Horgan says BC referring issue of restricting dilbit shipments by pipeline to Federal Court of Appeal

The provincial government will be moving forward with consultation around four bitumen spill safeguards while referring to the courts the outstanding issue of BC’s ability to restrict diluted bitumen shipments through pipelines to the West Coast, says Premier John Horgan.

The Federal Court of Appeal will be asked to rule on the constitutionality of the highly controversial “point five” – consultations with residents on whether dilbit would be allowed in federally regulated BC pipelines.

On Jan. 30., Horgan’s BC NDP government announced its intention to consult British Columbians on five issues:

  • Response times, to ensure timely responses following a spill
  • Geographic response plans, to ensure resources are available to support an immediate response, that take into account unique characteristics of a given sensitive area
  • Compensation for loss of public and cultural use of land, resources or public amenities in the case of spills;
  • Maximizing application of regulations to marine spills
  • Restrictions on the increase of diluted bitumen (“dilbit”) transportation until the behaviour of spilled bitumen can be better understood and there is certainty regarding the ability to adequately mitigate spills

This action prompted a ban of B.C. wine from Alberta’s Premier Rachel Notley, which has now been suspended with the removal of consultations.

“When we came forward with the ban… we made it very clear: ‘Pull Point Five and we will pull the ban.’ And that’s what happened. We’re not trying to escalate (the dispute). We’re trying to make a point and to de-escalate,” said Notley said Friday media conference.

“BC is stepping back from the brink and abiding by the law, and this is a good thing. I’m confident that the courts will not give BC rights it does not possess under our constitution.”

But Notley also said the wine ban could be brought back if Horgan doesn’t stop actions designed to prevent construction of the 525,000 b/d Trans Mountain Expansion pipeline project that would carry diluted bitumen from Alberta to Burnaby, BC.

“If it becomes very clear that this action is in fact part of a deliberate strategy to harass the pipeline and its investors with frivolous or unconstitutional legal challenges, we will act immediately,” she said.

“And we will expect our federal partners to do the same.”

Horgan says his government will be retaining expert legal counsel to ready a reference to the courts for pipelines, adding that it may take several weeks to bring the reference forward. This reference will seek to reinforce B.C.’s constitutional rights to defend against the risks of a bitumen spill.

“We believe it is our right to take appropriate measures to protect our environment, economy and our coast from the drastic consequence of a diluted bitumen spill,” said Horgan. “And we are prepared to confirm that right in court.”

The BC premier said this “safeguard” has generated disproportionate and unlawful reactions from the Alberta government, specifically their decision to ban the import of wines from British Columbia.

“The actions by the Alberta government threaten an entire industry and the livelihoods of people who depend on it,” said Premier Horgan. “We have taken steps to protect our wine industry from the unwarranted trade action by the Government of Alberta.”

The Premier adds that consultations will begin soon on the remaining four safeguards announced in Jan. by Environment and Climate Change Minister George Heyman.

“It’s not about politics. It’s not about trade.  It’s about British Columbians’ right to have their voices heard on this critical issue,” said Premier Horgan. “And it’s about B.C.’s right to defend itself against actions that may threaten our people, our province and our future.”