Today members of the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia will request the Liberal government pull out of the federal National Energy Board’s (NEB) review of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.
The review process has been at the centre of controversy recently after the NEB ruled Kinder Morgan did not have to disclose detailed spill response plans for the proposed twin pipeline that will nearly triple the capacity of the Trans Mountain pipeline system, increasing its capacity from 300,000 barrels per day to 890,000.
B.C.’s repeated efforts to gain access to Kinder Morgan’s emergency response plans, which detail the company’s preparations, timelines and access to equipment in the event of a spill, were ultimately unsupported by the federal regulator.
NDP MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert will introduce today’s motion, requesting the provincial government “immediately withdraw from the National Energy Board’s review of the Kinder Morgan pipeline and tanker project.”
Chandra Herbert further requests B.C. “establish a rigorous made-in-B.C. environmental assessment process so that British Columbians, municipalities, and First Nations can fully participate, and finally get the fulsome answers on oil spill response, emergency planning, financial implications, climate change and other areas that they deserve.”
Chandra Herbert told DeSmog Canada the NEB review is a “broken process.”
“The NEB process I think has been broken in large part because of the actions Stephen Harper’s government has taken. We can’t get access to answers about spill response, climate change, financial information, emergency management and there is no cross examination of Kinder Morgan so to test their evidence is pretty much impossible.”
Five MLAs from the NDP representing the lower mainland, the gulf islands, and Vancouver Island will speak in favour of the motion. An expected five Liberal MLAs will respond by speaking in favour of the federal review process. Motions in the house rarely go to vote, but can receive fulsome debate.
Green Party MLA and climate scientist Andrew Weaver says he supports the motion.
“Obviously I’ll speak in favour, the question is whether I’ll actually get time to speak.”
Weaver said because he isn’t a member of the official opposition, he may not be granted space to debate the motion.
“I’m the only MLA in the province who is an intervenor in the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline process. I’m actually the only political party, because the B.C. NDP does not have intervenor status, just the province of B.C.”
“I kind of feel like a lone voice. These debates and motions are all very fine and dandy but none of the people debating are actually involved in the process,” he said.
Weaver has repeatedly called on the B.C. government to pull out of the federal review process and the Green Party of B.C. is collecting public signatures to support that move in an online petition.
Weaver renewed his calls for a made-in-B.C. review process when Kinder Morgan refused to release its spill response plans.
“You don’t have to pull out of the entire joint review process,” he said, “but you can pick projects you want to pull out of and they can pull out of this one.”
Weaver said not all joint review processes are failures. He pointed to the Site C dam review process as an example of a review that reflected a broad range of concerns with the project.
But the Kinder Morgan review process has been rife with “egregious errors” he said, so much so that “the province of B.C. loses credibility and trust from British Columbians if the province continues to participate in the process.”
“That is why I continue to call on the province to pull out. It is broken and British Columbians have loss complete trust in it.”
Chandra Herbert said hundreds of applicants were denied the ability to participate in the process, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
“So if you can’t be involved or if you are involved but can’t have access to information, the process is broken,” he said.
“So what we can do now if the process is broken is B.C. can take its power back, say we’re not going to be involved in fraud.”
Chandra Herbert said he hopes Premier Christy Clark will support a B.C.-led review of the pipeline and tanker project. He said the federal government’s approval of the Northern Gateway pipeline shows the province needs to take the process back.
“I hope this debate pulls the wool from the government’s eyes and helps them stop pretending this is a good process,” he said.
The motion will be advanced for debate at approximately 11 a.m. Pacific Time.
Image Credit: Zack Embree