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When British Columbia launched its improved oil spill response program as part of its efforts to safeguard its environment against accidents from the expanded Trans Mountain pipeline, the government officials in charge must have missed a little detail: the program was to be funded by toll payments from the pipeline.
Now, the program’s future is highly uncertain, after Canada’s Federal Court of Appeal suspended the project citing numerous flaws in the National Energy Board’s review of the expansion that the federal government should not have used as basis for its approval of Trans Mountain.
The spill response program, which was one condition set by the NEB for the approval of the Trans Mountain expansion, involved the building of six new spill response bases along the coast of British Columbia to match the increased flow of crude along Trans Mountain.
The US$150-million initiative would also create 120 jobs and the purchase of 43 new spill response vessels that would have cut response times in case of an accident from six to two hours.
Perhaps, now that Trans Mountain will either be shelved indefinitely or simply cancelled, the program is simply not necessary: there will not be more crude coming into Vancouver port. A hundred or so jobs are in the air and what has already been built will not be needed, but it’s still a victory for pipeline opponents worried that the risk of spills will increase with the increase in oil flow.
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Kinder Morgan earlier this year sold its Trans Mountain expansion project to the federal Canadian government, exasperated by the persistent uncertainty around the project’s future that came under fire by not just environmentalists and First nations, but also the new B.C. government that made the project’s suspension one of its top priorities.
Ottawa is firm in its backing for the project, but critics say it has not done enough to make sure it goes ahead, which would relieve local crude oil producers of a worsening pipeline capacity shortage that has pushed Canadian crude into a deep discount to WTI.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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Irina is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.