THE provincial government is taking initial action on its commitment to protect British Columbia’s interests in the face of the proposed expansion of the Kinder Morgan pipeline and increased tanker traffic.
At a news conference on Thursday, Environment and Climate Change Strategy Minister George Heyman and Attorney General David Eby outlined both legal and consultation steps the government will take immediate action on.
“Our government made it clear that a seven-fold increase in heavy oil tankers in the Vancouver harbour is not in B.C.’s best interests,” said Heyman. “Not for our economy, our environment, or thousands of existing jobs. We will use all available tools to protect our coastal waters and our province’s future.”
The British Columbia government has secured Thomas Berger, QC, as external counsel to government in the legal action related to Trans Mountain Expansion Pipeline.
“We are committed to fighting for B.C.’s interests and it is government’s desire to seek intervenor status in legal challenges to federal approval of the pipeline expansion and increased oil tanker traffic off B.C.’s coast,” said Eby. “Mr. Berger will provide legal advice to government on the options for participation in legal challenges, and those hearings are scheduled to begin in federal court later this fall.”
The Province will also fulfil its duty of meaningful consultation with Indigenous people concerning this project, including consultations regarding potential impacts to Aboriginal rights and title – a responsibility that has been identified in a number of court cases. In particular, that duty must be fulfilled as consultation relates to environmental assessment certificate (EAC) requirements. Until these consultations are completed in a way that meets the Province’s legal obligations, work on the project on public lands cannot proceed.
“Going forward we will be reviewing policies to outline how our government expects to further meet our commitments to First Nations as well as to all British Columbians with regard to defending our air, land and water,” said Heyman. “This policy review will clarify government policy for decision-makers as they evaluate future permits and work plans.”
The Province will continue to explore other tools to hold Kinder Morgan’s project plans to the high standards of environmental protection and Indigenous consultation that British Columbians expect.
GREEN Party Leader Andrew Weaver said: “I am very pleased by the government’s announcement today. Employing every tool available to the new government to stop the expansion of the Kinder Morgan pipeline is a key commitment in our Confidence and Supply Agreement. I applaud Premier Horgan’s strong leadership on this issue and his government’s demonstration that it intends to make good on this crucial promise.
“In the B.C. Green caucus’ view the National Energy Board process that led to this project’s approval was profoundly flawed. Numerous questions remain unanswered or were simply dismissed. To cite one example, the entire marine spill response was predicated on the existence of 20 hours of sunlight. There is no place south of Tuktoyaktuk that has that much sunlight on any day of the year.
“Government has a responsibility to base major decisions affecting the lives and livelihood of so many people on sound evidence, and in the case of TransMountain that standard was not met. In fact, expert panels from both the US National Academy of Sciences and the Royal Society of Canada have highlighted the fact that there would be be little ability to clean up a diluted bitumen spill in the coastal environment.
“B.C.’s future lies in innovative growth areas like clean tech and the value-added resource sector, not the sunset fossil fuel industry of the last century. B.C. has everything it needs to be a leader in these areas – it is simply a matter of priorities. I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the house to develop good public policy that will ensure B.C.’s prosperity for generations to come.”
Weaver was the only MLA in the B.C. Legislature that acted as an intervenor in the National Energy Board hearings on the TransMountain pipeline expansion project. Adam Olsen, now MLA for Saanich North and the Islands, was also an intervenor.
“It is time to change the relationship with First Nations in British Columbia and this new minority government has a chance to do things differently when it comes to working with First Nations on projects that impact their communities,” said Olsen, who is a member of the Tsartlip First Nation.
“A foundational piece of the agreement between our two caucuses is our mutual support of the adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission calls-to-action and the Tsilhqot’in Supreme Court Decision. Indigenous rights and interests are clearly an important part of the Provincial and National interest and I am proud that our Provincial government is recognizing that. Together we can build a province where the government is finally accountable to all of the people it serves.”