Washington Governor and BC Premier will use legal tools to stop Trans Mountain

Washington’s Democratic Governor Jay Inslee says his state shares concerns with British Columbia about the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion and will continue to voice its objections any way it can. Asked how Washington could influence the pipeline project, Governor Inslee replied, “Every way that we can under Canadian law. We’ve done that so far by our Department of Ecology making a vigorous, robust statement of our concerns. I have exercised my rights as governor to speak publicly and vocally about our concerns about this project.”

The Governor made his comments at a joint news conference in Seattle on Thursday with B.C. Premier John Horgan, who is visiting the state to discuss partnerships on endangered killer whales, clean energy, and high-speed rail. “This (project) does not move us toward a clean energy future. For both short and long-term reasons, the state of Washington stands with, I believe, the people of British Columbia expressing concerns about this project,” the Governor said.

The pipeline’s expansion would triple the capacity of the Trans Mountain pipeline, which runs from near Edmonton to a waterfront terminal in Burnaby, B.C. Canada has purchased the pipeline and expansion project for CAD $4.5 billion. The Federal Court of Appeal struck down the project’s approval last August in part because of the National Energy Board’s failure to consider marine shipping impacts. The government ordered the board to conduct a review of this issue and report back by February 22.

Premier Horgan has said that B.C. would use “every tool” in its toolbox to fight the pipeline expansion. He would not explicitly say on Thursday what tools the province has left. “I’m not answering that question directly in British Columbia, so I would be remiss if I did that today,” he said. “We do have tools available to us.”

Premier Horgan admitted the federal government has jurisdiction over inter-provincial pipelines but said the province has filed a reference case in the B.C. Court of Appeal to see if it has jurisdiction to regulate the transport of oil through its territory. “The challenge is that Alberta is landlocked and it has a resource that it believes it needs to get to market and they’re struggling with that,” he said. “I appreciate those challenges but my obligation is to protect the interests of British Columbia.” He added the federal government is in a “difficult” position now that it has purchased the pipeline.

Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau has previously said the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline is in the best interests of all Canadians and his government has committed CAD $1.5 billion to an ocean protection plan that includes millions for research on B.C. killer whale populations.

Premier Horgan announced that B.C. will kick in another CAD $300,000 to help fund a study of a potential high-speed transportation service linking B.C., Washington and Oregon, after contributing the same amount last year. He said he envisions high-speed rail running from Seattle to B.C.’s Lower Mainland, with a terminus in Surrey that would connect to public transportation infrastructure to take riders to Vancouver’s airport, the city’s downtown core and the Fraser Valley.

Governor Inslee added that a preliminary review has shown the rail link could generate 1.8 million riders in the first few years and Washington has contributed over $3 million to the project. “It’s based on an optimistic vision of the growth that we’re going to have in British Columbia and Washington,” he said. “We are a world-class community across that border.