B.C. amends the conditions for Trans Mountain pipeline expansion
British Columbia has amended the conditions of its environmental assessment certificate for the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion and told the federal government it still has concerns about its response to potential marine oil spills.
The changes announced in late February focus on the impacts of marine shipping and potential oil spills from ships related to the pipeline project.
The expansion is set to nearly triple the capacity of the existing 1,150-kilometre pipeline that carries 300,000 barrels per day of petroleum products from Alberta to B.C., which will significantly increase the number of tankers carrying oil for export.
In a letter relaying B.C.’s updated conditions, Environment Minister George Heyman and Energy Minister Bruce Ralston urged federal Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson to adopt a series of recommendations that would address the province’s concerns after it consulted with Indigenous nations, municipalities, government agencies and the public.
Those concerns would be most effectively addressed by Ottawa as part of the regulations and measures that fall under federal jurisdiction, Heyman and Ralston wrote in the letter, dated Feb. 24.
B.C. has made changes that are under its jurisdiction and sought to avoid duplicating existing federal regulations, the province said in a news release.
One of B.C.’s recommendations encourages Transport Canada to “expand the scope of its oversight” to include work done by the Western Canada Marine Response Corp., which responds to spills. In particular, it says Transport Canada’s oversight should include shoreline cleanup, planning for sunken and submerged oil, co-ordinating volunteers, and managing wildlife and waste in the event of a spill.
“We strongly urge you to carefully consider these important recommendations, and to take action on them … as soon as possible, so that the (Trans Mountain expansion) is operated in as safe a manner as possible,” the ministers wrote.
Among B.C.’s new conditions is a requirement that Trans Mountain, a federal Crown corporation, provide a report on health risks in the event of a marine oil spill. It must identify measures to reduce human exposure and negative health effects and outline which authorities would be responsible.
Another condition requires Trans Mountain to provide a report with baseline data on B.C.’s shoreline in areas that could be affected by an oil spill, including Vancouver’s English Bay and the Strait of Georgia. The report should include information on land use, infrastructure, flora and fauna, the order says.
The province has also amended a condition to require updates every five years on research Trans Mountain is involved with related to diluted bitumen and how the heavier, unrefined oil product could be cleaned up if spilled in water.
A Trans Mountain spokesperson said it is reviewing the changes to determine next steps.
Neither Wilkinson nor anyone from his Department of Natural Resources was available to comment on the provincial government’s request.