British Columbia is applying for intervenor status in the continuing court challenges against the proposed Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, while warning that Houston-based Kinder Morgan can’t begin construction along most of the pipeline route in September, as the company has vowed to do.
Environment and Climate Minister George Heyman and Attorney General David Eby also announced yesterday that the province is hiring veteran environmental lawyer Thomas Berger, the former B.C. Supreme Court justice who chaired the landmark Mackenzie Valley Pipeline Inquiry in the 1970s, to advise it on several upcoming lawsuits set in motion by First Nations, environmental organizations, and others.
“Our government made it clear that a seven-fold increase in heavy oil tankers in the Vancouver harbour is not in B.C.’s best interests,” Heyman said. “Not for our economy, our environment, or thousands of existing jobs. We will use all available tools to protect our coastal waters and our province’s future.”
While Kinder Morgan has said it will begin construction on the intensely controversial project next month, Heyman noted the province has accepted only three of eight required environmental management plans, adding that the rest were rejected because Kinder did not adequately consult with First Nations along the route. “Until that has been completed,” he said, “Kinder Morgan, with the exception of some private land and some clearing of right-of-way, cannot put shovels in the ground.”
Kinder Morgan Canada President Ian Anderson “said the company takes the comments of the B.C. government seriously and will meet with it to work through its concerns,” the Globe and Mail reports.
“We are committed to working with the province and permitting authorities in our ongoing process of seeking and obtaining necessary permits and permissions,” Anderson said, in a statement that cast the scrutiny facing the project “unprecedented”. Kinder has “undertaken thorough, extensive, and meaningful consultations with Aboriginal peoples, communities, and individuals,” he said, “and remain dedicated to those efforts and relationships as we move forward with construction activities in September.”
B.C. Opposition leader Rich Coleman said the new NDP government had “unilaterally declared the First Nations consultations are incomplete, even though the federal government has said the consultation was appropriate before they approved the project.” Alexandre Deslongchamps, spokesperson for Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr, “said the federal government’s approval of the project was based on facts, evidence and the national interest,” the Globe notes.