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Proposed BC oil transport regulations a wake-up call for Kinder Morgan

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

VANCOUVER, BC, Coast Salish Territories – West Coast Environmental Law applauds a new provincial plan announced today to restrict the transportation of diluted bitumen in BC unless the science shows that spills can safely be cleaned up. A proposed regulation limiting increased bitumen shipments by pipeline or rail is a welcome safety measure for the environment and public health, say the environmental lawyers, and an important warning for Kinder Morgan if it continues to pursue its Trans Mountain pipeline and tankers project.

In a press release, the provincial government announced its intention to launch an independent scientific advisory panel to determine if and how heavy oils can be safely transported and cleaned up if spilled. A regulation under the provincial Environmental Management Act would restrict operators from increasing the amount of diluted bitumen they transport in BC, pending recommendations from the science panel.

“The proposed regulation should be a wake-up call for Kinder Morgan,” said Jessica Clogg, Executive Director and Senior Counsel. “Significant and potentially insurmountable regulatory hurdles still face the Trans Mountain project.”

“If a dilbit spill cannot be effectively and safely cleaned up, new BC regulations may prevent the company from ‘turning the taps on’ even if it is able to complete construction,” said Clogg.

Existing studies have found that the properties of diluted bitumen differ greatly than other types of crude oil, and that it behaves differently than other types of oil when spilled. Many concerns have been raised about its tendency to sink when spilled in water bodies, which poses serious challenges for cleanup.

“A thorough investigation of heavy oil spill impacts is long overdue, and communities deserve a full picture of the risks before any more of this toxic product is shipped through the lands and waters we rely on,” said Clogg. “We’re glad to see that the Province is stepping up and taking their responsibility to protect the health and safety of British Columbians seriously.”

The provincial government’s announcement comes as hearings are ongoing regarding the Trans Mountain pipeline route, which crosses hundreds of rivers and streams in BC. Despite its regulatory approvals, the embattled project continues to face strong local and Indigenous opposition, multiple court challenges, and escalating financial risks.

“These new regulations represent yet another roadblock for a project that’s been plagued with uncertainties,” said Staff Lawyer Eugene Kung. “Today’s announcement signals once again that the Trans Mountain pipeline and tankers project is a risky venture that may never be built.”

The proposed BC regulation is one of several aimed at improving preparedness, response, and recovery from potential spills in BC. The Environmental Management Act is a long-standing provincial law focused on protecting BC residents and the environment from pollution and hazardous substances. The BC government says it will release an intentions paper outlining the details of new regulations and launch consultations before the end of February.

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For more information, please contact:

Jessica Clogg | Executive Director & Senior Counsel
604-601-2501, jclogg@wcel.org (in Vancouver)

Eugene Kung | Staff Counsel
604-601-2514, ekung@wcel.org