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Illegal for new BC government to delay Trans Mountain permits

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World Pipelines,

British Columbia’s newly installed government plans to oppose Kinder Morgan’s CAN$7.4 billion Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project, but will not artificially delay the issue of provincial permits for the project.

On Wednesday, Environment Minister George Heyman reiterated the government’s promise to “use every tool available” in the fight, but acknowledged that the federal government has already approved the project.

Heyman said it would be illegal for the province to delay the permits needed by Kinder Morgan Canada Ltd. to start the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion in September, but it will subject any work on the CAN$7.4 billion project to the highest environmental standards and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Heyman said the government will evaluate provincial permit applications and construction plans for the project “in an appropriate and fair manner.” “(However) we will certainly be taking our commitment very seriously and we will have a very high test for environmental protection as well as a very high test for consultations with First Nations,” said Heyman, adding the government is getting legal advice on the matter.

The Trans Mountain expansion involves twinning the existing pipeline from Edmonton to Vancouver, nearly tripling its capacity to 890 000 bpd. This will lead to potentially a seven fold increase in tanker traffic through Vancouver harbour.

George Heyman reiterated comments made by Premier John Horgan a day before that the new BC NDP government continues to review whether it has grounds to block the controversial pipeline project that faces legal challenges from First Nations and opposition from Vancouver area municipalities.

Ottawa and the previous BC Liberal government’s approval of the project means blocking it “is challenging for us,” Mr. Heyman said.

But the provincial government is within its rights to make sure any new work by the company is in accordance with the respect due First Nations under UNDRIP, which experts have warned has vague language that fails to address the unique complexities of Canada’s Indigenous governance.

“Once a permit has been granted – and a number already have – the company has to come forward with a work plan and we need to be convinced that that work plan meets high environmental standards and had a high test for the level of First Nations consultation,” Mr. Heyman said.

“There’s no point trying to exercise authority that we don’t have [in refusing to issue permits] because that is capricious, exceeding our jurisdiction and, ultimately, that won’t be effective.”

In reaching an agreement with the Green Party to back his minority government, the NDP Premier vowed to use “every tool available” to stop the project.

However, in a mandate letter Mr. Horgan provided to Mr. Heyman and released this week, the Premier softened that language, saying the government should “employ every tool to defend B.C. interests” in face of the Kinder Morgan expansion.

Horgan's NDP won 41 seats in the province's 9 May election, shy of the 44 needed to mount a majority. But the Greens, who hold three seats, signed an agreement to support the New Democrats in a minority government.

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