British Columbia (B.C.) Premier John Horgan’s mandate letter to Environment and Climate Change Strategy Minister George Heyman instructed him to use “every tool available” to “defend B.C.’s interests in the face of the expansion of the Kinder Morgan [Trans Mountain] pipeline,” and it appears he is prepared to do precisely that.
Heyman has announced that B.C. has retained former B.C. Supreme Court Justice Thomas Berger to advise on securing intervener status in legal challenges to the pipeline expansion. There are at least 18 currently before the courts, though several will be joined together.
Notably, the mandate letter’s wording is considerably softer than what’s found in the 2017 Confidence and Supply Agreement with the Green Party that put the New Democrats in power. There, the government commits to using every tool available to put a stop to the Trans Mountain project.
That difference was seized upon by another NDP Premier, Alberta’s Rachel Notley, who on the other side of the Rockies was congratulating Enbridge on the commencement of construction of its Line 3 pipeline replacement program as Heyman was slamming Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain plans. The Line 3 project will see Enbridge replace 1,660 kilometres of pipeline from Alberta to Wisconsin. The Canadian portion will require an investment by Enbridge of $5.3 billion, leading to thousands of new jobs in hard-hit Alberta.
“The B.C. government has stopped talking about stopping the pipeline and instead they’re talking about ensuring that it meets high standards,” said Notley at the Enbridge media event. “Those are exactly the kinds of things that I think all Canadians agree with.”
Notley was referring to Berger’s appointment and to Heyman’s promise of strict enforcement of the terms and conditions imposed in the provincial environmental assessment certificate for Trans Mountain. They include additional consultations with First Nations and the completion of several environmental management plans. Heyman acknowledged that Trans Mountain has already obtained most of the approvals it needs to begin construction. However, until those conditions are met, B.C. will not allow construction to begin on public land. The certificate requirements do not limit construction on private land, or on the Alberta portion of the Trans Mountain project.
“B.C.’s future lies in innovative growth areas like clean tech and the value-added resource sector, not the sunset fossil fuel industry of the last century,” said Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver in a statement lauding Heyman’s announcement.
Response from Trans Mountain was measured.
“We are committed to working with the Province and permitting authorities in our ongoing process of seeking and obtaining necessary permits and permissions,” said Ian Anderson, president of proponent Kinder Morgan Canada Limited. “We have undertaken thorough, extensive and meaningful consultations with Aboriginal Peoples, communities and individuals and remain dedicated to those efforts and relationships as we move forward with construction activities in September,” added Anderson.