New review launched into Trans Mountain pipeline expansion
After a recent court ruling overturned the federal approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline project, Ottawa has ordered another review in an attempt to kick-start construction.
In August, the Federal Court of Appeal cancelled the approval of the line, saying that Indigenous groups were not consulted adequately by the National Energy Board and therefore the review that Ottawa had based it’s approval on was inadequate.
Now, the Liberal government has given the NEB six months to redo its environmental review, this time taking into account the additional oil tanker traffic that the expanded line would use.
According to estimates, the number of ships will jump to about 35 per month from the current rate of five.
The review will also need to look at the federal government’s new $1.5B Oceans Protection Plan.
Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi has also said that the Canadian government has plans to open talks with Indigenous communities soon and there are reports that say a retired federal judge will be taken on to ensure the proceedings are run properly.
Sohi also says that a scientific adviser will be appointed to help conduct the oil tanker review.
Meanwhile, some critics say that the timeline for the NEB could be too tight to complete all the work that needs to be done and the Notley government could suffer because of it.
“It’s a quick timeframe and I’d be surprised if they can meet that timeframe,” said Duane Bratt, a political scientist at Mount Royal University. “I think the pipeline will get built, the question is when will it get built? For the Notley government, she needs work started on it immediately and that’s not going to happen.”
He says that even with a positive NEB review and a new approval, the challenges for the project won’t be over.
“Many of these lawsuits did not come because of a lack of consultation; that was the tool that they used. Really, it’s because they don’t want the pipeline built.”
Premier Rachel Notley, a strong supporter of the line, said that Alberta would be stepping out of the federal government’s climate plan after the Federal Court of Appeal quashed the approval.
She said that the line is essential to the livelihood of Albertans and the federal government needs to take whatever action required to make sure it is built.
On Friday, following the announcement of the new review, she said that the timeline is reasonable and in line with the Federal Court of Appeal's ruling.
"Our focus now is to ensure that the timeline is set in stone," she said. "If the timeline slips and the goalposts shift, I can assure you that the voices of Albertans will be loud."
Notley added that her government will continue to monitor the situation and watch the review process closely.
"This is a project that is in the national interest so we are going to make sure the nation, as a whole, knows how important it is. We are making progress on that, as you know, but we know we can do more. Through that work, we know the pressure on the federal government is stronger than ever before."
The Trans Mountain pipeline, running between Edmonton and Burnaby, B.C. aims to triple the capacity of the existing pipeline.
The project was originally approved in 2016, but B.C. pressured Kinder Morgan, the owners of the project to back away from the project.
In May 2018, Finance Minister Bill Morneau announced that the federal government would buy the existing line for $4.5B with the intent to eventually sell it back to a private buyer when the time was right.
(With files from the Canadian Press)