The B.C. government remains stymied in its efforts to force Kinder Morgan to reveal what the province believes are crucial details of oil spill and emergency response plans for the firm’s Trans Mountain pipeline project.
And as the National Energy Board review of the proposed second oil pipeline enters a new phase there are growing calls for the province to withdraw from the process.
Lawyers for the province have for several months demanded the release of detailed emergency plans for spills on either land or at sea.
Trans Mountain officials last October released a heavily redacted version of the plan, citing various reasons for denying information, including “security” to protect its facilities from “targeted vandalism” during an emergency.
“History has shown that the possibility of a spill originating from Trans Mountain’s facilities is very real,” the province stated in a Dec. 5 motion that demanded more disclosure.
“The potential for devastating effects on the environment, human health and local economies is irrefutable. There is significant reason to query Trans Mountain’s ability to respond to a spill effectively.”
One of the plan elements withheld by Trans Mountain for security reasons is a map of public evacuation zones should a rupture or other emergency occur.
While the company argued public disclosure of the map could interfere with its response, the province said making the information publicly available would aid safe and orderly evacuations.
Kinder Morgan took the same position on disclosure of other manuals and fire safety plans.
“We are extremely concerned that the very detailed response information provided in these documents could be used by anyone seeking to maximize environmental damage or cause harm to the public by intervening prior to or during a response,” the company said.
The province’s December motion argued release is “imperative” for all intervenors to meaningfully participate in the review because the NEB process is “the only forum in which Trans Mountain’s ability to effectively respond to a spill can be probed and tested.”
It said the company’s “vague and perfunctory justifications” for withholding details are based on unverified assumptions and are “utterly unpersuasive.”
Various intervenors, including the province, were expected to file further information requests to the NEB by a Friday deadline in a second and final round of written questions and answers.
B.C. Green Party deputy leader and MLA Andrew Weaver said the province must end the equivalency agreement that delegates its environmental assessment to the federal government and instead conduct its own independent hearings.
“The province at this point has no choice but to pull out,” Weaver said. “It’s totally unacceptable. If you’re not going to provide something as fundamental as an emergency response plan for the most critical aspect of your whole proposal then this is clearly not working in the interests of British Columbians.”
Weaver said it’s particularly unreasonable that the emergency plan documents were not provided in time for intervenors to pose questions by Friday’s deadline.
An environment ministry spokesman would not say if the province is contemplating a pull out, adding B.C. continues to insist any heavy oil pipeline meet its five conditions to proceed.
The NEB is expected to make a final recommendation on the application to twin the Trans Mountain pipeline by Jan. 25, 2016. The federal government would then have six months to approve or reject the project.
The proposed $5.4-billion pipeline twinning would nearly triple Trans Mountain’s capacity to 890,000 barrels of oil per day and bring hundreds of additional oil tankers through Burrard Inlet each year.