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In this 2012 file photo, members of the Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations paddle canoes in Burrard Inlet to show opposition to the proposed expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline.DARRYL DYCK/The Canadian Press

Kinder Morgan Canada says it is plowing ahead with its Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project from Edmonton to the West Coast, despite fresh opposition from the front-runner in British Columbia's election campaign.

Kinder Morgan Canada president Ian Anderson said Tuesday that the pipeline company is on track to file its application to the National Energy Board by late 2013.

"We are confident that we can satisfy questions and concerns about our proposed project both from the public and elected officials. Trans Mountain's commitment to listening and incorporating feedback into our project remains, regardless of which party wins the B.C. election," Mr. Anderson said in a statement, after provincial NDP Leader Adrian Dix announced that his party opposes the twinning of the Trans Mountain line.

Heading into the May 14 provincial election, the B.C. New Democratic Party is far in front – by about 20 percentage points in recent surveys – in public opinion polls over the B.C. Liberals led by Christy Clark.

Mr. Dix said Monday that Kinder Morgan intends to sharply increase the amount of oil transported from Alberta, a move that will trigger environmental concerns about increased tanker traffic in and out of the company's Burnaby terminal on Burrard Inlet's shores.

While Mr. Dix came out strongly against efforts to turn Metro Vancouver into a major port for oil exports, Mr. Anderson defended Kinder Morgan's plans to increase output by constructing a new line next to the existing one.

"The decisions we make today about pipeline infrastructure have long-term impacts and lasting legacies," Mr. Anderson said. "We understand that the associated public policy discussions about our project will occur. However, we believe that the process, including full applications and supporting evidence, should determine the outcome."

Greg Toth, Kinder Morgan's senior project director for the Trans Mountain expansion project, added that the new pipeline would protect the interests of British Columbia and Canada.

British Columbia does not have the authority to single-handedly kill the proposal. But backed by grassroots support, Mr. Dix would likely be able to effectively thwart Trans Mountain, should he become premier. Environmental and native groups are praising the NDP for its stance, which comes on top of the party's opposition to Enbridge Inc.'s Northern Gateway oil pipeline, which is proposed to run from Alberta to northwestern British Columbia.

Industry observers emphasize that the National Energy Board maintains the jurisdiction to review Kinder Morgan's application. The regulator is currently examining Northern Gateway.

"Fundamentally, the Trans Mountain project is a federal undertaking, and the federal process needs to take its course. It is a thorough and lengthy process. "An NEB decision will be made on the merits of the project," said Philippe Reicher, vice-president of external relations for the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association.

The Tsleil-Waututh Nation, located across Burrard Inlet from Kinder Morgan's Westridge marine terminal at Burnaby, welcomed Mr. Dix's comments.

"We applaud the strong leadership of Mr. Dix for making a clear decision in regards to the Kinder Morgan pipeline. We look forward to working with Mr. Dix and the NDP in protecting the economy and quality of life on behalf of all British Columbians against the high-risk business of pipelines and oil tankers," Chief Maureen Thomas of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation said in a statement.

The existing Trans Mountain line stretches 1,150 kilometres. The new $5.4-billion pipeline would increase total capacity to 890,000 barrels a day from the current 300,000 barrels a day.

Follow Brent Jang on Twitter: @brentcjangOpens in a new window

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