All over but the bitumen: why B.C. voters aren't done arguing about Trans Mountain's pipeline
'There are just some messes you can’t clean up,' says NDP Leader John Horgan
Final approval of the $6.8-million Trans Mountain expansion project this week sets in motion plans to start laying pipe by fall.
But with a May 9 election looming, pipeline posturing is getting more theatrical and almost as toxic as the bitumen it's bringing.
Despite detractors and a dense thicket of legal challenges, Kinder Morgan is forging ahead with the project, which will triple the pipeline's capacity.
This week, Trans Mountain met five B.C. conditions to protect against spills, which included a federal promise of a Canada-wide $1.5-billion fund for Coast Guard response.
Premier Christy Clark says BC always said there was a path to get to 5 conditions, says KM has done that. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/bcpoli?src=hash">#bcpoli</a> <a href="https://t.co/YfIlQFQl9A">pic.twitter.com/YfIlQFQl9A</a>—@richardzussman
Now the expansion has approval a plan is set to be filed with the National Energy Board (NEB), which will map the pipeline corridor, down to land parcels.
Affected landowners then have 30 days to raise "legitimate objections," and construction could begin by September 2017 and be completed by 2019.
Boon or bitumen risk?
A total of 15,000 workers — with the promise many will be British Columbian — will build it.
The project promises to deliver $46.7 billion into government coffers across Canada — and $500 million to $1 billion to B.C. over the next 20 years.
But these days, pipelines have many detractors.
Oscar-winning actress Jane Fonda described her gut reaction to Alberta's open-pit bitumen mines this week.
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"It's like someone took my skin and peeled it off my body," said Fonda ,sparking furore from locals eager for the 37,000 jobs Trans Mountain promises.
Thicket of legal challenges
There are also at least eight legal challenges of the expansion.
Northern Gateway lost cabinet approval after the courts ruled that First Nations consultation was lacking.
The Tsleil-Waututh First Nation is hoping to make a similar case against Trans Mountain.
"Their permits are illegitimate," said Tsleil-Waututh spokeswoman Charlene Aleck.
"This issue is as black and white as the killer whales they endanger."
The whale card
Then there's the recent challenge by Eco-Justice to protect some 80 orcas that may be affected by a seven-fold increase in tanker traffic.
Ecojustice lawyers maintain that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's cabinet broke the law relying on an NEB assessment of the controversial expansion that ignored the effect on whales of 34 more tankers using Burnaby's port every month.
There are also fears around spills, despite a new $1.5 billion dollar ocean-protection plan.
"There are just some messes you can't clean up," said NDP Leader John Horgan this week, holding up a jam jar full of heavy oil.
And if the bitumen spills?
Critics do not believe the science exists to clean up leaked bitumen, which diluted in sea water becomes problematic.
B.C.'s Green Party is calling for a moratorium on the transport of the sticky substance deeming it "too risky."
"There simply is not an adequate response in place to deal with a diluted bitumen spill," said Green Party MLA for Oak Bay Andrew Weaver.
So while Alberta Premier Rachel Notley applauds as crude gets closer to tidewater, the controversial pipeline remains a polarizing force.
Premier Christy Clark is quick to note that Ottawa had the final say in Trans Mountain's approval.
"It is a federal decision and they made it."
The pipe isn't even all laid yet, but it's already drawing an emotional divide between B.C. voters — who will need to weigh the need for jobs with the cost of potentially marring a pristine coastline.
<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/BCGov?src=hash">#BCGov</a> decision on <a href="https://twitter.com/TransMtn">@TransMtn</a> echoes our belief that we can BOTH protect the environment & grow the economy <a href="https://t.co/My3EJ1M5r8">https://t.co/My3EJ1M5r8</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Cdnpoli?src=hash">#Cdnpoli</a>—@bcchamberofcom
BC NDP Leader John Horgan holding a JAM JAR full of bitumen. Cuz even the dirtiest things in <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/cdnpoli?src=hash">#cdnpoli</a> are kind of adorable. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/bcpoli?src=hash">#bcpoli</a> <a href="https://t.co/kiI7o5VE2c">pic.twitter.com/kiI7o5VE2c</a>—@ShaneBurns
PM Trudeau says we need to "phase out" Canada's oil sands. So he wants to hand-over all global oil production to Saudi, Iran, Qatar, et al? <a href="https://t.co/rKvU4t1w2S">pic.twitter.com/rKvU4t1w2S</a>—@jkenney