The federal government is making it clear the impact of added oil tanker traffic off the B.C. coast must be taken into consideration on whether the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion should proceed.
Natural Resources Minister Amerjeet Sohi announced the National Energy Board (NEB) has 22 weeks to redo an environmental review of the project.
The Federal Court of Appeals quashed Ottawa’s 2016 approval of the project, saying the federal government could not rely on the NEB’s review as a basis for approval because of flaws in the process.
The court said the energy board and federal cabinet both failed to assess the impacts of increased tanker traffic on the marine environment and particularly the endangered southern resident killer whale population.
Opponents of the project, which include the B.C. government, Indigenous communities and environmental groups, are concerned increased traffic of about three dozen tankers carrying diluted bitumen in the Burrard Inlet every month will increase the risk of an oil spill.
Sohi said a special marine technical advisor will be appointed as part of the NEB review, but that person has not yet been named.
Federal conservative natural resources critic Shannon Stubbs says the pipeline should be the Liberal’s top priority, but still has not date for construction to continue.
Sohi, who made the announcement in Halifax Friday morning at the meeting of G7 energy ministers, also says the government will restart consultations with First Nations people soon.
The pipeline project was halted in part by what the court said was the federal government’s failure to do enough to engage with First Nations before approving the $7.4 billion dollar expansion.
Ottawa now owns the existing Trans Mountain line, purchasing it along with other assets in March for $4.5 billion from Kinder Morgan to ensure the expansion gets completed.
With files from the Canadian Press.