May 31, 2013
Today the Government of BC submitted its final written argument to the Joint Review Panel reviewing Enbridge’s Northern Gateway Pipeline project to ship oil sands to the Pacific coast at the port of Kitimat in Northern British Columbia. Despite the victory just two weeks ago of a pro-business, pre-resource development party in the BC election, Premier Christy Clark’s government gave a resounded “no” to the project.
You can read the full document here.
Virtually all of the substantial criticism in the 166 paragraph legal submission is about BC concerns with the lack of detailed information about Enbridge plans for pipeline and tanker spills. The most important statement is the document is in paragraph 5:
Paragraph 6 contains the bottom line position: “Given the absence of credible assurance in this regard, the Province cannot support the approval of, or a positive recommendation from the JRP regarding, this project as it was presented to the JRP.”
The core issue really is how much information Enbridge needs to present at this stage about spill preparation. BC summarizes its own view in this paragraph:
Another vital paragraph is the summary position on pipeline risks:
BC essentially repeats the same message in its tanker risk summary:
The final two of BC’s five conditions got surprisingly little attention. There is only one paragraph on First Nations, emphasizing only that the JRP needs to address First Nations concerns but taking no position:
The question of whether BC will get its “fair share” of benefits, the province’s fifth condition, is not addressed in much detail. The province simply points to some of the shortcomings of Enbridge’s cost-benefit analysis, raising some of the questions brought to the debate by Robyn Allen.
This response by the province is about as strong as one could imagine in the circumstances. But it is very important to keep this statement in context. It is submission to a federal regulatory process, and the JRP merely makes a recommendation to the federal cabinet – Stephen Harper has the final say. Nonetheless, it is very damaging politically to Enbridge’s case for pipeline approval.
Pipeline advocates got a shot of optimism after the NDP was defeated in the election, but this stern rejection from the Clark government is a major blow. It makes it harder for the JRP to recommend approval, and it makes it harder for the Harper government to endorse the pipeline because it would be so toxic to federal-provincial relations.
The prospects for oil sands access to the Asian markets through Kitimat just got a lot dimmer.