B.C. rejects Northern Gateway pipeline

Donna Barnett: Conditions not met, environmental risk cited

Many First Nations, environmental groups and others are applauding the provincial government for stating in its final written submission to Ottawa that it does not support the Northern Gateway (NG) Pipeline Project.

Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA-elect Donna Barnett notes that as it now stands, she won’t personally support Kinder Morgan’s proposed twin pipeline either until her government’s five “stringent” conditions have been met.

These stipulations were set down to address environmental concerns, she notes, in order for British Columbia to consider allowing the pipelines into and across the province carrying hazardous bitumen.

In its submissions and at panel hearings, NG did not satisfactorily answer B.C.’s substantive questions about the project route, spill response capacity and financial structure, Barnett adds.

“The big concern as I understand it – and I think we all should be concerned – is the marine oil response, the prevention and recovery system for B.C.’s coastlines. That is so important to be put in place.”

Some of the other key issues are legalities around Aboriginal and treaty rights, she explains, as well as monetary compensation for the province.

“To me, the financial package is always important, but the most important part of the whole thing is to prove that you have mitigation in place in case of oil spills.”

However, NDP Leader Adrian Dix says the B.C. Liberal government’s argument carries no weight because it signed away decision-making authority to Ottawa in 2010.

We know Ottawa continues to support the project, so saying ‘No’ today is a toothless gesture and the B.C. Liberals know it.”

While his party doesn’t support the pipeline either, Dix notes that if the government intends to stop the pipeline from being built, it should withdraw from the agreement for federal final approval of the project.

However, Barnett explains provincial licenses would still be required for the project to move ahead, but she also has confidence in the federal review process.

“I do not believe the federal government is going to risk the environment, any [more] than the provincial government would.”

While the feds will make the decision, they do so in consultation with the province, and the MLA-elect says she believes the feds will respect that input, as well as the scientific evidence.

The potential for a spill leaves the pipeline not only a “big risk” to the province and the environment, but also to the Canadian taxpayers, Barnett says, adding all will become the ultimate “losers” if there is a massive spill.

“We’re all concerned about the economics, but we must remember this is a massive project and we cannot approve something that has not met the stringent regulations to take care of the environmental concerns.”

The B.C. Liberal government’s final written submission to the Northern Gateway Pipeline Joint Review Panel will be reiterated verbally when hearings resume on June 14 in Terrace, but this still isn’t the end of the road for B.C.’s potential approval.

Barnett says she remains “hopeful” the conditions can be met and the remaining questions sufficiently addressed, since NG has not ruled out that possibility.

Meanwhile, the Pembina Institute and Coastal First Nations are applauding the government’s decision to further mitigate risks of a catastrophic oil spill polluting the province’s lands, rivers or sensitive coastline.

The provincial submission also states NG has conceded that several risk assessments are yet to be done, and that spills do happen – noting its history of leaks over the past decade.

For more information, download the submission at www.env.gov.bc.ca/main/docs/2013/BC-Submission-to-NGP-JointReviewPanel_130531.pdf.

100 Mile House Free Press