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What action is the NDP government in BC taking to stop Kinder Morgan?

BC Premier John Horgan met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau today.

With just six weeks before Kinder Morgan intends to begin clearing land for its 890,000 barrel per day Trans Mountain tar sands pipeline near Langley, Surrey, Coquitlam and Burnaby, the NDP government of Premier John Horgan needs to be seen to be taking definitive action to stop this unpopular project.

On May 30, CBC reported, “British Columbia’s NDP and Green parties have signed a detailed agreement outlining how they will work together in government for the next four years. …Both parties have pledged to work to stop the federally approved $7.4-billion Kinder Morgan pipeline project…”

That agreement specifically states, “[We would] immediately employ every tool available to the new government to stop the expansion of the Kinder Morgan pipeline, the seven-fold increase in tanker traffic on our coast, and the transportation of raw bitumen through our province.”

NDP leader John Horgan was sworn in as the Premier of British Columbia on July 19 – but we haven’t heard much from him on Kinder Morgan over these past days.

News articles about Horgan’s list of priorities haven’t highlighted the pipeline.

A single line on the third-page of Premier Horgan’s mandate letter to George Heyman, the new provincial minister of environment and climate change strategy, says, “[I expect that you will make substantive progress on the following priorities:] Employ every tool available to defend B.C.’s interests in the face of the expansion of the Kinder Morgan pipeline, and the threat of a seven-fold increase in tanker traffic on our coast.”

That said, there’s an important change in language to note here. During the election, the NDP pledged to “use every tool in our toolbox to stop the project from going ahead”.

And  the CBC reported this morning on Horgan’s meeting today with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau – “Horgan spilled a glass of water and noted, ‘Spills can happen anywhere’, in reference to the potential for an oil spill with a pipeline. ‘We’ll get people to clean that up right away!’ Trudeau rebutted, to which Horgan shot back: ‘There’s a federal response for that.’ …There is little time for Horgan to waste if he wants to stop the project as pipeline-builder Kinder Morgan said just last week that construction is on schedule to begin in September.”

In terms of how the Horgan government could stop Kinder Morgan, Toronto Star columnist Tim Harper has noted, “It will likely include, at very least, a new provincial environmental assessment. Opponents feel the National Energy Board report on the project was deficient. It could mean delaying or withholding a number of provincial permits the company still requires. Horgan and [Green Party leader Andrew] Weaver can demand Kinder Morgan fulfill all 37 conditions appended to [former premier Christy] Clark’s certificate of approval.”

Harper adds, “There are also 19 legal challenges to the expansion. The new government could choose not to defend one of them brought by a B.C. First Nations community.”

The North Shore News explains, “Although the National Energy Board and the federal cabinet have authority over whether to approve the project, the province under Christy Clark did issue its own environmental certificate in January. That certificate is being challenged in court by First Nations … charging that the Crown failed in its duty to provide meaningful consultation as guaranteed by the Constitution. [The government could] drop the province’s defence, likely resulting in the environmental certificate being thrown out…”

The Huffington Post reports, “The Greens want the province to seek intervener status in the current court challenges. But Horgan who was in Ottawa meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, said on Tuesday that he had yet to have a ‘thorough briefing’ from the province’s attorney general’s office on the legal cases currently under way.”

And the Canadian Press now reports, “British Columbia’s attorney general says the NDP government will not artificially delay permits for the Trans Mountain pipeline, despite the premier’s vow to use every available tool to stop the project. …[Attorney General David] Eby says the province cannot deliberately stall on permits without risking a very costly lawsuit, but it can make the permits require construction to be done in a way that minimizes spills and protects the environment.”

Time is getting tight in terms of the BC government taking definitive action to stop Kinder Morgan.

The Vancouver Sun has reported this timeline on the construction of the pipeline:

– land clearing along the route (notably in Langley, Surrey, Coquitlam and Burnaby) is to start in the first week of September,

– pipe shipments begin in late September,

– pipeline construction near Edmonton is to start in mid-October,

– pipeline construction to start in January 2018,

– boring a tunnel through Burnaby Mountain is to start in late March 2018,

– stringing and welding of pipe in the Chilliwack area is to start in the summer of 2018,

– pipeline construction is to start in the Kamloops area in October 2018.