​Trans Mountain Expansion gets B.C. green light, Kinder Morgan to pay B.C. up to $1B

B.C. premier Christy Clark. Image: Government of British Columbia

Kinder Morgan’s proposed Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion cleared major hurdles with the government of British Columbia on Wednesday, receiving environmental approval and the province’s determination that the project has met its five conditions to proceed.

“We are now closer than ever to breaking Alberta’s landlock and fixing a problem that has dogged our province for decades,” Alberta premier Rachel Notley responded in a statement.

“Let’s keep moving forward.”

The green light from B.C. results in part from a successful accord on the province’s condition that it receive fair share of the project’s economic benefits.

“B.C. has achieved an unprecedented agreement with Kinder Morgan to receive a significant investment worth up to $1 billion. The company will pay the province between $25 million and $50 million annually for 20 years. This is the first time in B.C. that a company will share revenue from a large industrial project directly with the province,” the B.C. government said in a statement.

“All of these revenues will be dedicated to a new BC Clean Communities Program. Under this new program, community groups across B.C. will be able to apply annually for grants to invest in protecting and enhancing B.C.’s environment.”

That’s condition five. Condition one was that the project completes the province’s environmental review process. B.C.’s approval, issued Wednesday, adds 37 conditions to the 157 conditions included in the approval issued by the National Energy Board in May 2016.

“These additional conditions respond to concerns that have been raised by Aboriginal groups during consultation undertaken for the project and address key areas of provincial jurisdiction and interest, such as: vegetation and wildlife, parks and protected areas, greenhouse gas emissions and terrestrial and marine spills,” the province says.

Condition two was about protecting B.C.’s coast.

“The Trudeau government has taken action on B.C.’s second condition related to world-leading marine spill prevention, response and recovery with a $1.5-billion Oceans Protection Plan,” the province says.

“A commitment to a world-leading system is an ongoing commitment for continuous improvement with additional investments as required in the future. B.C. will work closely with Canada to confirm we have a world-leading system in place on our coast prior to Trans Mountain commencing operations, as early as December 2019.”

B.C. says the project has also committed that tankers will be escorted by a tug for the entire transit up a key piece of coastline, and a $150 million investment that will result in a doubling of spill response capacity and halving response times along the Salish Sea.

Conditions three and four have either been addressed or are being addressed, the province says.

“The third condition requiring world-leading land-based spill response is addressed through provincial legislation passed last year, which will establish a world-leading spill preparedness and response regime. Regulations will be enacted in 2017.

“The fourth condition requiring opportunities for First Nations as well as addressing legal and treaty rights is being addressed by both the federal government and the company.”

Opposition groups were quick to react to the approval.

“Today’s announcement is another reminder that our environmental laws need significant improvement to protect the interest of present and future residents of British Columbia,” West Coast Environmental Law said in a statement.

“It ignores the First Nations that have barred the project in their own laws. Like Enbridge Northern Gateway, we expect that First Nations and community opposition will not allow this project to proceed.”