Vancouver News

B.C. has questions on Trans Mountain

By Dene Moore, The Canadian Press

VANCOUVER - The British Columbia government has questions for Kinder Morgan about the proposed expansion of its Trans Mountain pipeline through the province.

After reviewing the company's application to the National Energy Board, the province submitted 70 requests Monday for more information on oil spill prevention and response plans on land and at sea.

"Our staff have reviewed the overall application from Kinder Morgan," Environment Minister Mary Polak said at the legislature.

"What they have done is identified any gaps in information, places where they don't believe the information from Kinder Morgan is complete or gives us sufficient information to determine whether or not we can support the project."

Under revised federal rules, the province and hundreds of other interveners will not be allowed to directly cross-examine company experts on their testimony at the review hearings. Instead, they must submit information requests in advance.

Andrew Weaver, a climate scientist and Green MLA, submitted close to 500 questions to the panel. He's worried about marine oil spills.

"I am very concerned about the evidence used to justify Kinder Morgan's assertion that it can deal with a heavy oil spill," Weaver said.

"As we saw with the Northern Gateway hearings there simply has not been adequate research on how heavy oil behaves in a marine environment, or if it is even possible to clean it up."

The province officially opposed the Northern Gateway pipeline at federal review hearings. The panel later recommended approval, with 209 conditions.

The $5-billion expansion of the Trans Mountain line would almost triple the capacity of the pipeline linking the Alberta oil sands to Port Metro Vancouver.

Like the Northern Gateway proposal, the province said the Trans Mountain pipeline must meet five conditions, including an undefined "world-leading" oil-spill regime.

Also like the Northern Gateway, the project faces staunch opposition from environmental groups and several First Nations.

But Polak said B.C. residents are not opposed to pipelines "just point blank."

"I think if they feel that if there are sufficient safeguards in place, then that opinion could change," she said, adding those safeguards are part of the province's five conditions.

The two pipelines were among a handful of proposals singled out Monday in a report by the United Nations' special rapporteur on indigenous rights.

James Anaya's report said he heard repeatedly from aboriginal leaders about "an atmosphere of contentiousness and mistrust" around resource development.

The federal government relies on the regulatory assessment process to consult First Nations, yet has rewritten regulations so that fewer projects require a now much-abbreviated review, he said.

First Nations are bombarded with proposals and the onus is on them to carry out their studies and develop evidence to support their concerns.

It all creates an atmosphere "that is conducive neither to beneficial economic development nor social peace," he said.

Of 16 Canadian projects mentioned in the report, eight are in B.C., including the New Prosperity gold and copper mine near Williams Lake and the province's hoped-for trillion-dollar liquefied natural gas industry.

The B.C. and other provincial governments have encouraged resource sharing between companies and First Nations, Anaya said. The province itself has revenue-sharing deals for mining royalties, stumpage fees and oil and gas revenues.

Among his 99 recommendations, Anaya urged the federal government to pursue "less adversarial" treaty negotiations and aboriginal consent on resource development.

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