Ottawa, Ont. – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Nov. 29 that Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain expansion project has been approved, along with Enbridge’s Line 3 replacement project.
Trudeau said the $6.8-billion Kinder Morgan project is expected to create 15,000 new jobs during construction by twinning the existing Trans Mountain pipeline system between Edmonton and Burnaby, B.C. It will also provide access to global markets and generate $4.5 billion in federal and provincial government revenues, he added. The approval is subject to 157 binding conditions.
"If I thought this project was unsafe for the B.C. coast, I would not approve it," said Trudeau during a press conference. "This is a decision based on rigorous debate on science and evidence. We have not been, and will not be swayed by political arguments, be they local, regional or national."
Trudeau also announced his rejection of the Northern Gateway pipelines project based on the fact that crude oil tankers would endanger the Great Bear Rainforest. A moratorium on crude and persistent oil tankers along British Columbia’s north coast was also outlined. More details on this item will be shared in the spring, he said.
Trudeau announced his support for Enbridge’s Line 3 replacement project, subject to 37 binding conditions. This $4.8-billion project will replace 1,067 kilometres of existing pipeline from Hardisty, Alta., to Gretna, Man. The project will generate $514.7 million in federal and provincial government revenues and 7,000 new jobs during construction.
The Independent Contractors and Businesses Association of B.C. (ICBA), which has been advocating for approving major energy projects through its Get to Yes campaign, celebrated the approvals.
"We were happy for the Kinder Morgan approval," said Gord Stewart, senior vice-president of the ICBA. "That’s a big one for us."
Stewart also noted the promises from project opponents to block Kinder Morgan any way they can, including in court and through civil disobedience.
"But the prime minister stressed that the decision was made on science and facts. We hope he continues to support it," he stated. "He is a messenger with the most clout, and if there is civil disobedience we hope that law enforcement responds."
Stewart added those who are questioning the decision should remember that Trudeau was elected by the people and is a self-described environmentalist who has gone over the facts of the projects.
"As they are doing this work, all these trains of construction along the route are going to impact a whole bunch of small communities," said Stewart, on the local economic benefits of the project.
While Stewart said he was excited about the two project approvals, especially Trans Mountain, he added he is disappointed Trudeau did not approve the Northern Gateway project and says he has concerns about details of the oil tanker moratorium. He explained that each tanker pumps hundreds of thousands of dollars into the local economy and he is unsure of what the details will be.
"Is Northern Gateway done forever?" he said. "I’m not sure, but looks like it would be a long slog to a positive result."
Stewart also encouraged those in the construction industry to take to social media and voice their support for the Trans Mountain project and to interact with the ICBA’s Get to Yes campaign online.
"For a while it all started to feel like we were in a climate of everything being ‘no,’" said Stewart.
"It was good to see the prime minister, who is an environmentalist, actually speaking rationally about economics and the environment."
George Hoberg, professor at the Liu Institute for Global Issues, was not optimistic Trans Mountain would get built anytime soon. He recalled what happened with Northern Gateway and said the same could happen with this project if it heads to the courts. The Federal Court had previously overturned the Harper government’s approval of Northern Gateway, as it ruled Ottawa had not adequately consulted First Nations.
"There is going to be a lot of resistance in the courts and on the ground and it would be presumptuous to assume the pipeline will get built," he said.
He said the other big part of the decision is Canada’s climate policy, which is committed to reducing emissions 30 per cent by 2030.
"I don’t see how these authorizations are consistent with that," said Hoberg.
To many, including James Tansey, a business ethics expert with the University of British Columbia, the Trans Mountain announcement came as a shock. He too was skeptical of the project moving forward.
He said the biggest barrier to getting shovels in the ground is oil prices which currently are hovering under $50 a barrel.
"Maybe (Kinder Morgan) has the confidence to start building and hopes the price improves in the future, but at less than $50 a barrel it’s pretty hard to make money producing in Alberta," said Tansey. "It is hard to see the business case."
However, he said the message Trudeau sent to investors was encouraging.
"They have created strong regulations, the data is showing the world is not moving away from putting gas in cars and if we are going to extract oil let’s do it in the cleanest way possible," said Tansey.
Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson and Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan, who both have long opposed Trans Mountain, expressed dismay on the Trans Mountain decision.
"The decision to support the Trans Mountain Pipeline application goes against mounting opposition from communities throughout B.C., 17 First Nations, the Province of B.C., and 20 municipalities representing over two million people," reads a statement from the City of Vancouver. "Our opposition is rooted in evidence, scientific data, and traditional knowledge."
The letter went on to cite the danger of oil spills as too big a risk for the Metro Vancouver region.
"The Trans Mountain Expansion Project will provide a $6.8-billion injection into Canada’s economy, including federal, provincial and municipal tax revenue that will help pay for the public services that we all rely on," said Greater Vancouver Board of Trade president Iain Black. "Here in Greater Vancouver, the project will generate more than a billion dollars in construction spending, create thousands of high-paying jobs, and help attract new investment to our region."
He added that responsible development of market access for Canadian crude oil is of national importance. The current lack of "midstream" infrastructure has turned Canada into a supplier held captive by our only customer (the United States), which costs our national economy an estimated $50 million dollars each day, he said.
Black said that by ensuring Canadian oil has access to tidewater, the project will extend Canada’s reach into new markets with customers who pay higher prices, generate thousands of high-paying jobs, and create billions of dollars in government revenue for both the country and British Columbia.