Canada’s National Energy Board has again approved the proposed expansion of the Trans Mountain Pipeline. If completed, the project will see a massive increase in oil tankers through the Salish Sea.
The board was forced to review its earlier approval of the pipeline when ordered to do so by a federal court last August.
The regulator says after further studying impact on marine wildlife, it still recommends the expansion be allowed, with 16 new conditions.
Since August, the board heard from numerous organizations both in favor and against the expansion.
In its most recent decision, the board says the economic benefits of the expanded pipeline outweigh the risks. Among those risks, it finds a seven-fold increase in tanker traffic through the Salish Sea “is likely to cause significant adverse effects on the Southern Resident killer whale,” and if any oil spill happened, “the environmental effects would be significant.” The board also finds greenhouse gas emissions from the increase in marine traffic would be significant.
The recommendations now head to federal review under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The federal government has indicated it will take longer than the expected 90 days to review the latest report.
The court decision also ordered Trudeau’s government to further consult with First Nations about the expansion. It is not known how far along those consultations have gone.
The Canadian government bought the pipeline last year from Houston-based Kinder Morgan in a multibillion-dollar deal.
If completed, it will see an expansion of heavy crude oil, know as bitumen, shipped via pipeline from Alberta’s oil sands to suburban Vancouver, B.C. It will then be loaded onto oil tankers headed to Asia.