A Canadian energy board has recommended approval of a major pipeline- expansion project that would dramatically increase Puget Sound oil-tanker traffic.
Canada’s National Energy Board has recommended approval of a major oil-pipeline expansion that would bring more Alberta oil to a port near Vancouver and sharply increase Puget Sound tanker traffic.
The board on Thursday found the Trans Mountain project to expand a pipeline from Edmonton to Burnaby, B.C., was in Canada’s public interest.
But the board linked its approval to 157 conditions related to regulatory, engineering, safety, emergency preparedness, environmental protection and other aspects of the $6.8 billion project.
If the Canadian government approves the project, those conditions should be placed on the project, the board found.
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The expansion would nearly triple the current capacity of a pipeline that brings Alberta oil to tidewater, and is expected to increase tanker traffic from five vessels a month now departing Burnaby to 34 per month.
The prospects of such increased traffic through Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca have drawn scrutiny from Washington state Department of Ecology regulators as well as four tribes that had status as “intervenor” and cited their concerns about oil spills that could threaten their fisheries.
“The U.S. Tribes urge the NEB panel to recommend rejection of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline application,” said comments submitted by the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, Tulalip Tribes, the Suquamish Tribe and the Lummi Nation.
The project largely follows the route of an existing pipeline but would include construction of more than 600 miles of new pipeline, as well as new pump stations, tanks and other development.
The board’s recommendation is a step forward for Kinder Morgan, and company officials have said they hope the project could be completed by 2019. But the expansion, which would increase the transport of crude from Alberta’s oil sand fields to world markets, still faces plenty of hurdles.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau earlier this week named a three-member panel for an additional review that would consult with First Nations and communities along the pipeline route.
The provincial government of British Columbia has come out against the plan over concerns about Trans Mountain’s capability to respond to oil spills, and it faces litigation from some First Nations in British Columbia.
In a statement released Thursday, Trans Mountain officials said they were pleased with the recommendation.
U.S. environmental groups have lined up against the pipeline, citing the risks of oil spills and broader concerns about bringing more Canadian crude onto the markets at a time of mounting concerns about climate change driven by fossil-fuel combustion.
Seattle-based environmental consultant Fred Felleman, who has watch-dogged marine transportation of oil, said each tanker would carry more than 25 million gallons of crude.
The increased traffic would mean a heightened risk of a catastrophic oil spills, and “there would be no way to mitigate the impacts of the heightened risk,” Felleman said in a statement Thursday.