No deal hatched in Alberta to allow oil pipeline: B.C. environmentalists

Environmental groups vow to keep fighting Kinder Morgan oil export project, now pegged at $6.8 billion

B.C. environmental groups deny they’ve made any secret deal to dial down their opposition to the proposed Trans Mountain oil pipeline as part of the Alberta NDP government’s accord with industry to cap oil sands emissions.

They were reacting to a Financial Post story reporting that a backroom compromise reached between industry, the Rachel Notley government and four environmental groups, including ForestEthics, would see activists back off on their opposition to new export pipelines.

“There’s no way we’re going to stop working to prevent projects like Kinder Morgan’s from being built,” ForestEthics campaign organizer Sven Biggs said Monday.

“Certainly we’ve worked with the government of Alberta to try to improve their climate plan. But we’ve never suggested that we would stop working to stop the transport of tar sands oil.”

ForestEthics also continues to lead a constitutional challenge of the National Energy Board’s revised review process for the Trans Mountain project.

ForestEthics Canada director Karen Mahon praised Alberta’s carbon reduction plan on Nov. 22 as one that makes that province a climate leader, instead of a laggard, by keeping more of the oil sands bitumen in the ground.

Notley has pushed for the Trans Mountain pipeline and gone so far as to suggest in recent months a different, less contentious terminal be used instead of the existing one on Burrard Inlet in Burnaby.

Chilliwack-based pipeline opponent Michael Hale, with the Pipe Up Network, said few B.C. residents would accept any trade-off that sacrifices local concerns – including the risk of a tanker spill on B.C. shores or a pipeline rupture on land – in order to limit carbon emissions in Alberta as a climate change goal.

“There is no solution that involves exporting bitumen,” Hale said. “The risk of oil spills locally is huge. In the Valley here that galvanizes a lot of people.”

Kinder Morgan Canada president Ian Anderson recently said the project’s cost has climbed from a 2013 estimate of $5.4 billion to likely around $6.8 billion, but he insisted the new pipeline remains viable.

It would triple Trans Mountain’s capacity to 890,000 barrels per day and result in a seven-fold increase in oil tankers sailing through Vancouver harbour.

Critics say the writing is on the wall.

“Every month it’s delayed the costs go up,” Hale said. “And every month it’s delayed China comes on with more clean energy, there’s greater production of solar panels and it becomes more feasible to switch to clean energy and fuels.”

The new federal government promised a new approach to pipeline reviews but last Friday’s throne speech made only a vague reference to introducing new environmental assessment processes with no indication if they will apply to the Trans Mountain project.

The NEB review is currently slated to hear oral arguments from Trans Mountain and intervenors over the next two months, with a final recommendation going to the federal cabinet by May.

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