She knew there was a good chance the Trudeau government would approve Kinder Morgan’s proposal to twin the 63-year-old Trans Mountain pipeline that runs 1,150 kilometres from Edmonton to Burnaby.
But Victoria’s Mayor Lisa Helps was still disappointed when she heard Tuesday the project had in fact been approved, which would triple the pipeline’s capacity to 890,000 barrels per day, resulting in an increase in oil tanker traffic off the city’s coast from five to 34 loaded tankers per month.
“I just think that the decision to approve the pipeline in the national interest could have equally been a decision to turn down the pipeline in the national interest and investing in green energy and clean energy jobs,” said Helps, who’s among a number of B.C. mayors that banded together to oppose the expansion.
“It’s a significant increase in tankers going past the coast — very close to Dallas Road. With an increase in traffic, there is an increase in the potential for oil spills and that’s my greatest worry at this point.”
As the decision was made to approve one controversial pipeline project in B.C., another one was shot down — the construction of Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline that would have travelled across northern B.C. to Kitimat.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the Great Bear Rainforest is no place for a pipeline and the Douglas Channel is no place for oil tanker traffic. The existing Trans Mountain pipeline, however, has been in operation since 1953 and carries diluted bitumen from the oilsands in Alberta’s north to B.C. for export.
Alberta Premier Rachel Notley said the expansion gives the province a chance to sell to China and other new markets at better prices and reduce dependence on one market.
The Kinder Morgan approval sets the stage for a massive confrontation with environmentalists in B.C. Protestors have already been staging rallies and making preparations for what some believe will be a huge battle.
A few protests were held in Victoria leading up to the approval. Helps participated, and also wrote a personal letter to the prime minister, invoking the horror that will follow should there be a spill in local waters.
“It would have a devastating impact not only here on the coast, but even on the tourism inland,” said Helps, noting B.C.’s booming tourism economy contributes to the rest of Canada. “It’s impossible to ever clean up from an oil spill.”
On Wednesday, premier Christy Clark said Trans Mountain has met almost all of its five conditions for any new heavy oil pipeline, which include a marine oil spill response plan, land oil spill prevention, legal requirements regarding Indigenous and treaty rights being addressed and the province receiving a fair share of the fiscal and economic benefits.
The $6.8-billion project is also subject to 157 binding conditions set out by the National Energy Board.
Kinder Morgan aims to begin construction in September of 2017 and open the new pipeline in late 2019.
The Trudeau government also approved the Line 3 pipeline upgrade by Enbridge from Alberta to Wisconsin. The $7.5-billion project will increase oil exports from 390,000 to 760,000 barrels per day and could be expanded further to 915,000.