Energy company Kinder Morgan said it will spend about $5.5 billion to increase the capacity for its Trans Mountain pipeline to 890,000 barrels of oil per day, up from 750,000 bpd. The company has plans to twin the pipeline that runs 715 miles from Alberta to the western coast for access to Asian markets.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has lobbied Asian countries as potential oil markets. Virtually all of Canada's oil exports are sent to the United States.
Aboriginal communities and provincial leaders along the west coast have expressed concern about the environmental effects of oil activity in the region.
Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson said he was frustrated with the apparent lack of concern from provincial leaders in the ruling New Democratic Party. NDP leader Adrian Dix said more information from Kinder is needed before authorities can make decisions.
"But I think the company's intentions are clear and I think it would be an important step to see leadership at the provincial level for us to have comfort," Robertson was quoted by The Globe and Mail as saying.
Aboriginal leaders expressed similar concerns, saying a spill in the region may cause irreparable harm to the region's environment.
Kinder Morgan said the existing pipeline has operated safely for 60 years. It needs federal approval to move forward.