British Columbia Traces Back Step On Ban On Increased Oil Shipments

At the end of the month of January, British Columbia (B.C) had proposed new rules that would temporarily block an increase in crude oil shipments via the Pacific Coast Province, adding another blockade to the planned C$7.4 billion ($6 billion), Canada’s Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

British Columbia’s environment ministry had said that it is putting in new regulations surrounding oil spill preparedness and response.

The ministry had also noted that it would set up an independent scientific advisory committee that would establish whether the diluted bitumen spills can be effectively cleaned up.

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George Heyman

The Canadian West coast province also had plans to ban any increase in heavy oil spills by pipeline or rail. The environment ministry did not provide absolute timelines for completing the whole process although George Heyman, the environment minister had noted that the whole process could take up a couple of years to complete.

The move came at a time when Kinder Morgan Canada wants to secure permits to allow them to commence construction on the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion, which is set to triple the capacity of the existing pipeline to about 890,000 barrels of crude oil per day.

However, on Thursday last week (22nd Feb 2018), B.C pulled back from its intention to impose new regulations on increased oil shipments through the Pacific Coast province. On its part, British Columbia said that it is now seeking legal counsel on whether they have the jurisdiction to impose the temporally ban.  

John Horgan

The proposed regulations by British Columbia spark a heated trade war with their neighbours, Alberta at the end of January. John Horgan, British Columbia Premier noted that it was within their rights to take necessary measures to protect their economy, environment and the coastline from the adverse effects of diluted bitumen spill. He noted that they would pursue a legal path to confirm that right.

Alberta Premier, Rachel Notley on her part lashed out claims on her Western counterpart on social media. Notley noted that B.C was “grasping at straws” with their attempt to overrule the federal jurisdiction. She continued to note that rash actions such as the ones taken by British Columbia jeopardize investment decisions.

Following the trade way between the two neighbours, Notley imposed a trade ban on British Columbia wine in retaliation for the actions taken by B.C concerning the Trans Mountain oil pipeline. Notley noted that the ban would continue until B.C reviews spill safety regulations.

In 2016, the Canadian government had approved plans to expand the pipeline which runs all the way from Alberta’s energy heartland to a port in suburban Vancouver. The relevant authorities evaluated the proposed pipeline expansion, and it met all the conditions set by the previous B.C government for oil export pipelines.

Jim Carr

In his statement, Jim Carr, Canada’s Minister for Natural Resources, noted that the expansion of the pipeline is among projects that are of national interest. Therefore, it is “subject to 157 legally binding conditions that are put in place to protect the environment and make sure that the project proceeds in the safest and environmentally safe manner”.

The pipeline project has been backed up by Canadian oil producers whose main goal is to reach to overseas markets for their commodity. The pipeline project has also received an equal measure of opposition especially by some local municipalities, environmental activists, and Aboriginal groups.   

Kinder Morgan Canada noted that it would take part in the province’s feedback process the measures taken by leaders in these provinces. Early February, Kinder Morgan delayed its plans to start on the project until December 2020. The company has been facing challenges to obtain the necessary permits.