The Kinder Morgan Pipeline expansion “will be built,” according to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who says it’s in the national interest. However, opposition in British Columbia caused the company on Sunday to put the $7-billion dollar project on hold till the end of May, citing too much uncertainty.
Kinder Morgan officials are now consulting privately with government officials and stakeholders and say they will make a final decision by June 1.
Kinder Morgan’s announcement appears to be a call for Canada’s federal government to intervene and override the authority of British Columbia.
The provincial B.C. government, led by premier John Horgan, in January called for additional study to keep local waters safe from spills diluted bitumen, a heavier form of crude oil that the expanded pipeline is designed to carry. This proposal would ban new shipments until more is known.
KML Chairman and CEO Steve Kean called the additional regulation "not a normal course of business regulatory process" because the company is already working to fulfill a list of 157 requirements from Canada’s National Energy Board.
"What we have is a government that is openly in opposition and has reaffirmed that opposition very recently," Kean said of British Columbia's actions.
Opponents of the project say they don’t think the company will get its way.
Karen Mahon is the international campaign director with Stand.earth – one of many environmental protest groups celebrating the news that the project is on hold.
“There is massive uncertainty and there is massive opposition, and the opposition is growing. So I think that the parent company saw that and realized that it was too risky an investment for their investors –which it absolutely is,” Mahon said.
And she says if the federal government tries to push the expansion through and override local authority, it could cause a constitutional crisis.
Reuben George is with the Tsleil Waututh Nation, which has been fighting the expansion for years and has filed multiple lawsuits against it. He says they’re not backing down.
“You know when Trudeau says, ‘ It’s gonna be Canada against British Columbia,’ I’ll take on the fight, gladly. That will give us the loudest microphone that we ever had,” George said.
The Tsleil Waututh community is headquartered and has its traditional home around Burrard Inlet, where the expanded pipeline operations would bring a dramatic increase in oil tanker traffic. Members have set up a traditional watch house there, which has become a center for demonstrations.
Kinder Morgan’s announcement came after several weekends of mass protest in Burnaby, where the pipeline terminal is located.
If the project goes forward, it would triple the amount of Canadian tar sands oil arriving and bring as much as seven times more oil tanker traffic through the Salish Sea, including waters of western Washington.