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BC Government Rejects Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion

trans mountain pipeline_from tm site

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We walked to work on Monday morning with an extra spring in our step after we heard the announcement that the Government of British Columbia is formally opposing the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. This was welcome news to CRED, our members, supporters and partner organizations! 

While the eleventh hour decision may be politically motivated rather than driven by concerns over inadequate bitumen spill response as indicated, the end result is what we all want: attention to the need for a review board that thoughtfully and transparently weighs the risks of economic activities against potential benefits.

Provincial opposition is just one step. We need the federal government to make a move and recognize that transformation of the National Energy Board isn’t enough. The transformation needs to happen before the Trans Mountain Expansion review is concluded under the current framework.

CRED is working to make this concern heard through an open letter to Prime Minister Trudeau. As many of you know, on top of generating fact-based research and stimulating dialogue around our economy, the CRED team advocates for responsible economic development at the municipal, provincial and federal levels.  We are partnering with like-minded business organizations in our efforts to engage policymakers in supporting industries that generate employment and benefits for society without degrading our land and water.

As part of this process, in the coming days, CRED will be active in the following:

  • We will publish an open letter to Prime Minister Trudeau from BC businesses to put a halt to the NEB process, and overhaul the NEB before pronouncing on the Trans Mountain expansion in May 2016. The timing will coincide with the upcoming NEB final hearings in Burnaby.
  • We are generating infographics to illustrate the worsening economics of the pipeline expansion project, as outlined in recently published research by SFU and the Living Oceans Society.

Please go to http://credbc.ca/neb-open-letter-trudeau/ to sign on to the Open Letter, and stay engaged with us as we continue to work towards a vibrant economy.


Revamping the NEB Process – If Not Right Now… When?

Pipeline Image_flickrcc

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When Kinder Morgan first introduced a proposal to threefold expand the Trans Mountain pipeline in 2013, few would have predicted that the review process itself would be as controversial as the actual proposal.

Jump ahead to today. Two years into the review, and the cost has increased, oil markets are in a prolonged slump, opposition to the project grows, and new governments in Ottawa and Edmonton have taken the reins of energy policy. All this, framed by uncertainty around how Canada’s oil sands and LNG development plans will square with our newly minted commitments signed in Paris at the COP21.

The new Liberal government has promised to revamp the National Energy Board (NEB) process, and in this promise CRED sees opportunity for real change. In fact, meaningful change seems so close, and the impacts so significant, that we see it as imperative that the process not just be tweaked at some undefined moment in the future. CRED and our members want the current process halted, and a new process built starting now. If we as a nation are going to contemplate an overall energy strategy in accordance with our international commitments, let’s do that NOW, while there are projects under review that could significantly hamstring or even compromise our ability to meet those commitments. Let’s do it so we can have a fair and transparent review of the Trans Mountain expansion, a project that could impact our province for years to come.

Let’s not forget that the current process is the same one that prompted two environmental organizations and over 35 individuals to publicly withdraw from the hearings. Economist Robyn Allan called the process “rigged” when she pulled out in May. There is also legal action against the NEB: the Tsleil-Waututh Nation has asked the Federal Court of Appeal to stop the review due to flaws in the process itself, and legal errors made by the NEB. Landowners, business people, academics and environmental advocates launched a constitutional challenge against the NEB on the basis that it unfairly restricts public participation and refuses to hear concerns related to climate change or oil sands development.

CRED was one of 100 signatories to a letter to Prime Minister Trudeau, asking for a halt to the Trans Mountain expansion pipeline review prior to the historic Paris meetings. The government has stated that the two pipelines currently under review – the TMP and Energy East – will continue in a transitional review process, but it remains unclear what changes will be made, and when.

CRED wants to ensure that the federal government implements changes immediately to ensure that these pipelines are subject to a proper climate review, including both upstream and downstream impacts, and particularly taking into consideration the potential economic impacts to BC businesses.

We are crafting an open letter to Prime Minister Trudeau and his Cabinet to revise the NEB process now, so that the Trans Mountain expansion project will be reviewed under the new process. Look for our letter to be circulated; we value your thoughts and support.

Image via Flickr creative commons user rickz

Chevron denied pipeline priority – what does this mean?

Burnaby refinery

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The background

The Chevron refinery in Burnaby supplies about a third of the Lower Mainland’s gasoline and almost half of the Vancouver International Airport’s jet fuel. Most of the crude oil that it refines is received via the existing Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline; however, around 6,500 barrels currently arrive by rail each day and another 1,000 barrels per day (of 55,000 barrels per day total refining capacity) arrive via tanker truck.

The refinery would prefer to receive their crude oil entirely by pipeline, but in recent years they haven’t been able to secure enough space on the Trans Mountain pipeline. Using a rationing (apportionment) system, Kinder Morgan allocates shares of pipeline space out to different customers, including onto tankers for export.

Over the past few years, the percentage of pipeline apportionment given to the refinery has steadily declined in the face of increasing demand for oil for export. Chevron representatives have stated that non-pipeline forms of transportation make up the current shortfall but they come at an “extraordinary expense”.

The priority application

In 2012, Chevron applied to the National Energy Board (NEB) for preferential shipping space on the Trans Mountain pipeline. Last week, they were denied this application by the NEB, who stated that priority apportionment should only happen in extraordinary circumstances, and noted that Chevron needs to investigate other options, such as receiving crude oil via tanker into the Burnaby Westridge terminal, before resorting to priority destination designation.

How does this relate to the proposed new Trans Mountain pipeline?

There isn’t a direct relationship, since the new pipeline would be designed to transport diluted bitumen products, which the Chevron refinery is unable to process. However, the current situation might be an indication that export demand will increasingly trump local gasoline security.

How will the decision impact BC residents?

This decision might not have a noticeable impact on people living and working in BC. However, there is a risk that gasoline prices will increase at the pump if the Chevron refinery has to continue to rely on costly methods of importing crude oil. There’s also a chance that the Chevron refinery could be forced to close down if unable to secure a sufficient long-term supply of crude oil, leaving the Lower Mainland and Metro Vancouver reliant on gasoline imports.

This blog used quotes and information from several news articles, including the Burnaby LeaderReuters and CBC news.

More background and information can be found in our recent report “Assessing the risks of Kinder Morgan’s proposed new Trans Mountain pipeline”.

Photo credit: Andy Clark/Reuters

Oil spill expert says tankers too risky on BC’s coast

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A Vancouver Sun article reports developments in the Enbridge hearings in Victoria this week:

A marine consultant involved in B.C. oil-spill issues for a quarter century says the risks of a tanker oil spill associated with Enbridge Northern Gateway are simply too great for the project to proceed.

Gerald Graham of Victoria-based Worldocean Consulting Ltd. said that calculations based on Enbridge’s own research show there is a 8.7-to-14.1-per-cent chance of at least one tanker spill greater than 31,500 barrels over a 50-year period, depending on whether the pipeline has a 525,000 or 850,000 barrel per day capacity.

“The consequences of a major oil spill along B.C.’s north coast … could be catastrophic and irreversible,” he says in a submission to the Joint Review Panel studying the Enbridge proposal. “Couple this potentially disastrous outcome with a one-in-seven chance of one or more major spills occurring, and the overall threat level posed by Northern Gateway becomes unacceptably high.”

Read the full article here