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B.C. approves Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion

A ship receives a load of oil from Kinder Morgan’s Westeridge terminal in Burnaby, B.C. The terminal is at the end of the Trans Mountain pipeline, which received B.C. government approval Wednesday for a controversial expansion project.

JONATHAN HAYWARD/THE CANADIAN PRESS

B.C. Premier Christy Clark says her government has reached a financial deal with Kinder Morgan worth as much as $1-billion over the next two decades, satisfying her demands that British Columbia get a fair share of the economic benefits from the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline.

It has been almost five years since Ms. Clark announced that any heavy oil project in British Columbia would have to meet five conditions to win her approval. With what she described as an "unprecedented" revenue-sharing agreement, the province on Wednesday formally gave its blessing to the $6.8-billion project that will triple the capacity of Kinder Morgan's existing pipeline, which spans 1,150-kilometres from Edmonton to the marine terminal in Burnaby, B.C.

"The project has met the five conditions," the Premier told reporters after releasing details of the deal with Kinder Morgan, which she said took more than four years to negotiate.

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The federal Liberal government gave the green light to the pipeline expansion in November, with 157 conditions to be met by Kinder Morgan. At that time, British Columbia had not completed its environmental assessment review, which was forced by the courts but could not have derailed the project.

The results of the B.C. review were announced on Wednesday. The province has granted an environmental certificate to the B.C. portion of the project, with 37 additional conditions, including ongoing consultation with First Nations and further protection of wetlands, wildlife habitat, and caribou and grizzly populations.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley was triumphant at the project's clearance of another hurdle, while environmentalists vowed to stop the pipeline, which is embroiled in lawsuits.

Ms. Clark said the province has better environmental protection now, and her government has ensured British Columbians will be first in line for construction jobs. As well, the money from the revenue-sharing pact will finance community programs to protect and enhance the environment.

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"This is about protecting our coast," Ms. Clark said. She added that she will not promote the pipeline, which faces strong opposition from coastal communities and First Nations. "We have always recognized this was not our decision to make." The Premier has repeatedly called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who announced the federal approval in November, to come to British Columbia to defend his decision. Ms. Clark's five conditions included a "world leading" oil spill response capacity on land and water. She said Ottawa's Ocean Protection Plan meets that demand. The province has also changed its own environmental regime to deal with potential land-based spills.

The five conditions also included addressing aboriginal and treaty rights, and that the project receive regulatory approval. As of Wednesday, when the province announced it has issued its own environmental assessment certificate for the project, the Premier said she is satisfied her terms have been met. Kinder Morgan welcomed the approval. "Trans Mountain shares the values and priorities of safety, environmental protection and prosperity for communities that the province's five conditions represent," Ian Anderson, president of Kinder Morgan Canada, said in a statement. Under the revenue-sharing deal, the company will pay British Columbia a minimum of $25-million per year over the 20-year lifespan of the deal. If shipments exceed contract volumes, the payments could rise to a maximum of $50-million annually.

Opponents condemned the province's decision.

"This was Christy Clark's opportunity to defend our coast – and she chose a Texas oil company over the well-being of her own province," said Sven Biggs of Stand.earth. Charlene Aleck of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation called the consultation with First Nations inadequate. "Regardless of today's announcement," Ms. Aleck said, "the Kinder Morgan pipeline will never actually be built."

Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan said that federal approval of the pipeline gave Alberta what it wanted and British Columbia had to make the best of it. "Christy Clark looks rather foolish and weak," Mr. Corrigan said in an interview. "She failed to get any commitment before the federal announcement was made. She is playing second fiddle to a more aggressive premier."

In Edmonton, Ms. Notley said the pipeline's approval was a victory for her government's wide-reaching climate plan and a sign that Alberta's economic recovery is under way. "This is a project that has inter-provincial consequences. It matters to Canadians, it matters to B.C.-ers, it matters to people whose jobs and prosperity depend on it," she said.

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Tim McMillan, president of Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, acknowledged the opposition, but said the approval process was robust. "It's a really positive announcement – not just for our industry, but for all of Canada. To have the support of the Premier and her government was very crucial to the success of this project."

John Horgan, leader of the provincial New Democratic Party, said he is prepared to fight the decision in the coming provincial election.

"Some risks are too great," he told reporters in Victoria as he brandished a jam jar filled with heavy oil. "This is the risk Christy Clark is prepared to take with our natural environment … Some messes cannot be cleaned up."

With reports from Justin Giovannetti in Edmonton and Wendy Stueck in Vancouver

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About the Author
B.C. politics reporter

Based in the press gallery of the B.C. Legislature in Victoria, Justine has followed the ups and downs of B.C. premiers since 1988. She has also worked as a business reporter and on Parliament Hill covering national politics. More

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