The National Energy Board has recommended the federal government proceed with the Trans Mountain Expansion Project as being in the public interest, despite the fact that increased marine traffic will likely cause significant adverse effects to the southern resident killer whale and increase greenhouse gas emissions.
The Canadian government purchased the pipeline from Kinder Morgan for $4.5 billion in 2018. Groups opposing the expansion project say the ruling was not a surprise, given the government’s motivation to complete the project, but cite conflict of interest in having the owners of the pipeline overseeing the approval process.
Reconsideration of the NEB’s previous approval was mandated by the Federal Court of Appeal, which found the board had not adequately consulted with First Nations or considered risks to the marine environment the first time around. But First Nations leaders who spoke during a press conference in Vancouver after the report was released Friday morning said nothing had changed about their “deeply entrenched” opposition to the project.
“We have a duty here in British Columbia,” said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, who is president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs. “Let me say that we are all proud British Columbians, and we have a duty to protect what we have been blessed with here in regard to the pristine beauty of the environment. We are not Albertans.”
The NEB’s reconsideration specifically examined the impacts of project-related marine shipping related to the application of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and the Species at Risk Act. It has listed 156 conditions that must be followed if the government approves the project, as well as 16 non-binding recommendations.
A summary of the report states that in the NEB’s view, considerable project benefits include increased access to diverse markets for Canadian oil; job creation; capacity building for local and Indigenous communities; direct spending on pipeline materials in Canada; and considerable revenues to various levels of government.
“However, the board is also of the view that the project and its related marine shipping carries risks. Its burdens include the significant adverse effects that are likely to be caused by project-related marine shipping on the southern resident killer whale and Indigenous cultural use associated with the southern resident killer whale.
Saanich-Gulf Islands MP Elizabeth May was at the table with the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs during Friday’s press conference, along with representatives from the NDP, West Coast Environmental Law and Stand.earth. May said the Green Party of Canada would do everything in its power to fight the decision.