B.C. facing the risks for pipeline project

Victoria's call for greater financial compensation should have been accompanied by conditions to meet environmental concerns

Fifty-eight per cent of the risk for an environmentally damaging spill of oil on land, and 100 per cent of the risk should it happen in a marine environment.

That’s what B.C. is facing if it allows the Northern Gateway Pipeline project. And on Monday, the government laid out the ground rules to give the go-ahead for Enbridge’s prized project to bring crude from the Alberta oil sands to the B.C. coast, including that if this province was going to accept most of the risks, there should be compensation.

The federal government will be collecting some $36 billion of the $81 billion in provincial and federal taxes the Northern Gateway Pipeline is expected to generate over the next three decades. The remaining $45 billion will be split, with $32 billion going to Alberta, $6.7 billion to B.C. and another $6 billion split amongst the other provinces.

That means B.C. would be getting about 8.2 per cent of the benefits of the project, while assuming most of the risk. Getting more money out of the deal doesn’t do away with the environmental risks, but with Monday’s announcement of the minimum requirements for approval of a new pipeline across the province, it shows that B.C. is not going to blindly support a project that is of little benefit to our province.

Unfortunately, of the five conditions listed for provincial approval of a pipeline, the one dealing with fiscal equity is the clearest. Unfortunately, the two clauses dealing with the much more important environmental concerns are the most ambiguous, merely stating a requirement for “world-leading” response, prevention and recovery systems.

As much as we applaud the government’s hard stand on making sure B.C. benefits financially for the risk being taken, we would have preferred to see the same hard line taken on environmental concerns.

Requiring action plans, oversight and or penalties would all have been moves for the province to take an equally firm stand on the environmental front.

 

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