Dianne St. Jean
Trans Mountain's Marine Emergency Response Plan claims quick action
Trans Mountain's Marine Emergency Response Plan claims quick action
Transmountain Pipeline PHOTO

According to a news release by Trans Mountain (TM), marine issues are key to the National Energy Board’s (NEB) reconsideration of the Trans Mountain Expansion Project (TMEP).

Back in May 2016 the NEB had set 157 conditions that were to be met by Trans Mountain for the 1,150-kilometre pipeline project, running from Edmonton, AB to Burnaby, BC.

Then in August 30, 2018 seven of those conditions were highlighted by a Federal Court of Appeal ruling and referred back to the Board for reconsideration.

All seven of these conditions focus on marine aspects, including species at risk.

As directed by the Governor in Council and in response to the Federal ruling, the NEB will review the environmental effects of Project-related marine shipping in view of the requirements of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 and the adverse affects of Project-related maritime shipping on species at risk. One of the key issues on review is the consideration of the Southern resident killer whale population and its critical habitat.

The seven conditions entail pre-construction, construction and operations phases of the Project. According to TM, they have already carried out extensive work in relation to those conditions.

This includes consultation and engagement with federal agencies, stakeholders and Indigenous groups regarding the safety of moving oil tankers in the Salish Sea.

Although TM committed to all 17 original recommendations by the TERMPOL Review Committee (including Transport Canada, Canadian Coast Guard, Environment and Climate Change Canada and Fisheries and Oceans Canada), the Committee stated that it had not considered increased tanker traffic that would result from the expansion.

In response TM has adopted and submitted a proposal for enhanced tug escort for accompanying laden oil tankers through the British Columbia south coast shipping route and out to the open sea.

As a result of the original NEB decision, TM is required to file plans, designs and reports on mitigation measures being implemented to address any impacts from marine shipping, and must also monitor and comply with all marine shipping related commitments it made during the Board review process.

The Board had stated that it is “particularly interested in new, additional evidence (including comments from the public, community knowledge and Indigenous traditional knowledge)” on these issues.

TM has also received permits from the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority for construction work related to the expansion of the Westridge Marine Terminal in Burrard Inlet.

More railcars not the answer

The pipeline project had been considered to be a go until the reviews demanded by the provincial government and Indigenous groups from the British Columbia southern coast were revisited.

Ultimately as a result the project was purchased by the Federal Government, making the Canadian taxpayer the stakeholder.

To date, recommendations from the Alberta government in consideration of their energy sector include a proposal to purchase more railcars to transport oil from Alberta to the southern coast.

But the issue still remains – what happens at the end of the line to all that oil if approval for shipping is not given?

It is interesting to note that a 2018 study in the newsletter of the International Association for Energy Economics, that compared six years of oil transport data for rail and pipeline in the United States, concluded “the risk associated with shipping crude oil is noticeably larger for rail deliveries than for pipeline deliveries.”

The study for the 2010-2016 period found the annual spill rate was as much as three times higher for oil-by-rail compared to pipeline.

Either way, then, more railcars do not seem to be the answer.

TM files reply evidence with the NEB

On December 11, 2018, TM filed reply evidence with the NEB in response to certain evidence filed by the intervenors as part of the reconsideration hearing for the TM project.

The reply includes evidence on the following topics: greenhouse gas emissions, southern resident killer whales, marine birds, spills and spill response and environmental and socio-economic effects assessment.

A final scoping by the NEB of the reconsideration review is being awaited.