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Province steps into pipeline proposal

It appears Kinder Morgan will have another hoop to jump through if an expansion of its Trans Mountain Pipeline is ever going to become a reality.

Last week, B.C.’s Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) officially notified the energy company the proposed billion-dollar project would have to go through the province’s environmental assessment process.

According to the letter dated April 8, Kinder Morgan Canada may not undertake or carry on any activity related to the Trans Mountain Expansion Project without an EA certificate.

The order also noted that, while the proposed project is being assessed by the National Energy Board (NEB) under the terms of an equivalency agreement between B.C.’s EAO and the NEB that would allow for just one review, a recent court decision found a portion of the agreement was invalid.

The order went on to state: “The Executive Project Director considers that the proposed project may have a potential significant adverse environmental, economic, social, heritage or health effect, taking into account practical means of preventing or reducing to an acceptable level, any potential adverse effects of the Proposed Project.”

Ben West, the executive director of Tanker Free B.C., said he was expecting the order to be issued, but added his group is trying to figure out what the process surrounding the assessment will look like.

He argued B.C.’s environmental assessment for the project should provide an opportunity to question the evidence and details put on the table by Kinder Morgan, adding it would be “foolish” for the province to just look at the NEB decision and base its own decision on that.

“It’s definitely another problem for Kinder Morgan in terms of getting their pipeline built,” West told the NOW, noting opponents of the project have been calling for two separate reviews for years.

“I do think this is a positive in the sense that it means a more fulsome review, and more opportunity for people to give feedback in a more meaningful way.”

He also suggested now, with the provincial assessment ongoing, a decision by the federal government on the project, which is expected by December, may not be the end of the road for the pipeline expansion.

In an email to the NOW, the EAO said as a result of a recent B.C. Supreme Court decision, the project will require a provincial environmental assessment certificate.

The office said prior to referring the project to the provincial government for a decision, the EAO “will consult with aboriginal groups to inform the province’s understanding of how the project may impact aboriginal interests – treaty rights and asserted or determined aboriginal rights, including title – and whether any additional mitigation or accommodation may be required.”

The EAO also noted there is currently no set timeline for the activities regarding the certificate and the next steps are dependent on the proponent’s readiness to proceed.

The Trans Mountain project also released a statement regarding the EAO certificate: “The Order issued by British Columbia’s Environmental Assessment Office is an opportunity for Trans Mountain to ensure the Expansion Project is meeting or exceeding its environmental commitments, and are addressing concerns of First Nations groups. We look forward to working cooperatively with the EAO through this additional review process and are confident that our ongoing consultation will earn the required Environmental Assessment Certificate to responsibly proceed.”

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