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B.C. Premier Christy Clark. Today’s topics: At sea on a pipeline deal; say yes to China on Nexen?; ‘good enough’ isn’t good enough; pulling The Dark Knight Rises from theatres … and more (JONATHAN HAYWARD/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
B.C. Premier Christy Clark. Today’s topics: At sea on a pipeline deal; say yes to China on Nexen?; ‘good enough’ isn’t good enough; pulling The Dark Knight Rises from theatres … and more (JONATHAN HAYWARD/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Christy Clark op-ed

National energy strategy must address B.C. pipeline worries Add to ...

This week, my government outlined five bottom-line requirements that must be met for British Columbia to consider support of any heavy oil pipeline project, including Enbridge’s Northern Gateway. We know that Alberta’s oil sands are an important resource and getting them to new markets represents a great economic opportunity for that province and our country. But as a premier, I am focused first and foremost on what’s best for my province, and Northern Gateway currently contains far too great an imbalance of risks over benefits for B.C.

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British Columbia’s five bottom lines are as follows:

1. Successful completion of an environmental review process. In Enbridge’s case, this means a recommendation by the Joint Review Panel that the project proceed.

2. World-leading marine oil-spill prevention and response systems to protect our coastlines and ocean. With the Enbridge project, British Columbia is taking 100 per cent of the marine risk. We need to make sure we improve our response and resource capacity. That means the federal government and industry are at the table and prepared to step up their support.

3. Enhancement of our on-land spill response to world-leading standards. We have looked at different models in different jurisdictions that include an industry- or polluter-pay principle to help offset any costs borne by the taxpayer in case of a spill. Again, this is important in the Enbridge context because nearly 60 per cent of the 1,172-kilometre pipeline would run through B.C.

4. Legal requirements regarding aboriginal and treaty rights must be addressed and first nations must be provided with opportunities to benefit from these projects. In B.C., we have led the way in working with first nations to ensure new developments are a win for communities, industry and the province.

5. B.C. must receive its fair share of the fiscal and economic benefits of the Enbridge project and other proposals for heavy oil pipelines.

Each of these requirements must be met; our need for environmental protection and safety is as important as aboriginal engagement as is our fair share of the fiscal and economic benefits of the Enbridge project.

Let’s be clear, heavy oil is unlike any other commodity we transport across Canada. The inherent risks are not the same as in moving copper, gold, lumber or grain, for instance. If a train carrying wheat from Saskatchewan derails as it’s moving to a B.C. port for shipment to Asia, the fiscal and environmental costs are manageable in relation to the benefits we receive. The risks are greatly offset by the number of jobs at our ports, tanker terminals and shipping yards.

The same cannot be said with shipping heavy oil across difficult terrain and shipping through challenging marine environments, such as the Douglas Channel. I have a duty to represent the interests of my province, its people, our values and our natural resources, and my government has been fair and reasonable, with strong and principled requirements.

I understand that for Alberta, the balance of risks and benefits are much different. Based on the Wright Mansell report Enbridge submitted to the environmental review process, of the $81-billion in incremental income the project is expected to generate over a 30-year period, nearly 40 per cent – $32-billion – will go to Alberta. Whereas British Columbia, despite shouldering 100 per cent of the marine oil-spill risk and a majority of the land oil-spill risk, will receives a much smaller benefit, roughly 8 per cent of the incremental income. The calculation for me as Premier is that there is too much unquantified risk with too little known benefit.

The B.C. government will maintain its active position as intervenors in the Joint Review Panel; next week, we will be submitting notice of our intent to cross-examine Enbridge. Those hearings begin in the fall and we will be asking Enbridge some tough questions throughout that process. But heavy oil is not the only energy commodity our government is focused on.

In fact, my government is working to develop a key energy resource and getting it to market: liquefied natural gas. Northeastern B.C. has massive reserves, and we have massive investments with thousands of potential jobs for British Columbians and revenues for the provincial government, with minimal risk to coasts or land, and the support of our first nations. Natural gas development and export is B.C.’s energy priority.

That is why I was so disappointed with the discussions at the Council of Federation in Halifax this week. Canada is a big country and each province has different interests, challenges and resources. We need to work together to leverage our strengths and expand and diversify our markets, but we cannot do so at the expense of each other’s interests. We must work in concert. That is why I couldn’t support a national energy strategy that does not address the concerns I have, that British Columbians have, about the movement of heavy oil across our province and coastlines.

British Columbians are fair and reasonable; we support development and environmental protection – but not at any cost.

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