Trans Mountain believes that the significant impact of pipeline tanker traffic is justified



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OTTAWA – The pipeline company Trans Mountain – now owned by the federal government – said the dangerous impact of increasing oil tanker traffic on British Columbia killer whales was justified because the public interest in the multimillion-dollar expansion project was "irrefutable"

In a written argument submitted last week to the National Energy Council, Crown said there was no new evidence to prevent expansion from when Canada needed to move more Alberta oil to foreign markets. The expansion will be nearly three times the carrying capacity of the Trans Mountain system to 890,000 barrels per day.

A southern killer whale lives in the Haro Strait to the west of San Juan Island. The Federal Court of Appeal concluded that increasing tanker traffic from the expanded Trans Mountain pipeline would complicate the recovery of the killer whale population.
A southern killer whale lives in the Haro Strait to the west of San Juan Island. The Federal Court of Appeal concluded that increasing tanker traffic from the expanded Trans Mountain pipeline would complicate the recovery of the killer whale population. (Steve Ringman / TNS)

"This significant effect (environment) is justified in circumstances, given the critical needs for the project and important benefits for Canada," said the Trans Mountain argument.

"The need is real and immediate. Canada needs that project now. "

Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi ordered NEB to reassess expansion proposals after the Federal Appeals Court rejected the Liberal government's approval for the project on August 30. The court ruled that NEB was wrong to exclude sea shipping from the definition of "project," even when it concluded that a seven-fold increase in tanker traffic from expanded pipelines would make it harder for southern populations of killer whale populations to recover and produce more home gas emissions glass.

When NEB conducted a new review, the government also launched a new round of Indigenous consultation on the project, after the court ruled that Ottawa did not fulfill its duty to "consult meaningfully" the First Nations affected by the expansion of the pipeline.

The Liberal government bought the existing Trans Mountain pipeline for $ 4.5 billion after the previous owner, Texas-based oil giant Kinder Morgan, expressed concern about the political obstacles to the $ 9.3 billion expansion project.

The proposal has divided the provincial government in BC. and Alberta and triggered opposition from environmentalists and some Indigenous groups.

In its submission to the NEB last week, Trans Mountain said tankers carrying oil from the expanded pipeline would only amount to about 6 percent of the traffic on the shipping line between the Port of Vancouver and international waters. Thus, the company argues "the only effective way" to reduce the environmental hazards of sea shipping is through extensive industrial regulation – not action by Trans Mountain itself.

Even so, Trans Mountain proposes three new "mitigation measures" that it is willing to take: instruct oil tankers to avoid killing whale feeding areas; evaluating the use of escort tugs to help respond to oil spills; and work with shipping companies to optimize shiploads and reduce the overall number of shipments from the Trans Mountain terminal in Burnaby, B.C. The company has also committed to developing a marine mammal protection program as a condition for pipe expansion approval.

Trans Mountain believes that other measures proposed during the assessment of the new NEB are not feasible or justified. This includes a proposal to force oil tankers to be slower and create a "no-go" zone in critical habitat.

NEB has until February 22 to complete a new assessment of expansion. Interventions such as the First Nation and environmental groups have until Tuesday to put forward their own arguments in the new process, while Trans Mountain and federal government departments submitted their submissions last week.

On Monday in Vancouver, the Stand.earth environmental group praised its move to NEB, which argued that new reviews should consider the full impact of climate change from the project – including greenhouse gas emissions from oil extraction and use after traveling through the pipeline.

With files from The Canadian Press

Alex Ballingall is an Ottawa-based reporter covering national politics. Follow him on Twitter: @aballinga

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