While the federal government’s re-approval this week of its Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project was expected, reaction from some on Kamloops council varied.
Kamloops Mayor Ken Christian said he is excited about the decision, citing positive spinoffs for the economy, employment and environment.
Economically, he said, the project will aid in sustainability of the oil industry, with impacts on Kamloops residents who work in Alberta. He said utility improvements will increase tax dollars to Kamloops and pointed to the city’s $750,000 community benefits agreement with Trans Mountain, which now has 28.4 kilometres of pipeline through the city.
Christian hopes the pipeline expansion project will lessen the blow taken by many in the region via mill closures and shift cutbacks.
“It’s not going to offset it, but it could be potential employment for those people who are being displaces due to changes in the forest industry,” he said.
Christian said the decision is also good for the environment because the government has committed to reinvesting the profits into weaning the country off fossil fuels and into greener energy sources.
He said it is also less dangerous to ship bitumen by pipeline than by rail, an issue particularly sensitive in a community with two railroads travelling through it and along waterways.
Coun. Denis Walsh said he is not surprised by the decision, in light of the federal government purchasing the pipeline, but he is disappointed.
He suggested replacing the line, rather than twin the route.
“Everybody is aware of climate change issues and stuff like that and so I think it’s the wrong direction for the government to be going,” Walsh said. “I think it’s going to create a lot of headaches — political headaches for the government.”
In August 2018, the federal government bought the Trans Mountain pipeline from Kinder Morgan for $4.5 billion.
The decision to re-approve the project comes nine months after the Federal Court of Appeal ripped up the original federal approval, citing incomplete Indigenous consultations and a faulty environmental review.
The Liberals ordered the National Energy Board to look at marine shipping impacts and Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi started another round of consultations with Indigenous communities affected by the project.
Tuesday's decision also comes the day after the Liberals passed a motion in the House of Commons declaring climate change a national emergency that would require more cuts to emissions than have already been promised.
In 2016, the National Energy Board said the production of another 590,000 barrels of oil, which would maximize the twinned pipeline's capacity, could generate 14-million to 17-million more tonnes of greenhouse gases each year, which means Canada would have to find ways to cut more from other sectors to meet and then exceed its current targets.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he is sympathetic to concerns about the environment and the need to transition to cleaner sources of energy, but added that in order to fund that transition, Canada needs to take advantage of its natural resources while they are still needed.
The government will require that every dollar in federal revenue coming from the project be reinvested in clean energy and green technology. That includes an estimated $500 million a year in new annual corporate tax revenues once the pipeline is in service, as well as any revenues from the promised sale of the entire expanded pipeline back to the private sector.
Trudeau said construction will restart this construction season, but there is no specific date yet. Trans Mountain Canada will have to apply a second time for all the necessary federal, provincial and municipal permits before breaking ground.
The federal cabinet is also requiring another consultation with Indigenous communities affected by the project to determine how they can potentially become economic partners in the project.