Open Letter

An open letter to Premier Christy Clark on the Kinder Morgan pipeline

Secret pipeline safety plans are the last straw; please take control of the process

Premier Christy Clark, we could really use your help.

Texas-based Kinder Morgan seems to think they can build their pipeline across this province without even providing adequate information about safety. Instead of fairly and democratically engaging with the concerns of the people of B.C., what we have seen from Ottawa is a “streamlined” process that seems more like the Stephen Harper government steamrolling over the legitimate concerns of people in our province.

With a federal process stacked against us, many across the province are asking for your help in standing up for B.C. and protecting our coast. A motion was passed at last year’s Union of B.C. Municipalities convention representing all the municipalities in B.C. which requested that “the Province direct the Environmental Assessment Office to…undertake its own Environmental Assessment process for the Trans Mountain Expansion Project, which should include sufficient opportunity for meaningful participation by all interested British Columbians.”

First Nations have also been outspoken about their concerns about this broken process and legal challenges from the Tsleil Waututh and others have already been filed.

Premier Clark, we have heard you expressing the concerns you share with a majority of British Columbians about the extreme risk posed by an increase in tanker traffic on our Pacific coast. This was, after all, one of the reasons the province officially submitted its official opposition to the Enbridge Northern Gateway proposal when it was before the National Energy Board (NEB) yet they still recommended it proceed against your government’s wishes.

Now things have moved from bad to worse. Kinder Morgan, incredibly, will not even release the full details of their emergency response plan. Your government rightfully asked them to release this information to the public, but the NEB rejected this demand. This should be the last straw; the time to act is now. It’s becoming a case of “fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.”

As I’m sure you’ve seen, the NEB process that is set to decide on the Texas-based multinational’s pipeline has been described as a “disgrace” and “sham”. No less than a former board member of Suncor Energy, Marc Eliesen, even called it a “farce”, because of its clear “bias in favour of” Kinder Morgan.

This broken process could even undermine social licence for projects that perhaps should be allowed to proceed, let alone eviscerating any sense of fairness or accountability in regards to the most controversial projects.

With the upcoming Kinder Morgan NEB review, fewer Canadians were granted intervenor status, and more were denied participation altogether, on the pretext that they were not “directly affected”. The review process is now narrower than ever. Eliesen highlighted the fact that those who were granted intervenors status can’t even cross-examine the company.

And of course the impact of this massive bitumen export pipeline on the climate is not even going to be considered by the NEB under Harper’s guidance. This stands in stark contrast to President Barack Obama’s commitment to incorporate climate impacts in to his final decision regarding the Keystone XL pipeline. Given B.C.’s Climate Action Plan and our leadership on carbon pricing this would be a key consideration for the B.C. government and should be included in what is considered to be an adequate assessment process.

This pipeline review process being run by the NEB now seems more like a process for approving pipelines, not to weigh all the evidence and make a balanced decision. From your recent comments on the failings of the NEB assessment, it seems clear you are also doubtful of the ability of this process to protect our environment and the interests of local communities and First Nations.

There has been a lot of talk about your five conditions for deciding if pipelines will be allowed across our province, bringing tankers to our shores. The current process is no way to decide, given that they are not even providing adequate information on safety, a baseline condition you have required. If you are serious about these conditions, then taking back control of the process to ensure it’s done right seems like a critical first step.

With all due respect, now is the time to move beyond talk and take action. Please launch a new fair and transparent process that respects the values of the people of B.C. You have the power to take back control on our behalf; the time has come to use it.

Yours truly,

Ben West
Executive Director
Tanker Free B.C.

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