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Ottawa Approves Critical Trans Mountain Expansion

The federal government of Canada has approved the controversial Trans Mountain oil pipeline expansion project that it bought from Kinder Morgan last year. The project will triple the pipeline’s capacity to 890,000 bpd and this has sparked the outrage of the British Columbian government and a series of moves aimed at stopping the project.

Alberta’s energy industry had reason to rejoice, but it will probably not rush into it. As the Edmonton Journal quoted Premier Jason Kenny as saying, “(This) isn’t a victory to celebrate, it’s just another step in a process that has, frankly, taken too long. We’ll measure success not by today’s decision, but by the beginning of actual construction and, more importantly, by completion of the pipeline.”

Indeed, there are still obstacles to overcome. The latest came in the form of a bill that the Senate earlier this month voted: it upholds a ban on oil tankers in British Columbia’s northern coast. There is concern that this ban would render the expansion of Trans Mountain pretty much pointless, especially as it combines with B.C.’s relentless opposition to the project and increased tanker traffic off its coast.

The province in May lost a case at the B.C. Appeals Court where it sought to stop the expansion by claiming rights to determine the amount of oil that flows across its territory. B.C. is appealing the ruling at the Supreme Court.

"We believe we have the right and authority constitutionally to regulate harmful substances through B.C., however they get here," B. C. attorney general David Eby said at the time.

It was this opposition and the stumbling blocks that B.C. put on the path of the project that made Kinder Morgan drop it after a series of delays last year. The federal government’s purchase of the project caused an outcry in anti-pipeline circles, with some arguing that Ottawa had overpaid for the whole thing.

Now it’s up to the Supreme Court to decide the fate of the project and the new energy regulator that will replace the National Energy Bureau to make sure it complies with all environmental requirements that may well multiply as legislators seek to sever the ties between the NEB and the energy industry that they say compromised the impartiality of the regulatory body.

By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com

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