TORONTO — Pipeline companies will be liable for all costs and damages from a spill, regardless of fault or negligence under a new law, the Canadian government announced Wednesday, as it appears set to approve a controversial pipeline.
Natural Resources Minister Greg Rickford made the announcement in British Columbia, where there is fierce opposition to two proposed pipelines that would deliver oil from the Alberta oil sands to the Pacific coast. Tankers would then take the oil to Asia, mainly China.
Enbridge’s Northern Gateway project would transport 525,000 barrels a day from Alberta to Kitimat, British Columbia. Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain expansion would almost triple the current capacity of a pipeline to Vancouver’s port to 900,000.
The federal cabinet is widely expected to approve the Northern Gateway project next month. Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government has staunchly supported Northern Gateway after the U.S. delayed a final decision on TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline that would take oil from Alberta to the U.S. Gulf Coast.
But there is fierce environmental and aboriginal opposition. Opponents fear pipeline leaks and a potential Exxon Valdez-like disaster on the pristine Pacific coast. About 220 large oil tankers a year would visit the Pacific coast town of Kitimat. There is no guarantee Northern Gateway will be built. Court challenges are expected.
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The idea here is that even in the most extreme, rare or unlikely circumstances (of a major spill), the government will ensure that the environment, landowners and taxpayers are protected and that the polluter pays.”
Natural Resources Minister