Editorial: Pipeline dreams

Christy Clark's decision to get tough on heavy oil pipeline projects in British Columbia will be perceived as a whimper...

Christy Clark’s decision to get tough on heavy oil pipeline projects in British Columbia will be perceived as a whimper by those who have been advocating for a complete moratorium. The Province has just unveiled five new minimum requirements that these projects must meet just to make it to the consideration stage. Not the resounding “no” many have been fighting for ever since oil giant Enbridge came to the table with its highly controversial Northern Gateway Project, a proposal that will see bitumen from the tar sands flow across B.C. from Alberta to a port in Kitimat where supertankers will transport it to Asian markets. But a strong stance nonetheless, given how much pressure she’s been under federally to do what’s right for Canada on its trajectory towards becoming an energy stuperpower under the stewardship of Prime Minister Stephen Harper .

Instead of saluting from the sidelines, Clark has chosen to raise the bar for those in the oil biz with the following new provisions: a project must be given a recommendation by the National Energy Board Joint Review Panel following the successful completion of the environmental review process; consideration must be given to Aboriginal and treaty rights along with the opportunity to participate in the project; fair financial compensation to the province of British Columbia that reflects the level of risk associated to the project; world class oil spill prevention and response on land; and — most importantly — world class oil spill prevention and response for B.C.’s coastline.

“This represents an opportunity for British Columbia and Canada to develop world-leading environmental protection regimes,” said Environment Minister Terry Lake.

Here, here. Oil is a money-maker as many Albertans know only too well. But there is an entire coastal economy at risk should a spill actually happen, one that relies heavily on tourism as well as natural resources.  In the case of a spill, recovery will be a costly, and lengthy, process. One only has to look to Florida’s BP oil spill in 2010 or the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska in 1984 for proof.

Clark is faced with the challenge of mitigating her big business agenda with a sincere concern for the coastline under her care — not an enviable task.