Kinder Morgan needs to prove their proposal to expand the Trans Mountain pipeline is in the public interest of B.C. before the project goes ahead, according to B.C. Environment Minister Terry Lake.
Last week, the pipeline company rolled out plans to spend $5 billion to nearly triple the capacity of the pipeline, which carries Alberta crude to a terminal in Vancouver's harbour.
The proposal will have to undergo a federal review conducted by the National Energy Board before it gets the greenlight, much like the Northern Gateway pipeline project, but it won't require a separate provincial environmental review.
B.C. will have to issue some permits for the pipeline to go ahead, said Lake, but the province has an agreement to work within the federal process.
Lake says many people fear B.C. will face the potential risks while Alberta gets the benefits, so it's up to the company to show the pipeline is in the public interest.
"That is a challenge for companies to say, number one, here is how we can minimize the risks, but number two, these are the benefits that will flow to British Columbia," said Lake, who did not say if the government supported or opposed the proposal.
"I think for many people in B.C. they more easily see the potential risks, [but] they don't as easily see the benefits that would flow to B.C."
NDP demands stronger position
NDP environment critic Rob Fleming says the B.C. government needs to take a stronger position.
"I think this is what we have come to expect from the B.C. Liberals. When there are large projects, pipeline projects that pose huge environmental risks to British Columbia, they are nowhere to be seen," said Fleming.
Fleming did say he's particularly concerned the Kinder Morgan proposal has come forward just as the federal government is — in his view — gutting environmental protection.
But he did not say if the NDP supported or opposed the proposal themselves.
"Well, we don't have a real live application, but we know what we can anticipate," he said.
On Tuesday, federal Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver said the federal government would be streamlining the environmental review process to limit the size and length of the reviews.
The company says it is committed to spending up to two years consulting with communities along the route, including First Nations and environmental organizations starting this summer.
The company says it anticipates filing an application with the National Energy Board in 2014. If the project is approved, construction could start in 2016 with the proposed project operating by 2017.
Houston-based Kinder Morgan owns or operates nearly 60,000 kilometres of pipelines and 180 terminals in North America.
The Trans Mountain line stretches 1,150 kilometres between Edmonton and terminals in the Vancouver area and Washington. It carries heavy and light crude oil, as well as refined products such as gasoline and diesel.
It has been involved in several recent spills including more 100,000 litres of light crude oil that was spilled at Kinder Morgan's Sumas terminal in January.