British Columbia stands firm in Trans Mountain fight

The provincial government said it has the right to defend its environmental interests against plans to expand the network.
By Daniel J. Graeber Follow @dan_graeber Contact the Author   |  May 17, 2018 at 6:02 AM
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May 17 (UPI) -- The federal Canadian government is putting investor interests above provincial issues with its support for the Trans Mountain pipeline, British Columbia said.

Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau said Wednesday the government would offset the risks from provincial opposition to expand the Trans Mountain oil pipeline to British Columbia. Citing shareholder risk from that opposition, pipeline company Kinder Morgan in early April said it might back out of the plans to triple the pipeline's capacity.

That opposition, the company added, has led to increased provincial tensions.

British Columbia has already enacted legislation that could limit the flow of the heavier type of oil carried by Trans Mountain. Premier John Horgan said in response to Ottawa's position that he has a right to defend the environment through the power of the office.

"The federal finance minister is trying to use our government as an excuse, as the federal government puts taxpayer money on the line to backstop risks to private investors, while completely ignoring the risks to British Columbia," he said in a statement.

Before Morneua's announcement, Alberta's government said it would help finance the project and later proposed legislation that could block exports of oil, natural gas or fuels to its western neighbor. Alberta Premier Rachel Notley said the Canadian economy needs access to foreign markets and without projects like Trans Mountain, the economy is out as much as $30 million (USD) per day.

Kinder Morgan has been relatively quiet about the spat over the project. In an April 18 financial statement, the company said judicial action by the provincial government in British Columbia was thwarting the timeline for Trans Mountain.

"Rather than achieving greater clarity, the project is now facing unquantifiable risk," that statement read.

Without clarity on the path forward, and without sufficient protection for its shareholders, the company said it may have to shelve the project by the end of the month.

Tim McMillan, the president and CEO of the Canadian Association of Pipeline Producers, said the fight is no longer over Trans Mountain or provincial interests, but a testament to whether or not Canada is open for business.

"Ottawa needs to do more to clear the path completely for the construction of the Trans Mountain project," he said in a statement.

Kinder Morgan has already spent $850 million on Trans Mountain expansion since it petitioned federal regulators for the project.

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