A Fair, Independent B.C. Review for Kinder Morgan

The on-going National Energy Board (NEB) assessment of the proposal to triple the capacity of the Kinder-Morgan pipeline through southern B.C. is losing whatever public confidence it may have had. Throughout the review the NEB has mostly ruled in favour of the company, not requiring Kinder Morgan to make safety plans public or answer serious questions from interveners. Respected interveners such as Marc Eliesen, Robyn Allan and Watershed Watch Salmon Society have quit. Impacted municipal governments have condemned it and even B.C.’s Premier and Environment Minister (and government lawyers) have complained about the difficulty they have in getting questions answered. First Nations are undertaking their own reviews and looking to court challenges.

With no climate test, no examination of economic trade-offs, no public hearings and no cross-examination, half of British Columbians say they’re against Kinder Morgan’s proposal.

The B.C. government set five conditions that any pipeline proposals have to meet before it will consider any of the potentially hundreds of permits requiring its approval before a pipeline can be built. B.C. has an opportunity in its final submission in early September 2015 to lay out the criteria for what it means to “meet the five conditions”, thereby laying the groundwork for establishing a made-in-BC review.

Such a review needs to be co-designed with First Nations. It should not replicate the technical information and testimony gathering that has already occurred in the NEB process; however, it should identify and fill the gaps left by that process. In particular, it should include an assessment of the project’s full contribution to carbon pollution and climate change, the economic risks and trade-offs British Columbians would be expected to shoulder, and incorporate the robust public participation so lacking in the current process.

With the NEB’s January 2016 decision likely to go in the pipeline’s favour, B.C. needs to clearly set out the pathway that will allow an independent review that respects First Nations, municipalities and B.C. citizens and transparently addresses environmental, social and cultural impacts before considering approval of any permits to build.