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Report on Business NEB says Trans Mountain pipeline expansion in public interest despite ‘adverse’ impact on whale population

The National Energy Board recommended on Friday that the federal government approve for a second time the long-stalled Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, despite the fact it would likely have “significant adverse” impacts on endangered killer whales and the Indigenous communities in British Columbia that revere them.

In its 700-page report, the energy regulator said the expansion of the crude oil pipeline would be in the public interest by creating a diverse market for Western Canadian oil producers; spurring job creation and economic development for local and Indigenous communities, and enhancing revenues for governments. While the benefits would be largely national and regional in scope, the environmental risks will largely be borne by local communities, including First Nations, the board noted.

The federal government will continue its consultations with First Nations to determine what precise concerns affected communities have about the project, and how their views can be accommodated. Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi said Ottawa will aim to conclude its consultations and make a decision by June.

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Despite negative impacts, “the NEB recommends that the government of Canada finds that they can be justified in the circumstances in light of the considerable benefits of the projects and measures to mitigate the effects,” the board’s chief environment officer, Robert Steedman, told a Friday news conference in Calgary. The board set out 156 conditions the pipeline proponent – now the federal government – would have to meet, while making 16 recommendations to Ottawa for measures that would limit the impact of increased ship traffic in the Salish Sea and help restore the already-polluted, heavily travelled waterway.

The pipeline expansion plan has provoked inter-provincial feuding, oil-industry rage and fears among activists and some First Nations communities over threats to the environment and marine species. The government of Alberta and the oil industry maintain the Trans Mountain project is a crucial economic lifeline to expand crude exports and relieve the frequent price pressure on Western Canadian crude that results from insufficient pipeline capacity. Environmental activists decried the NEB’s conclusion, saying it is clear the pipeline will cause further damage to the orcas in the Salish Sea and would increase greenhouse gas emissions from the oil industry.

Ottawa’s 2016 approval of the pipeline expansion was quashed last August when a Federal Court of Appeal judge found the government’s First Nations consultations had been inadequate and that the NEB did not properly consider the impacts of increased marine traffic.

Explainer: Trans Mountain, Trudeau and First Nations: A guide to the political saga so far

However, the project was in trouble even before the court decision. Faced with opposition from the government of British Columbia, Indigenous leaders, and environmental groups, former owner Kinder Morgan Canada Ltd., announced last April that it was halting construction.

In late May, the Liberal government announced it would purchase the existing Trans Mountain pipeline and terminal for $4.5-billion and finance the expansion project until it could eliminate much of the political and legal risk and resell it to the private sector. Some First Nations leaders in Alberta and B.C. have expressed an interest in purchasing a stake in the pipeline project, a notion the Liberal government supports.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley said the NEB’s revised conditions and additional recommendations were sound, though she cautioned that Friday’s report isn’t the end of the process. Specifically, she acknowledged that the project could still face more court challenges and protests.

“Many obstacles have been put in our way, and quite clearly we are not done yet,” she told reporters in Calgary.

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Ms. Notley said that once the federal cabinet makes its decision, which she expects before the federal election, construction would likely resume very quickly. In the meantime, she said she’ll be pressing the federal government to ensure consultations with First Nations are adequate so a new federal approval won’t be derailed by another court challenge.

British Columbia’s Environment Minister, George Heyman, said he was disappointed at the NEB’s ruling. “They found there would be significant impacts on southern resident killer whales, [and] that there would be a catastrophic impact if there was a spill," he said. "And they reached the conclusion, astoundingly, that no new conditions were needed.” He vowed B.C. will continue with legal reference case that will test the constitutional limits of the province’s authority to restrict the flow of oil crossing its borders.

Indigenous leaders opposed to the pipeline project said Friday the board’s report does nothing to allay their concerns about risks to the salmon and killer whales. And they vow to pursue further legal challenges if Ottawa approves it again.

“We have a reciprocal and loving and spiritual relationship with the lands and the water and the things on it like the salmon and the whales,” said Rueben George, of the Tsleil Waututh First Nation, which was part of the legal challenge that quashed the first permit. “We’ll do whatever it takes to protect the things that we love, because no price can be put on the sacred.”

With a report from Jonathan Ventura.

Legend

National parks

Existing pipeline

Parks

Expansion pipeline

Terminal

Indigenous lands

Pump station

Edmonton

0

80

KM

Jasper

National

Park

BRITISH

COLUMBIA

ALBERTA

Banff

National

Park

Calgary

Kamloops

Kelowna

Westridge

Van.

Sumas

Burnaby

Ferndale

WASH.

IDAHO

MONT.

