Environment Minister Terry Lake wrote to environmental groups today to reiterate government's position on heavy oil pipelines and the key environmental conditions that must be met in order for any proposal to be considered in British Columbia. The letter in its entirety is copied below:
My government recently released technical analysis related to proposed heavy oil pipelines in British Columbia. The report, Requirements for British Columbia to Consider Support for Heavy Oil Pipelines, can be accessed at: http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/main/docs/2012/TechnicalAnalysis-HeavyOilPipeline_120723.pdf
I am writing you today because I believe it is of critical importance that you hear directly from the Government of British Columbia about our position on heavy oil pipelines, and about the five requirements that will have to be satisfied before we will consider supporting any heavy oil pipeline proposal in British Columbia.
Our government recognizes that British Columbians have legitimate concerns about heavy oil pipelines in our province. Currently, there is one such proposal undergoing environmental assessment - the Enbridge proposal for the Northern Gateway Pipeline (NGP). There are others expected, and for that reason the position outlined by my government would apply to any proposal for a new heavy oil pipeline.
As you know, heavy oil poses particular environmental challenges. It is unlike anything else we transport across Canada. This distinction is very important given the opinion of some commentators, who would like to compare B.C.'s position on the transport of heavy oil with the transport of other Canadian commodities. There is simply no comparison.
I want to be clear that the technical analysis released by my government provided the foundation for our position on any heavy oil pipeline proposal. That includes but is not restricted to the Enbridge proposal for the Northern Gateway Pipeline. The NGP is the only formal proposal at this time, and therefore information is available about that project and its risks and benefits.
The Project is undergoing environmental assessment before a Joint Review Panel, struck under authority of the federal National Energy Board and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency. Review of the project falls within the federal government's purview because it crosses inter-provincial borders.
Our review of the information currently before the Joint Review Panel, as well as our assessment of marine and land-based spill response regimes here in British Columbia and around the world, supports the requirements we have identified that will have to addressed before we will consider support for a heavy oil pipeline proposal:
- Successful completion of the environmental review process. In the case of Enbridge, that would mean a recommendation by the National Energy Board Joint Review Panel that the project proceed;
- World-leading marine oil spill response, prevention and recovery systems for B.C.'s coastline and ocean to manage and mitigate the risks and costs of heavy oil pipelines and shipments;
- World-leading practices for land oil spill prevention, response and recovery systems to manage and mitigate the risks and costs of heavy oil pipelines;
- Legal requirements regarding Aboriginal and treaty rights are addressed, and First Nations are provided with the opportunities, information and resources necessary to participate in and benefit from a heavy-oil project; and,
- British Columbia receives a fair share of the fiscal and economic benefits of a proposed heavy oil project that reflects the level, degree and nature of the risk borne by the province, the environment and taxpayers.
Our economic analysis is supported by the very recent report of the Canadian Energy Research Institute, available at:
In June 2011, the Government of British Columbia registered for Intervenor Status with the Joint Review Panel (JRP). As an Intervenor, our government can make written information requests of Northern Gateway and all other participants, and can question them at the final hearing. With the Panel's approval, Intervenors can also ask questions of Government Participants at the final hearings. Intervenor status provides significant flexibility for participation at the hearings, and we are utilizing this to our benefit, including by cross-examining Enbridge.
I would like to encourage you to read our technical analysis. We have outlined aggressive requirements that must be met before we will consider supporting a heavy oil pipeline proposal. Our government looks forward to the response not only of project proponents, but of other governments and levels of government that have expressed interest in such projects.
Ministry of Environment