VICTORIA – British Columbia’s government says it is moving to the next steps in defending provincial land and water from oil spills by getting public feedback on potential policies, even as one of its most controversial proposals heads to court.
Environment Minister George Heyman says in a statement that British Columbians have a “personal connection” with the environment and need to have their voices heard about steps to protect land and water.
The province is looking for input on four policy areas: response times for oil spills, geographic response plans, how to best regulate marine spills, and compensation for the impact of spills.
Last week, Premier John Horgan announced the province would go to court to get a legal determination on whether B.C. has jurisdiction over its fifth point — limiting the expansion of diluted bitumen shipments through the province.
That point drew the ire of Alberta’s government, with officials saying it was an illegal way of effectively killing the expansion of Kinder Morgan Canada’s Trans Mountain pipeline to the B.C. coast.
Alberta views the $7.4-billion project as essential to getting a fair price for its oil.
The dispute prompted Alberta Premier Rachel Notley to ban imports of B.C. wine, a restriction that was lifted when Horgan announced the constitutional reference case.
But Notley said in a video posted to Facebook on Saturday that her province’s fight is far from over.
“We will do what it takes to defend our interests. So let’s be very clear — if B.C. tries to pull a stunt like that again, not only will the wine ban come back, so to will additional retaliatory measures,” she said.
Notley said a task force she convened is mapping out additional retaliatory measures and the province’s legal team is hard at work.
She also encouraged people across the country to voice their support for Alberta’s actions.
“Not only (is B.C.) flouting the national interest, they’re putting our economy, our climate plan and our workers at risk,” Notley said.
Heyman said Wednesday that B.C.’s proposed regulations don’t directly target the Trans Mountain project.
“This is not about Kinder Morgan specifically,” he told reporters in Victoria.
“This isn’t about anything other than ensuring that our practices on all oil transport are up to date and protect our interest.”
British Columbians should know that various oil products are currently transported across the province in a variety of ways, and they should be assured that measures are in place to prevent and clean spills in all sorts of geographic conditions, Heyman said.
B.C. residents are invited to fill out an online questionnaire about plans for spill regulations until April 30.
The province said in a statement Wednesday that it will engage with Indigenous Peoples, industry, local governments and environmental groups on the issues beginning immediately.
A summary report on the feedback is expected to be posted online later this year or early in 2019.
The government is also planning to establish an independent scientific advisory panel at a later date to study if and how heavy oils can be safely transported and cleaned up in the event of a spill.
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— By Gemma Karstens-Smith in Vancouver.