• Carolyn Carruthers

What am I missing regarding the Trans Mountain Pipeline Project?

I am perplexed at the events that have unfolded regarding the Trans Mountain Pipeline Project. I have been fully absorbed in all the debates being given air time on the matter. There have been some very compelling arguments and statements made on both sides of the equation, but the lingering question that I still have is, “how is it that a province, through a municipal process, supercedes a federal Act (mandated by our Department of Justice), MoUs and agreements signed between federal and provincial governments?”

As an environmental consultant, the first thing that is looked at is, who has regulatory jurisdiction on the project? Once that is determined, a project moves forward through the regulatory process of that (or those) jurisdiction(s) and that is it. No loop holes have to be covered, or contingency plans need to be made on matters between government decisions. Once decisions are made, it's into the hands of the next process.

Pipelines that cross provincial boundaries fall under the jurisdiction of not only the province but also CEAA (feds). Projects such as the Trans Mountain Pipeline Project are assessed by one criteria and one process lead by the federal agency (CEAA). Why is this? In the past, not all provinces had the same environmental criteria or requirements to assess certain projects. By bringing the application process under one criteria and requirement (called Substitution), it maintained consistency and reduced confusion by allowing proponents to complete one report (lead by CEAA) for two jurisdictions; the province and the federal government. This is efficient in all aspects. This is written in the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act 2012 (which is mandated under the Department of Justice). As well, there are Memorandum of Understandings (MoU) between provinces and the federal agency regarding the respect that the two authorities will give each other during this process. It's like a gentlemen's agreement but in writing. In March of 2013, the BC Environmental Assessment Office and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Office signed one such Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Substitution of Environmental Assessment.

So I read the MoU signed between BC EOA and the Canadian Agency and it states the following: “When a project falls under both provincial and federal environmental assessment responsibility, there is an agreement in place which ensures that the two governments will carry out a single, cooperative environmental assessment while retaining their respective decision-making powers. This means Provincial and Federal ministers make independent decisions on whether to issue an Environmental Assessment Certificate from a single report. This is called Substitution. This one project, one assessment approach saves considerable time, money and resources for both governments, proponents, and those being consulted in the EA process, such as Indigenous Groups, stakeholders, and the public.”(1)

On top of that, on June 21, 2010, the Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) (BC’s Environmental Agency) and the National Energy Board (NEB) entered into an agreement (called NEB-EAO Agreement) which states the EAO will accept the NEB's environmental assessment of a proposed project (that otherwise would have to be reviewed under the Environmental Assessment Act) as an equivalent assessment, and that the proposed project may proceed without a provincial environmental assessment certificate. The following projects are subject to this Agreement.

· Dawson Project [WEB] - Westcoast Energy Inc.

· Enbridge Northern Gateway Project [WEB] - Northern Gateway Pipelines Limited Partnership

· Fort Nelson North Gas Processing Facility [WEB] - Westcoast Energy Inc.

· Horn River Project [WEB] - Nova Gas Transmission Ltd.

· Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project [WEB] - Kinder Morgan Canada

· BC NEB Trans Mountain Final Argument (January 2015) (2)

So Trans Mountain doesn't even need BC's EA certificate. This project is fully under federal decision! I go back to my lingering question, with all these agreements in place, what am I missing Minister McKenna and Minister Heyman? Because I think we all would like to know.


(1) BC Environmental Assessment Office 2013. Memorandum of Understanding between Canada and British Columbia on Substitution of Environmental Assessments. http://www.eao.gov.bc.ca/files/EAO-CEAA-Substitution-MOU.pdf Accessed May 31, 2018

(2) NEB 2010. Agreement between the National Energy Board and the Environmental Assessment Office of British Columbia - Environmental Assessment Equivalency Agreement https://www.neb-one.gc.ca/bts/ctrg/mmrndm/2010bcnvssssmntffc-eng.html Accessed May 31, 2018

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