway at the Delhi-Haryana state border, India, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau rejected the diplomatic scolding Canada’s envoy to India received on Friday for his recent comments in support of protesting Indian farmers. Tens of thousands of farmers have descended upon the borders of New Delhi to protest new farming laws that they say will open them to corporate exploitation. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Manish Swarup
Trudeau brushes off India’s criticism for standing with farmers in anti-Modi protests

The High Commission of India in Ottawa had no comment when contacted Friday

Montreal Alouettes’ Michael Sam is set to make his pro football debut as he warms up before the first half of a CFL game against the Ottawa Redblacks in Ottawa on Friday, Aug. 7, 2015. Sam became the first publicly gay player to be drafted in the NFL. He signed with the Montreal Alouettes after being released by St. Louis, but abruptly left after playing one game. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Study finds Canada a ‘laggard’ on homophobia in sports

Among females, 44 per cent of Canadians who’ve come out to teammates reported being victimized

Nurse Kath Olmstead prepares a shot as the world’s biggest study of a possible COVID-19 vaccine, developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc., gets underway Monday, July 27, 2020, in Binghamton, N.Y. U.S. biotech firm Moderna says its vaccine is showing signs of producing lasting immunity to COVID-19, and that it will have as many as many as 125 million doses available by the end of March. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Hans Pennink
Canada orders more COVID vaccines, refines advice on first doses as cases reach 400K

Canada recorded its 300,000th case of COVID-19 on Nov. 16

Apartments are seen lit up in downtown Vancouver as people are encouraged to stay home during the global COVID-19 pandemic on Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. British Columbia’s deputy provincial health officer says provincewide data show the most important area B.C. must tackle in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic is health inequity. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marissa Tiel
Age, income among top factors affecting well-being during pandemic, B.C. survey shows

Among respondents earning $20,000 a year or less, more than 41 per cent reported concern about food insecurity

Chilliwack General Hospital. (Jenna Hauck/ Progress file)
Chilliwack mother upset about son’s alleged suicide attempt after hospital discharge

Rhonda Clough said 34-year-old son suffering with bipolar disorder should have been kept in hospital

Most Read