Debate: The Trans Mountain pipeline: An introduction by John Richards.

Author:Richards, John
Position::FACE COVERINGS
 
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The Winter/Spring 2018 issue of Inroads featured Marvin Shaffer's article on British Columbia's Site C dam controversy. In December 2017, soon after the issue went to press, the B.C. cabinet decided to complete the dam. However, it did not take long for a new energy policy controversy to take centre stage. Kinder Morgan has received federal regulatory approval and begun construction of its much-debated pipeline from Edmonton to Vancouver. In Alberta, all major players, in business, labour and politics - both Rachel Notley's NDP government and the United Conservative opposition - support building this pipeline to gain ocean access for the diluted bitumen extracted from the northern tar sands.

On the other side of the Rockies, the B.C. NDP promised prior to the 2017 election that it would do everything possible to stop construction of the pipeline. Now in government, the NDP has (at the time of writing in April) decided to submit a reference question to the courts over the province's right to legislate further regulation to prevent environmental damage arising from increased tanker traffic. Does this amount to an insistence on imposing very high safety standards on a pipeline that, in private, the B.C. government knows it will ultimately accept? Or does the government intend to follow through on its campaign promise to wage guerrilla war against the pipeline? The answer is not clear. To date, the best guess is the first, but if political protest mounts, Victoria may switch to the second. Meanwhile, tempers are frayed as Canada's two NDP premiers verbally assault each other, and Ottawa desperately wishes everyone would talk about something else.

Other events have escalated the conflict. British Columbia has chosen this moment to announce construction of a major liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant in northern B.C., which will export to Asia. It rationalizes its export proposal to environmentalists with a claim that the LNG will be used in power generation and will replace coal, a fossil fuel emitting more greenhouse gases (GHGs) per unit of electricity than natural gas.

Whether that will be the outcome is moot. From Alberta's perspective, the B.C. government is guilty of rank hypocrisy. It wants the jobs and tax benefits from exporting B.C. hydrocarbon resources while it threatens to block Alberta hydrocarbon exports. Citing B.C.'s antipipeline rhetoric and intense opposition by some environmentalists and First Nation leaders, Kinder Morgan's...

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