Anacortes

MURAT YÜKSELIR AND JOHN SOPINSKI / THE GLOBE

AND MAIL, SOURCE: TILEZEN; OPENSTREETMAP

CONTRIBUTORS; HIU; NATURAL RESOURCES CANADA;

OPEN GOVERNMENT; GRAPHIC NEWS; KINDER MORGAN

Legend

0

80

KM

Existing pipeline

ALBERTA

Expansion pipeline

Edmonton

Indigenous lands

National parks

Parks

Jasper

National

Park

Terminal

Pump station

Banff

National

Park

Calgary

BRITISH COLUMBIA

Kamloops

Kelowna

Westridge

Vancouver

Sumas

Burnaby

WASH.

IDAHO

MONT.

Ferndale

Pacific

Ocean

Anacortes

MURAT YÜKSELIR AND JOHN SOPINSKI / THE GLOBE AND MAIL

SOURCE: TILEZEN; OPENSTREETMAP CONTRIBUTORS; HIU;

NATURAL RESOURCES CANADA; OPEN GOVERNMENT; GRAPHIC

NEWS; KINDER MORGAN

Legend

Edmonton

Existing pipeline

Expansion pipeline

16

ALBERTA

Indigenous lands

Jasper

National

Park

National parks

Parks

2

Terminal

Pump station

97

Banff

National

Park

Calgary

1

BRITISH

COLUMBIA

Kamloops

Vancouver

Island

Kelowna

Westridge

Sumas

Vancouver

Burnaby

Pacific

Ocean

Ferndale

WASH.

IDAHO

MONT.

0

80

Anacortes

KM

MURAT YÜKSELIR AND JOHN SOPINSKI / THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: TILEZEN; OPENSTREETMAP

CONTRIBUTORS; HIU; NATURAL RESOURCES CANADA; OPEN GOVERNMENT; GRAPHIC NEWS; KINDER MORGAN

B.C.

Westridge

KEY

Killer

whale

foraging

area

Salmon

closure

area

Sumas

Burnaby

Ferndale

Slowdown zone

Existing

pipeline

Vancouver Island

Anacortes

Victoria

WASH.

Strait of Juan de Fuca

Proposal to move

shipping away from

foraging areas

WASH.

Edmonton

TRANS MOUNTAIN

PIPELINE PROJECT

Proposed

new line

B.C.

Existing line

ALTA.

DETAIL

canada

u.S.

Southern Resident killer whale (SRKW)

Name:Killer whale or orca (Orcinus orca)

Social:The SRKW lives inan extended family

made up of three pods: J,K,L

Range:Inshore waters of the Salish Sea

Diet:Mostly salmon

Key threats

Shipping; noise; pollution; oil spills; declining food

Rounded

dorsal fin

Open saddle

patch marking

Fluke

Eye

Pectoral flipper

SOURCE: government Of canadA; centre for

whale research; evotis.org; noaa;

kinder morgan; qgis

Kingsvale

Kelowna

Westridge

B.C.

KEY

Sumas

Salmon

closure

area

Killer

whale

foraging

area

Burnaby

Ferndale

Slowdown zone

Existing

pipeline

Vancouver Island

Anacortes

Victoria

WASH.

Strait of Juan de Fuca

Proposal to move

shipping away from

foraging areas

WASH.

Edmonton

TRANS MOUNTAIN

PIPELINE PROJECT

Proposed

new line

B.C.

Existing line

ALTA.

DETAIL

canada

u.S.

Southern Resident killer whale (SRKW)

Name:Killer whale or orca (Orcinus orca)

Social:The SRKW lives inan extended family

made up of three pods: J,K,L

Range:Inshore waters of the Salish Sea

Diet:Mostly salmon

Key threats

Shipping; noise; pollution; oil spills; declining food

Rounded

dorsal fin

Open saddle

patch marking

Fluke

Eye

Pectoral flipper

SOURCE: government Of canadA; centre for whale

research; evotis.org; noaa; kinder morgan; qgis

Edmonton

Westridge

TRANS MOUNTAIN

PIPELINE PROJECT

BRITISH COLUMBIA

Proposed

new line

Vancouver

Burnaby

B.C.

Sumas

Existing line

ALTA.

DETAIL

Strait of Georgia

canada

u.S.

Ferndale

Existing

pipeline

WASH.

Vancouver Island

Anacortes

Victoria

Strait of Juan de Fuca

Southern Resident

killer whale (SRKW)

KEY

Name:Killer whale or

orca (Orcinus orca)

Killer

whale

foraging

area

Rounded

dorsal fin

Proposal to move

shipping away from

foraging areas

Social:The SRKW lives in

an extended family made

up of three pods: J,K,L

Open saddle

patch marking

Salmon

closure

area

Range:Inshore waters of

the Salish Sea

Diet:Mostly salmon

Slowdown

zone

Key threats

Shipping; noise; pollution;

oil spills; declining food

Fluke

Eye

Pectoral flipper

SOURCE: government Of canadA; centre for whale research;

evotis.org; noaa; kinder morgan; qgis

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