Enbridge pipeline isn’t dead yet

One of Premier Christy Clark’s first tasks of the new term will be to resume trade talks with Alberta and Saskatchewan.

One of Premier Christy Clark’s first tasks of the new term will be to resume trade talks with Alberta and Saskatchewan.

Several daunting tasks await. Clark must repair relations with Alberta Premier Alison Redford after B.C.’s theatrics over oil pipelines before the election, and prepare for the results of a federal environmental review of the Enbridge Northern Gateway proposal in the fall.

Some people were surprised on Friday when the B.C. government released its final written submission to the federal environmental review panel on Northern Gateway. It was widely interpreted as B.C.’s outright rejection of the project, but it’s not as simple as that.

Clark and B.C. Environment Minister Terry Lake signalled several times before the election that they were not getting the answers they wanted from Enbridge. But they stuck to the principle that the hearings must be completed.

The NDP repeated for months that the B.C. Liberal government had forfeited its own review and handed jurisdiction over the environmental assessment to Ottawa. In fact, a pipeline that runs across two provinces is by definition a matter of federal jurisdiction. B.C. could have held its own parallel set of hearings, which was the NDP’s stated preference, but in no circumstance does the province have a veto. Both the B.C. Liberal government and Enbridge were careful to leave the door open for further talks.

A closer reading of their comments shows that the key difference at this stage is one of timing.

“The panel must determine if it is appropriate to grant a certificate for the project as currently proposed on the basis of a promise to do more study and planning after the certificate is granted,” Lake said. “Our government does not believe that a certificate should be granted before these important questions are answered.”

According to Enbridge executive Janet Holder, those important questions can’t all be answered until the hearings are over. The company maintains that every river crossing and spill response plan can’t be done in detail during the two-year hearings.

B.C.’s final submission runs to nearly 100 pages. It goes into detail on the inconsistencies and unanswered questions on such vital topics as whether diluted bitumen can sink in water.

In short, the province argues that it can sink if the oil is in fresh water, or if it is exposed to weathering so lighter fractions evaporate, or if it is mixed with sediments that increase its density.

These are pertinent conditions if heavy oil were to leak into a river in springtime, when water runs fast and cold and brown with sediment. Then there are the obstacles presented by responding to a spill in remote wilderness and heavy snow.

Given both provincial and aboriginal opposition in B.C., the Enbridge pipeline is unlikely to be imposed, and last week Conservative cabinet minister James Moore clearly ruled that out. The B.C. government has consistently maintained that the current project does not meet Clark’s often-repeated five conditions, including the vaguely defined “fair share” of revenues, and Moore said the federal government agrees with those conditions.

The B.C. government has to face some other uncomfortable realities as well. If heavy oil pipelines are such a risk, how does B.C. manage the one that has stretched across remote and populated areas for 60 years?

Does the government take a stand against new pipelines, and then watch as rail cars full of heavy oil cross those same rivers? No permit is required for that, and in fact there are more hazardous materials than oil moving by rail and road across the province today.

Tom Fletcher is legislative reporter and columnist for Black Press and BCLocalnews.com

tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Just Posted

The Pierre family, an Indigenous family, once lived in what is now downtown Summerland. Today, Pierre Drive is named in honour of the family. (Photo courtesy of the Summerland Museum)
Pierre family played role in Summerland’s history

Downtown Summerland was once Penticton Indian Reserve #3

This parking on the east side of Martin Street will be removed permanently Monday morning (June 21, 2021) to put in the Lake to Lake bike lane. (City of Penticton)
Parking removed permanently to make way for bike lane in downtown Penticton

Work begins Monday morning to replace parking spots with bike lane on Martin Street

Jaimee Peters photo of a Willow Midwives helping with a birth. Willow closed its doors March 31 because of a shortage of midwives. (Contributed)
South Okanagan’s only midwifery to re-open this summer

Willow Community Midwives was forced to close because of a shortage of midwives

Gord Portman getting ready for the Father’s Day dunk tank fundraiser for Discovery House. So far Portman has raised $3,000. (Facebook)
Penticton man takes the plunge for recovery house that helped save his life

Gord Portman said Discovery House and Pathways have been everything in his 1 year sobriety

(File photo)
Supreme Court Justice rules Bay has to pay Penticton’s Cherry Lane mall

The ruling found that there had been no unavoidable delay preventing the Bay from paying their rent

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

FILE – Most lanes remain closed at the Peace Arch border crossing into the U.S. from Canada, where the shared border has been closed for nonessential travel in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Thursday, May 7, 2020, in Blaine, Wash. The restrictions at the border took effect March 21, while allowing trade and other travel deemed essential to continue. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Feds to issue update on border measures for fully vaccinated Canadians, permanent residents

Border with U.S. to remain closed to most until at least July 21

A portion of the George Road wildfire burns near Lytton, B.C. in this Friday, June 18, 2021 handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, BC Wildfire Service *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Blaze near Lytton spread across steep terrain, says BC Wildfire Service

Fire began Wednesday and is suspected to be human-caused, but remains under investigation

Blair Lebsack, owner of RGE RD restaurant, poses for a portrait in the dining room, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. Canadian restaurants are having to find ways to deal with the rising cost of food. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Canadian restaurateurs grapple with rising food costs, menu prices expected to rise

Restaurants are a low margin industry, so there’s not a lot of room to work in additional costs

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Fort St. John man arrested after allegedly inviting sexual touching from children

Two children reported the incident to a trusted adult right away

Barbara Violo, pharmacist and owner of The Junction Chemist Pharmacy, draws up a dose behind vials of both Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines on the counter, in Toronto, Friday, June 18, 2021. An independent vaccine tracker website founded by a University of Saskatchewan student says just over 20 per cent of eligible Canadians — those 12 years old and above — are now fully vaccinated. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
At least 20% of eligible Canadians fully vaccinated, 75% with one dose: data

Earlier projections for reopening at this milestone didn’t include Delta variant

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed Eli Beauregard facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

Most Read