Liberals say yes to controversial Trans Mountain pipeline project in B.C.

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is approving Kinder Morgan’s proposal to triple the capacity of its Trans Mountain pipeline from Alberta to Burnaby, B.C. — a $6.8-billion project that has sparked protests by climate change activists from coast to coast.

Trudeau is also effectively killing the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline across northern British Columbia, but giving a green light to Enbridge’s lesser-known $7.5-billion Line 3 pipeline expansion from Alberta to Wisconsin.

The Liberals had promised a decision on Kinder Morgan by Dec. 19 but decided to announce all the pipeline decisions at once ahead of a Dec. 9 meeting between Trudeau and the provincial and territorial premiers.

“(Trans Mountain) will create 15,00 new middle-class jobs, the majority of them in the trades,” Trudeau told a news conference Tuesday. “It meets the strictest of environmental standards and fits within our national climate plan.”

That includes 157 binding conditions set out by the National Energy Board, said Trudeau, who also noted the project would not have been approved without the government of Alberta’s own carbon-pricing efforts and cap on oilsands emissions.

Earlier Tuesday, the broad strokes of a year-long Liberal government effort to position the government between fossil fuel development advocates, indigenous groups and climate policy hawks played out during question period in the House of Commons.

Rona Ambrose, the Conservative interim leader, said it is not enough for the Liberals to approve major pipelines it must then “champion them through to the end” in order to see that they actually get built.

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair, by contrast, accused the Liberals of a “Goldilocks approach” that has browbeat the Liberal party’s own environmentally conscious, anti-pipeline MPs into silence.

Trudeau was happy to claim the middle ground.

“One side of this House wants us to approve everything and ignore indigenous communities and environmental responsibilities,” he said.

“The other side of the House doesn’t care about the jobs or the economic growth that comes with getting our resources to market.”

The stalled Northern Gateway oil pipeline from Alberta through the Great Bear Rain Forest to Kitimat, B.C., had so far been thwarted in the courts for lack of proper indigenous consultation.

The less prominent Enbridge project will see the half-century-old Line 3 pipeline from Alberta through southern Saskatchewan and Manitoba to the United States replaced by an entirely new line about twice the current pipeline’s working capacity.

The Trans Mountain and Line 3 expansions alone would boost pipeline capacity by more than 1.1 million barrels per day.

The pipeline decisions follow weeks of Liberal government announcements designed to show it is serious about combating climate change, including an accelerated coal phase-out and a national floor price on carbon emissions starting in 2018.

Trudeau confirmed Tuesday that he’ll be holding a first ministers meeting with provincial and territorial premiers as well as indigenous leaders on Dec. 9 in Ottawa, where the pan-Canadian climate plan will be the main focus of the agenda.

U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden will also be making a visit to Ottawa on Dec. 8-9 to meet with the first ministers — perhaps one last opportunity for the Liberals to showcase their environmental policy entente with outgoing President Barack Obama before president-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration in January.

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