CALGARY — The National Energy Board has recommended, once again, that the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion be approved for construction.
The NEB is recommending the project be approved subject to 16 new recommendations, in addition to the 156 conditions it had proposed in its previous recommendation. The report goes to the federal government to make the final decision on construction.
“The NEB listened to a range of diverse views and carefully considered all of the evidence submitted, the results of which are reflected in the conclusions, conditions and recommendations presented in the report,” NEB chief environment officer Robert Steedman said in the release.
“The report recommends on overall sections that the project is in the national interest and should be approved,” Steedman said.
The project would twin an existing oil pipeline between Alberta and British Columbia, boosting the system’s ability to ship oil to the West Coast by 590,000 barrels per day at a cost that could reach $9.3 billion.
The NEB also made 16 recommendations related to cumulative effects management for the Salish Sea, measures to offset increased underwater noise and increased strike risk posted to SARA-listed marine mammal and fish species, marine oil spill response, marine shipping and small vessel safety, reduction of GHG emissions from marine vessels, and the Indigenous Advisory and Monitoring Committee for the Project.
The Canadian Association of Oilwell Drilling Contractors group said it was hopeful but not optimistic the project will proceed.
“What we heard today — that the TMX should be built and is in Canada’s national interest — is exactly what we heard when the federal government purchased the project in 2018,” Mark Scolz, CAODC President and CEO said in a statement. “This black hole of approvals sends a confusing message to industry, investors, and the international oil and gas market.”
After today’s announcement, it seems clear that balancing the environment, economy and the judicial system is subject to whims and politics of the day,” Scholz said.
“The federal government appears happy to go the extra mile for some companies and industries, while remaining inflexible and hiding behind process for others. This type of preferential treatment is dangerous, and categorically unfair to Canadians.”
Construction on the pipeline route was just beginning last summer when a Federal Court of Appeals overturned the approval last August, noting that the previous NEB failed to consider the pipeline’s contribution to rising oil tanker traffic off the West Coast and resultant effect on marine wildlife. Responding to the court, the federal government ordered the NEB to reopen its review process to fill in the gap on marine life and Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi ordered a new round of consultations with affected Indigenous groups.
The new and supplement report focused specifically on those considerations with calls for submissions and hearings held since the time of the Appeals Court ruling.
Throughout the process the federal government argued that its $1.5-billion Ocean Protections Plan would mitigate the adverse affects of rising tanker traffic and boost the Vancouver region’s response capabilities in case of an oil spill.
Opposing groups, including environmentalists and some First Nations, have continued to oppose the pipeline on the grounds that it poses a threat to the West Coast and the endangered Southern Resident Killer Whale population.