Provincial government outlines requirements to support oil pipeline construction

The province of BC outlined what they need in order to consider the construction of oil pipelines in the province.

As part of ongoing work to participate in and monitor the Joint Review Panel on the Northern Gateway Project, the government of British Columbia today outlined five minimum requirements that must be met for the province to consider the construction and operation of heavy oil pipelines within its borders.

“Our government is committed to economic development that is balanced with environmental protection,” said Premier Christy Clark.

“In light of the ongoing environmental review by the Joint Review Panel on the Enbridge pipeline project proposal, our government has identified and developed minimum requirements that must be met before we will consider support for any heavy oil pipeline projects in our province. We need to combine environmental safety with our fair share of fiscal and economic benefits.”

As set out in our government’s heavy oil policy paper, Requirements for British Columbia to Consider Support for Heavy Oil Pipelines, the following requirements must be established:

* Successful completion of the environmental review process. In the case of Enbridge, that would mean a recommendation by the National Energy Board Joint Review Panel that the project proceed;

* World-leading marine oil spill response, prevention and recovery systems for B.C.’s coastline and ocean to manage and mitigate the risks and costs of heavy oil pipelines and shipments;

* World-leading practices for land oil spill prevention, response and recovery systems to manage and mitigate the risks and costs of heavy oil pipelines;

* Legal requirements regarding Aboriginal and treaty rights are addressed, and First Nations are provided with the opportunities, information and resources necessary to participate in and benefit from a heavy-oil project; and

* British Columbia receives a fair share of the fiscal and economic benefits of a proposed heavy oil project that reflects the level, degree and nature of the risk borne by the province, the environment and taxpayers.

The first of government’s requirements is that any project proposal must be approved through appropriate environmental assessment (EA) processes. EA processes are led by statutory decision-makers, require a considerable level of project detail, frequently require public hearings and are designed to bring transparency and engagement to project review.

The government of British Columbia has been consistent in its support for environmental assessment, as a reflection of its commitment both to environmental protection and sustainability, and to predictability, transparency and access.

Led by B.C.’s Minister of the Environment, work has now been completed to assess what would be required to establish British Columbia and Canada as world leaders in marine oil spill response. British Columbia is proposing a joint plan of action with the federal government that would include the following elements:

* Limits to liability that ensure sufficient financial resources to properly address any spills;

* increased federal response capacity;

* Full adoption of the Unified Command model;

* Strengthened federal requirements on industry for the provision and placement of marine response equipment and infrastructure;

* Industry-funded terrestrial (land-based) spill co-operative with sufficient human and technical capacity to manage spill risk from pipelines and other land-based sources;

* Increased capacity within the provincial emergency response program to ensure adequate oversight of industry; and

* A Natural Resources Damage Assessment process to provide certainty that a responsible party will address all costs associated with a spill.

“When we consider the prospect of a heavy oil pipeline, and of the increased oil tanker traffic that would result, it is clear that our spill prevention and response plans will require significant improvements. Our government has already initiated discussions with the federal government on improving our response plans and resources,” said Environment Minister Terry Lake.

“This represents an opportunity for British Columbia and Canada to develop world-leading environmental protection regimes.”

The fourth requirement for the B.C. government to consider support for heavy oil pipeline proposals is First Nations participation. Governments in Canada have a duty to consult and accommodate First Nations, and British Columbia is committed to meeting this test. British Columbia has developed a set of tools to help First Nations to partner with industry and participate in economic development. These agreements help to create certainty for development that benefits all British Columbians. British Columbia remains committed to this approach.

“We believe the benefits to First Nations from major pipeline proposals must be clearly identified, along with the measures that will help protect against environmental impacts,” said Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation Minister Mary Polak.

“As recently as last week, such an approach was endorsed by the Canadian Council of CEOs in their report on Aboriginal participation.”

Lastly, British Columbia must receive a fair share of the fiscal and economic benefits of any proposed heavy oil project. B.C. will shoulder 100 per cent of the risk in the marine environment and a significant proportion of the risk on the land should a spill event ever occur. Current heavy oil project proposals do not balance the risks and benefits for British Columbia.

“We have identified aggressive environmental requirements and principles for First Nations engagement, and we have clearly stated we expect a fair share of the fiscal and economic benefits for our province,” said Premier Clark.

“British Columbians are fair and reasonable. We know we need resource and economic development, but we also expect that risks are managed, environmental protection is uncompromised and that generations will benefit from the decisions we make today.”

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