“Action announced by B.C. government can only be seen for what it is: political game-playing”

The British Columbia provincial government is proposing a second phase of regulations to “improve preparedness, response and recovery from potential spills, after the first phase was approved in Oct. 2017,” and Alberta Premier Rachel Notley denounced the move in a strongly worded statement Tuesday afternoon.

With some exceptions for B.C. oil and gas regulated entities, the Phase-1 regulations apply to pipelines transporting any quantity of liquid petroleum products, and rail or trucking operations transporting over 10,000 litres of liquid petroleum products.

For the second phase, the province is looking for feedback in five areas according to the press release:

  • 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

Restrictions on the increase of diluted bitumen transported is directly targeting Alberta’s oilsands, said Notley.

“Having run out of tools in the toolbox, the Government of British Columbia is now grasping at straws. The B.C. government has every right to consult on whatever it pleases with its citizens. It does not have the right to rewrite our Constitution and assume powers for itself that it does not have. If it did, our Confederation would be meaningless,” said Notley.

The Premier is referring to the fact that the Federal government is given exclusive jurisdiction over inter-provincial pipeline by Section 92 of the Canadian constitution, which would include what type of crude is transported in the pipeline.

“The action announced today by the B.C. government can only be seen for what it is: political game-playing. But it’s a game that could have serious consequences for the jobs and livelihoods of millions of Canadians who count on their governments to behave rationally and within their scope of authority,” concluded Notley.

Environmental organizations in B.C. view this as another potential regulatory hurdle which could disrupt the pipeline, or stop oilsands crude from flowing through it.

“The proposed regulation should be a wake-up call for Kinder Morgan,” said Jessica Clogg, Executive Director and Senior Counsel for West Coast Environmental Law. “Significant and potentially insurmountable regulatory hurdles still face the Trans Mountain pipeline project.”

The BC government says it will release an intentions paper outlining the details of new regulations and launch consultations before the end of February.

“If a dilbit spill cannot be effectively and safely cleaned up, new BC regulations may prevent the company from ‘turning the taps on’ even if it is able to complete construction,” said Clogg.