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Province outlines requirements for support of pipeline proposals

The provincial government has spoken up, saying it believes the answers to its questions about the Enbridge proposed Northern Gateway pipeline are "insufficient". In turn, it has released a document outlining five requirements it says must be met before any project of this nature gets its approval.

Environment Minister Terry Lake outlined the requirements at a press conference this morning, the first of which relies on the completion of the environmental review process, and a positive recommendation from the review panel.

"We should not and we will not pre-judge the outcome of this process," he said, also responding to those who say there is already enough information to make a decision. "This assertion ignores the reality that the review is an iterative process, and as late as last week we have learned more about the Northern Gateway project and changes that Enbridge is prepared to make to improve the safety of the proposed pipeline."

The second and third requirements demand world class marine and land based spill prevention, response and recovery systems.

"These systems would help prevent a spill to begin with, and that of course, is our highest priority," says Lake.

However, as he points out, it is impossible to eliminate all risks entirely, so he says the province needs to be assured the systems and capacity are in place to quickly respond to any problems.

"We have an opportunity to make great strides in protecting our marine areas and our land, and we will have to see that progress before considering support for any new heavy oil pipeline in B.C."

The fourth requirement makes sure B.C. First Nations are given the proper opportunities to participate in any heavy oil pipeline proposal. Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation Minister Mary Polak says it has been clearly shown through the joint review panel process so far, that First Nations have real concerns about Enbridge's proposal.

"Our government must be satisfied that legal requirements regarding Aboriginal and treaty rights have been addressed," she says. "We will not contemplate support for new heavy oil pipeline proposals before we see the evidence of such initiative and effort."

Finally, the final requirement requests a fair share of the benefits of a proposed project, that reflects the risk the province will bear. Lake points out that 100 per cent of the marine risk and 58 per cent of the land risk will be borne by B.C., while it's only set to receive around eight per cent of the incremental fiscal benefits. He wasn't able to pinpoint what amount will make that risk worth it for British Columbians, but maintains it doesn't matter if the project isn't safe.

"I can't put a number on that today, but I can say that it doesn't matter what the number is if we don't ensure that we can do this in a way that makes sense in protecting the environment."

The province is a registered intervenor on the project, and announced last week it will exercise its right to cross-examine Enbridge on its proposal.