BC rejects Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion

Image from ForestEthics.Burnaby – Residents near Kinder Morgan’s oil tanker terminal are today applauding the government of British Columbia’s rejection of the Trans Mountain expansion proposal at the National Energy Board. Environment Minister Mary Polak confirmed in filing the province’s final argument that the Texas pipeline company has failed to meet any of B.C.’s five conditions for heavy oil transport.

“Bitumen sinks in water,” said Kai Nagata, a spokesperson for the Dogwood Initiative. “So it makes no sense to approve more tanker traffic if there’s no effective way to clean up a spill. We’re glad the province is speaking out on this because the NEB seems determined to ignore the science.”

The U.S. National Academy of Sciences published a landmark study in December 2015 confirming that bitumen quickly separates in real-world conditions, off-gassing volatile solvents as the heavier compounds sink into the water column, out of the reach of oil booms or skimmers.

Canada’s National Energy Board refused to consider the NAS report in its review of the Trans Mountain Expansion proposal, ruling that it would cause a “high degree of prejudice” to the Texas pipeline company. The NAS report was commissioned by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The National Energy Board is currently made up of Conservative appointees, with the next vacancy coming up in 2020. Five of the board members are past Conservative donors. The former Conservative government changed the NEB Act in a 2013 omnibus bill, in part to expedite pipeline approvals. The NEB was harshly criticized by the Liberal Party in the lead-up to the 2015 federal election.

“On the campaign trail, Prime Minister Trudeau promised the Kinder Morgan review would have to be redone completely,” said Nagata, “but so far the new government has made zero changes at the NEB. We’re hoping Ottawa steps in before the Harper-appointed board approves another flawed project on the basis of incomplete evidence.”

The Province of British Columbia also formally opposed the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline and tanker proposal, citing identical concerns over diluted bitumen spills. The NEB approved the Enbridge project in December 2013. The board is scheduled to deliver its decision on Kinder Morgan’s proposal in May.