The B.C. government is close to releasing its plan to provide "world-leading" prevention and response to land-based oil spills, but that progress isn't enough to change its opposition to the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.
Environment Minister Mary Polak announced Monday the province's final submission to the federal review of the project confirms it still has not met B.C.'s five conditions for approval of heavy oil pipelines.
Polak said she is preparing to present legislation this spring to establish new standards for land protection, after discussions with Trans Mountain operator Kinder Morgan Canada and other companies. B.C.s final submission to the National Energy Board continues to recommend the pipeline twinning not be approved, but Polak said that is not the final word.
"We have been encouraged by the number of government and industry leaders who have also taken up the challenge and accepted the need to proceed along our five conditions, but we have not at this time seen evidence in the NEB hearing process that those conditions can yet be met," Polak said.
B.C.'s five conditions, presented in 2012, include NEB approval, "world-leading" land and marine spill prevention and response, meeting legal obligations to aboriginal communities and an unspecified "fair share" of provincial benefits from any new heavy oil pipeline project.
Kinder Morgan issued a statement Monday saying it continues to work with B.C., but requirements for aboriginal consultation, spill prevention and revenue sharing can't be met by the company alone.
The project already faces 150 draft conditions from the NEB, in what Kinder Morgan Canada president Ian Anderson has called "the most highly scrutinized pipeline project by the NEB in history."
The NEB is expected to hear intervenor arguments starting Jan. 19 in Burnaby, including affected municipalities. Vancouver is also opposed, arguing that a seven-fold increase in crude oil tanker traffic on Burrard Inlet represents an unacceptable risk.
The Trans Mountain pipeline has been operating one line for 60 years, running from northern Alberta through the B.C. Interior at Kamloops to its marine terminal in Burnaby. A branch line runs south to supply oil refineries on the coast of Washington state, and the pipeline has already been twinned on the Alberta side.
Kinder Morgan is hoping for an NEB decision to recommend proceeding by May. Final approval is up to the federal cabinet.