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June 2018

Vol. 23, No.23 Week of June 10, 2018

Washington state, BC share concerns

Gary Park

for Petroleum News

An informal Pacific Coast cross-border alliance is taking shape in opposition to the movement of crude oil to export terminals connecting North America with energy hungry Asian markets.

And the loose partnership of British Columbia, Washington, Oregon and California has gathered momentum now that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, once viewed as a fast-emerging global leader in climate change measures, is within a few weeks of becoming the owner of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline to deliver 890,000 barrels per day of diluted bitumen from the Alberta oil sands to a tanker port in Vancouver.

Washington-BC connection

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and British Columbia Premier John Horgan have established a two-way flow of information over the past year under the Pacific Coast Collaborative, established in 2008 to promote joint action on climate change and the environment and protect their shared waters from tanker spills.

In the process, Inslee, seizing advantage of the November 2017 election when his Democrats won full control of the state government, has become a rare supporter of Horgan’s battle to scrap the Trans Mountain expansion by setting an example that is widely admired among environmentalists and aboriginal communities in British Columbia.

His administration has tightened regulations around the transportation of oil in Puget Sound, including a tax on pipelines to help finance safety measures, battled the Trump administration’s efforts to expand offshore oil drilling, and refused to issue a permit for what would have been the largest crude-by-rail terminal in the United States.

Inslee and Horgan used an almost identical language in arguing that the environmental and public-health risks outweigh the benefits of increase tanker shipments.

BC lacks Canadian backing

But Horgan has had trouble finding friends within Canada. Only one of nine other provincial and three territorial premiers has offered him clear-cut backing.

When Alberta threatened to cut off fuel shipments to British Columbia in response to Horgan’s opposition to Kinder Morgan’s plans and the Trudeau government announced it would spend C$4.5 billion to take over the existing Trans Mountain system and likely pay another C$7.4 billion for the expansion project, Inslee reportedly consulted closely with Horgan about an opinion piece he wrote for the Seattle Times.

In that article he said the project “runs counter to everything our state is doing to fight climate change, protect our endangered southern resident killer whales and protect communities from the risks associated with increased fossil-fuel transportation - by rail and by sea.”

That stance was scorned by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, which described Inslee’s position as “hypocritical,” noting that Alberta has imposed a price on carbon emissions that is double his proposed tax that died in the state legislature this spring.

Four years ago, Washington’s Department of Ecology took an even harder line against the Trans Mountain plan, telling Canada’s National Energy Board that Canada and B.C. spill response measures “are less stringent than U.S. and Washington standards” and would not adequately protect the shared waters and aquatic life.

Since 2016, the state has provided quarterly reports of crude-oil shipments to emergency responders, local governments, indigenous groups and members of the public, while the B.C. Ministry of the Environment is unable to do more than estimate the volumes of crude being transported across the province by rail or pipeline, although it has promised more information by this fall.

Matt Krogh, an activist with Stand.earth’s Extreme Oil organization, told Toronto’s Globe and Mail that Inslee’s administration has advanced the state’s most “progressive policies” in five years and is now “able to play catch up, in particular, with things like the movement of fossil fuels and spills preparedness” at a time when Washington and B.C. are under tremendous pressure to build more infrastructure for coal, natural gas and oil exports.

- GARY PARK






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