Saturday, June 1, 2013

BC government won't support Northern Gateway oilsands pipeline as presented over spill response concerns

In its final written submission to the Northern Gateway Pipeline Joint Review Panel (JRP), the government of British Columbia states that it cannot support the project as presented to the panel primarily because Northern Gateway (NG) has been unable to adequately detail its response to a spill.

The Northern Gateway Pipeline is a proposed 1,170-kilometer (727-mile) twin pipeline from Edmonton, Alberta to Kitimat on the British Columbia coast. Northern Gateway's West line, 36 inches in diameter, would transport an average of 525,000 barrels of oil sands crude per day to Kitimat. The East Line, 20 inches in diameter, will carry 193,000 barrels of condensate per day back to Edmonton. Condensate is used to thin petroleum products for pipeline transport (diluent).

The project before the JRP is not a typical pipeline. For example: the behavior in water of the material to be transported is incompletely understood; the terrain the pipeline wold cross is not only remote, it is in many places extremely difficult to access; the impact of spills into pristine river environments would be profound. In these particular and unique circumstances, NG should not be granted a certificate on the basis of a promise to do more study and planning once the certificate is granted. The standard in this particular case musty be higher. And yet, it is respectfully submitted, for the reasons set out below, NG has not met that standard. "Trust me" is not good enough in this case.

-"Argument of the Government of British Columbia"

The provincial government has established, and maintains, strict conditions in order for British Columbia to consider the construction and operation of heavy-oil pipelines in the province. In the case of Northern Gateway, these would include:

  • Successful completion of the environmental review process. In the case of Northern Gateway, that would mean a recommendation by the National Energy Board Joint Review Panel that the project proceed;

  • World-leading marine oil spill response, prevention and recovery systems for BC's coastline and ocean to manage and mitigate the risks and costs of heavy-oil pipelines and shipments;

  • World-leading practices for land oil spill prevention, response and recovery systems to manage and mitigate the risks and costs of heavy-oil pipelines;

  • Legal requirements regarding Aboriginal and treaty rights are addressed, and First Nations are provided with the opportunities, information and resources necessary to participate in and benefit from a heavy-oil project; and

  • British Columbia receives a fair share of the fiscal and economic benefits of a proposed heavy-oil project that reflect the level, degree and nature of the risk borne by the province, the environment and taxpayers.

British Columbia thoroughly reviewed all of the evidence and submissions made to the panel and asked substantive questions about the project including its route, spill response capacity and financial structure to handle any incidents. Our questions were not satisfactorily answered during these hearings.

Northern Gateway has said that they would provide effective spill response in all cases. However, they have presented little evidence as to how they will respond. For that reason, our government cannot support the issuance of a certificate for the pipeline as it was presented to the Joint Review Panel.

We have carefully considered the evidence that has been presented to the Joint Review Panel. 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. Our government does not believe that a certificate should be granted before these important questions are answered.

-BC Environment Minister Terry Lake

In April 2012, the Joint Review Panel released 199 potential conditions that could form part of an authorization for the Northern Gateway Pipeline project if it received federal approval. In preparing the final argument submission, the Province's legal and technical experts analyzed the conditions and determined that they must be strengthened to meet BC's interests and requirements.

The position adopted by BC on the Northern Gateway Pipeline project as currently proposed is not a rejection of heavy-oil projects, the Ministry said. All proposals-such as Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion or the Kitimat Clean project-will be judged on their merits. The Province's five conditions would still apply.

British Columbia will be presenting oral final arguments to the Joint Review Panel when hearings recommence in Terrace on 17 June, based on BC's final written submission.


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