Author: Derrick Penner
Media Outlet: Vancouver Sun
Blocking Kinder Morgan Canada Ltd.’s Trans Mountain expansion project was a key election promise made by the new NDP government, but Premier John Horgan’s cabinet hasn’t yet indicated what its first steps will be to honour that commitment.
Postmedia News, on Thursday, canvassed the offices of Justice Minister David Eby, Environment and Climate Change Minister George Heyman and Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources Minister Michelle Mungall on the topic, but the ministers weren’t making themselves available amid cabinet briefings and meetings.
Horgan’s cabinet was sworn in Tuesday and were given heavy workloads.
However, during the transition period, Horgan said his government would move quickly on key issues after his cabinet was sworn in, including beginning the opposition to the Trans Mountain project.
In the meantime, Kinder Morgan Canada has not paused its preparations to begin construction on the $7.4-billion twinning of its Trans Mountain pipeline, declaring Wednesday that it was on track for a September start.
Kinder Morgan Canada president Ian Anderson said during a conference call with analysts that he would “not speculate on what an NDP government might do” to honour its election promise to kill the Trans Mountain project.
Anderson did, however, express confidence in the federal government’s approval of the Trans Mountain project, which Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reinforced in statements last month, and that he looks forward to working with the new government.
“I’ve worked co-operatively with several provincial and federal governments over the years on the development of this project,” Anderson said. “I want to do the same with Premier Horgan’s government.”
No one from Kinder Morgan was made available for further comment Thursday, but in an emailed statement, project spokeswoman Ali Hounsel said the process of obtaining permits for the facility is ongoing.
Overall approval for the cross-province project, which will expand capacity to 890,000 barrels per day of oil and petroleum products from its existing 300,000 barrels a day, falls within federal jurisdiction.
However, the project still needs permission from B.C. for a range of activities such as permits to cut trees in clearing rights of way, to make stream crossings, or deal with wildlife.
Hounsel said the project “is an ongoing process of seeking and receiving permits from the necessary B.C. regulatory agencies,” and that “we have, and continue to receive, many permits for work.”
And with its federal approval in place, Hounsel said the company expects permitting “will continue in step with our activities in the future” with the various phases of the project.
However, refusing to grant those permits is one of the tactics that has been suggested the province could use in at least delaying the Trans Mountain project, according to a report prepared by the West Coast Environmental Law Association.
The association titled it A Legal Toolbox to Defend B.C., and it relies heavily on challenging whether or not the province has met its obligations to consult with First Nations over their Aboriginal rights and title claims.
“If I was in Minister Eby’s position, I’d be using the best legal minds available to me to have a really good, hard look at the consultation record,” said Eugene Kung, one of West Coast Environmental Law’s staff lawyers.
And the association’s toolbox lays out four legal strategies the province could use, such as adding conditions within provincial jurisdiction.