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Trudeau's $1.5-billion national coastal strategy paves way for Kinder Morgan

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Image: PMO/Adam Scotti

The Trudeau government has announced a $1.5-billion "Oceans Protection Plan" just weeks before it is expected to approve Kinder Morgan's $6.8-billion Trans Mountain tar sands pipeline. 

Approving the pipeline would sharply increase the number of large tankers entering the Burrard Inlet, from five to 34. 

"That project proposal … is one of the most controversial political challenges facing the Trudeau government," the Vancouver Sun reported.

B.C. Premier Christy Clark praised the Trudeau government's funding commitment for coastal protection measures. The "Oceans Protection Plan" is a financial commitment over five years aiming to ensure "environmental sustainability" and "responsible commercial use."

Clark said that the plan is enough to protect the coast from current spills but more work is required if the Kinder Morgan is approved.

She has set a number of conditions that Ottawa would have to meet before the province approves a pipeline to the West Coast. One of them is that there needs to be a "world class" coastal spill response system.

"Trudeau"s announcement [Monday] didn’t include many of the specific requests that Victoria has put forward, including three new salvage rescue tugs costing up to $50 million apiece, a new $6-million CCG station in Prince Rupert, and funding for a maritime training centre at the B.C. Institute of Technology," the Vancouver Sun reported.

Monday's announcement also didn't reference a promised crude oil tanker ban for B.C.'s north coast (the Kinder Morgan pipeline would fill oil tankers for export from B.C.'s south coast).

Despite that, Clark quickly endorsed Trudeau's plan.

"The premier's quick endorsement appears to remove a major barrier for resource projects in B.C. such as Kinder Morgan’s proposed Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, which the province has opposed in large part over concerns about oil spill prevention and cleanup. ...The federal government did not explicitly address many of the specific items in the province’s list, but Ms. Clark and federal Transportation Minister Marc Garneau, who was also in Vancouver alongside the Prime Minister, said those details will be worked out," The Globe and Mail reported.

The Council of Canadians climate justice campaigner Daniel Cayley-Daoust said there is concern that Monday’s announcement will be used as an excuse to approve the Kinder Morgan pipeline and the increased tanker traffic that goes with it. 

“We hope it will [instead] reinforce the notion that we are not prepared, nor will we ever be, for any kind of future that involves more tankers and more spills, and lead to cabinet’s rejection of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline. One of the best ways to reduce risk is to avoid building new pipelines and increasing tanker traffic in the first place," said Cayley-Daoust.

Texas-based Kinder Morgan is proposing to twin the Trans Mountain pipeline from northern Alberta to the British Columbia coast to increase the pipeline's capacity from 300,000 barrels per day to 890,000 barrels per day.

The pipeline would carry diluted bitumen from the tar sands through Jasper National Park, into the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, across the Vedder Fan aquifer and the municipality of Chilliwack's protected groundwater zone, then across the Fraser River and to the Westridge Marine Terminal at Burrard Inlet for export on 400 supertankers a year.

The Kinder Morgan project would also mean increased underwater noise that will impact the southern resident killer whales, which are protected under the federal Species at Risk Act. 

The Council of Canadians has been opposing the Trans Mountain pipeline since August 2011 by participating in marches, protests and civil disobedience actions, supporting chapter activism, petitions and a court action, writing blogs, and organizing numerous public events and a six-community speaking tour.

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