B.C. Premier John Horgan is predicting a “crisis” over protests against the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline, but says it’s up the federal government and the National Energy Board to deal with the situation.
“It’s going to be a long, hot summer,” said Mr. Horgan, asked on Wednesday about the situation at an unrelated news conference.
Operations of project driver Kinder Morgan in Burnaby, B.C., have been targeted by protesters concerned about the prospect of a tripling of the amount of diluted bitumen that would flow from the Edmonton area to a port in Burnaby.
Mr. Horgan declined to comment on a decision by Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan not to cover policing costs linked to dealing with protests in the city against Kinder Morgan operations.
As with many other B.C. communities, Burnaby is policed by the RCMP, which operates in agreement with the municipality.
“What I do know is that there is a crisis in British Columbia right now with respect to the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline,” said Mr. Horgan, whose party’s platform in last year’s provincial election included opposition to the proposed pipeline expansion.
“This is not a threat by me. This is self-evident by the number of people who are collecting on Burnaby Mountain every day to express their disappointment over the federal government’s decision to proceed.”
He said the federal government is to blame as well as the NEB.
“I believe the federal government should be accountable for the circumstances we find ourselves in at this time.”
In a statement, a spokesperson for the Trans Mountain project said the initiative is under federal jurisdiction and has approvals from the NEB and federal government. But Ali Hounsell also noted that the courts have ruled in Trans Mountain’s favour in 14 of 14 cases related to the project.
“We support peaceful, lawful demonstrations of views, and trust that the Premier of British Columbia does as well. There are many ways to express opinions in a safe and lawful manner,” Ms. Hounsell said.
Last Sunday, the Burnaby RCMP reported they arrested 54 demonstrators who violated a court-ordered injunction that stated they could not obstruct, impede or otherwise prevent access to Trans Mountain facilities in the city.
A court injunction bars activists from getting within five metres of Kinder Morgan’s two terminal sites on Burnaby Mountain where work related to the expansion of the pipeline is underway.
Burnaby plans to go to the Supreme Court of Canada to appeal a lower-court ruling last week in which the Federal Court of Appeal dismissed a bid by Burnaby and the B.C. government to challenge a NEB decision that allows Kinder Morgan to bypass local laws during pipeline construction.
Asked about joining Burnaby’s legal action, B.C. Environment Ministry spokesperson Danielle Bell said in a statement that it will take “the necessary time” to consider its options. The ministry has 60 days to make a decision.
There are various other legal decisions pending on the pipeline, including a review by the Federal Court of Appeal of the decision by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet to approve the pipeline and a review by the B.C. Court of Appeal of the decision by the former provincial government to approve the pipeline.
Mr. Horgan has also already said his government will seek a legal ruling on whether his province can restrict increased amounts of oil from coming into B.C. while his government reviews oil-spill safety measures.