OTTAWA: Canada on Tuesday approved as expected a hotly contested proposal to expand the western Canadian crude oil pipeline it bought last year, providing hope for a depressed energy industry but angering environmental groups.
Construction on the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline is scheduled to resume this year, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told a news conference. A senior government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said earlier that Ottawa expected legal challenges to the approval, report agencies.The project would triple Trans Mountain's capacity to carry 890,000 barrels per day from Alberta's oil sands to British Columbia's Pacific coast, alleviate congestion on existing pipelines and diversify exports away from the United States.
Trudeau, who faces a tough fight in a national election scheduled for October, has been under pressure both from western Canadian politicians who accuse him of doing too little for the oil industry, and from environmental groups, which see the oil sands as a highly polluting source of crude production.
"This isn't an either/or proposition. It is in Canada's national interest to protect our environment and invest in tomorrow, while making sure people can feed their families today," he said, adding he knew some people would be disappointed.
The Liberal government previously approved the expansion in 2016 but that decision was overturned last year after a court ruled the government had not adequately consulted indigenous groups.
The approval was widely expected as the government spent CUS$4.5 billion (US$3.4 billion) to buy the 66-year-old pipeline from Kinder Morgan Canada Ltd last year to ensure that the expansion proceeded. Western Canada's oil production has expanded faster than pipeline capacity, causing a glut of crude to build up.
Trudeau said the government would make a series of accommodations to indigenous concerns about the pipeline, including on protections of killer whale and fish habitats in British Columbia.