Feb. 16 (UPI) -- The federal Canadian government said it issued decisions that would allow Kinder Morgan to start building its Trans Mountain expansion in British Columbia.
The National Energy Board issued decisions that could let the consortium behind the plans to expand the Trans Mountain pipeline start work in British Columbia. About half of the route for the expansion project has been approved so far.
The NEB's decision clears the way for work on a tunnel entrance at Burnaby Mountain in the province, provided it gets permits from three different levels of government.
"Construction is not yet authorized along the rest of the pipeline route," the NEB stated. "Construction in those areas can begin once the necessary pre-construction conditions have been satisfied, and the applicable portions of the detailed route are approved."
Burnaby in 2016 filed an appeal in federal court against the approval of Kinder Morgan's plans to expand the pipeline network, tripling its design capacity to 890,000 barrels per day. The city said it and its residents are "extremely concerned" about the risks from "dangerous" tar sands oil, the 13 new "high-risk" storage tanks in its community and the increase in oil tanker traffic along the western Canadian shore.
The NEB in December, however, ruled that pipeline company Kinder Morgan doesn't have to comply with bylaws in Burnaby as it starts preparations to overhaul the pipeline. Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan said at the time the NEB's decision was an abuse of federal powers.
Ben Smith, a campaigner for Greenpeace, said there's clear opposition to the pipeline up and down the West Coast of North America.
"The people of the Pacific Northwest and the West Coast don't want this pipeline and the dirty tar sands oil that could come to U.S. waters as a result," he said in an emailed statement. "There's more than one way to stop a pipeline, and we will exhaust all of them to ensure this pipeline is never built."
Nearly all of the exported Canadian oil heads south to the United States and the expansion of Trans Mountain would help break a North American land lock. An accelerated rate of crude oil production in North America, meanwhile, started straining existing pipeline capacity at least four years ago, forcing the industry to turn to rail transport to take up the slack.
NEB data show the November average for exports by rail was the highest for that month in four years. In July 2013, 47 people died in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, when a train carrying oil from the Bakken shale formation derailed and exploded.