Trudeau’s marine safety plan paves the way for OK of Trans Mountain pipeline expansion


With his announcement Monday of a $1.5 billion marine protection plan, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau created the conditions to approve Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

If he does, Trudeau will have broken the paralysis on pipeline approvals orchestrated by the environmental lobby that culminated with last year’s refusal by U.S. President Barack Obama to permit TransCanada Corp.’s Keystone XL pipeline.

Though Trudeau didn’t tip his hand about his plans for tripling the capacity of the Edmonton to Vancouver pipeline, he said the oceans’ protection plan meets the highest global marine safety standards.

His cabinet is due to decide by Dec. 19 whether the Kinder Morgan project is in the national interest.

“This robust national plan will protect our oceans and coastlines from the damage that comes from shipping and pollution,” he said at a press conference after touring Vancouver Harbour.

“These measures are progressive and proactive and will ensure the health of our oceans for generations to come.”

The ocean’s protection plan aims to satisfy one of the British Columbia government’s conditions for its support of the $6.8-billion Trans Mountain project, though it didn’t seem to match some of the requests made by Christy Clark’s government, including three new salvage rescue tugs costing up to $50 million apiece, a new $6 million CCG station in Prince Rupert and funding for a maritime training centre at the B.C. Institute of Technology.

B.C., which started the trend among provinces to demand concessions in exchange for pipeline approvals, is also looking for a “fair share” of economic benefit, a world-leading spill response on land and First Nations’ consultation and benefits.

In a statement, Clark said B.C. and the federal government held discussions for months to define what a world-leading system would look like.

“I’m gratified to say the federal response addresses the gaps we identified. I look forward to finalizing the details as our governments work together to implement the plans,” Clark said.

The federal plan has four priority areas: creating a world-leading marine safety system that improves responsible shipping and protects Canada’s waters; restoring and protecting marine ecosystems and habitats and addressing abandoned boats and wrecks; launching co-management practices with Indigenous communities, including building local emergency response capacity; and investing in oil spill cleanup research and methods.

The funding would strengthen the Canadian Coast Guard and get tough on pollution from industry.

The TransMountain pipeline was approved by the National Energy Board in May with 157 conditions.

The consolation prize to the anti-pipeline lobby could be the permanent spiking of the rival Northern Gateway pipeline, proposed by Enbridge Inc.

While the Prime Minister didn’t talk about formalizing an oil tanker moratorium off the Northern B.C. coast, he did hint other measures could be announced in the coming weeks. Federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau said last week in an interview with CBC Radio that a moratorium on oil tanker traffic would be announced this year. A moratorium on tankers would handcuff Northern Gateway by impeding its ability to ship crude to Asia.

With the plan, Trudeau advanced his goal of supporting the economy while protecting the environment.

Ian Anderson, president of Kinder Morgan’s Canadian affiliate, did not have a reaction to the announcement.

But based on early reaction, it’s unlikely environmentalists will give Trudeau any slack.

Dogwood Initiative said the announcement showed “the federal government appears to be setting the stage … for a major oil tanker expansion” and that it would launch a petition to block provincial permits.

“Prime Minister Trudeau promised to put the Kinder Morgan expansion through a serious, science-based review. That hasn’t happened,” Dogwood, said in a statement. “He also said he would ban oil tankers on the North Coast. A year later, we’re still waiting for details.”

Opponents have also threatened to use civil disobedience to keep the project from being built. Ottawa’s job won’t be done until it also ensures Trans Mountain’s safe construction.

Claudia Cattaneo is the Western Business Columnist at the National Post.

Story: National Post