VICTORIA, British Columbia (AP) — Canada's Pacific Coast province of British Columbia on Wednesday approved the expansion of Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain pipeline from the Alberta oil sands that would allow oil exports to Asia.
British Columbia Premier Christy Clark announced the conditions her government placed on the project have been met with a deal that will help fund environmental protection projects. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau gave federal government approval late last year.
Alberta, which has the world's third largest oil reserves, needs infrastructure in place to export its growing oil sands production. Approving Trans Mountain helps diversify Canada's oil exports. Ninety-seven percent of Canadian oil exports now go to the U.S.
Both the federal government and the provincial government of British Columbia and Alberta are trying to balance the oil industry's desire to tap new markets in Asia against the concerns of environmentalists.
But there remains opposition to the Trans Mountain pipeline in British Columbia, the birthplace of the Greenpeace environmental movement. There is no guarantee it will get built despite government approval as it faces strong opposition from environmentalists and indigenous leaders.
Ian Anderson, president of Kinder Morgan Canada, said they are planning to begin construction in September. Protests and court challenges are expected. The British Columbia premier is also facing election in the spring.
The expansion would triple the capacity of the existing pipeline, which runs from near Edmonton, Alberta, to the Vancouver suburb of Burnaby, British Columbia, and is expected to increase tanker traffic sevenfold. There are fears of oil spills on the pristine Pacific coast.
British Columbia's conditions included world-leading oil spill response and prevention, aboriginal participation in the project, a fair share of its economic benefits for the province, and successful environmental reviews.
Rachel Notley, the New Democratic premier of oil-rich Alberta, said the pipeline will help Alberta's battered economy, create jobs in both provinces and help attract international investment to Canada.
"I am very happy. It is good news for Alberta. It is good news for Albertans," Notley said. "We are not out of the woods by any means. There are a lot of difficult times ahead and hard work to do but this is certainly something that of course in the long-term will have measurable benefits in terms of GDP, and jobs and bringing investment."
The leader of the British Columbia opposition New Democrat party, John Horgan, said he plans to "use every tool in our tool box" to stop the pipeline expansion. He held up a small glass jar full with what he said was heavy oil to show how thick and difficult it would be to clean up if there was a spill.
"This is what risk looks like to our coast," Horgan said.