Trans Mountain Expansion Project Reconsideration Engagement

What is the Trans Mountain Expansion Project?

The Trans Mountain Expansion Project (Project) is an expansion of the existing Trans Mountain pipeline system which transports oil and other products between Edmonton, Alberta and Burnaby, B.C. It will include approximately 987 km of new pipeline, new and modified facilities, such as pump stations and tanks, and the reactivation of 193 km of existing pipeline. The expansion approximately triples the capacity of the Trans Mountain pipeline system and will increase the capacity of the Westridge Marine Terminal on Burrard Inlet from 5 Aframax tankers per month, to a maximum of 34.

For more information, visit the project page.

Why is the Province reconsidering aspects of the Trans Mountain Expansion Project?

The Project received a provincial Environmental Assessment Certificate (EA Certificate) on January 10, 2017. The EA Certificate was issued by two provincial Ministers – the Minister of Environment (now the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy) and the Minister of Natural Gas Development (now the Minister of Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation). The decision to issue the EA Certificate was based on the assessment conducted by the National Energy Board (NEB) (now the Canadian Energy Regulator), consultation conducted with potentially impacted Indigenous groups, and legally binding EA Certificate conditions recommended by the Environmental Assessment Office (EAO). More about the decision to issue an EA Certificate can be found in the Ministers’ Reasons for Decision and the EAO’s Summary Assessment Report

In 2018 the Federal Court of Appeal determined that the NEB excluded Project-related marine shipping from aspects of its review and overturned federal approval of the Project.  As a result, the NEB undertook a 155-day ‘reconsideration process’ and released a ‘Reconsideration Report’ that provided additional information. The federal government then used this 2019 Reconsideration Report to inform its decision to approve the Project again. 

In September 2019, the BC Court of Appeal, in two cases (1, 2), decided that because the Ministers who issued the provincial EA Certificate relied on the NEB’s assessment, they should have the opportunity consider the changes in the NEB’s Reconsideration Report and determine if any changes to the EA Certificate conditions, or the addition of new ones, are necessary, within the limits of provincial jurisdiction.

In March 2020, the Ministers directed the EAO to undertake a reconsideration process and prepare a report to advise their decision.

More info can be found in a detailed history of how the Province arrived at the Trans Mountain Expansion Project Reconsideration.

What is the Province Reconsidering?

Consistent with the direction of the BC Court of Appeal, the scope of the reconsideration process is to:

  • Identify and consider the portions of the NEB’s Reconsideration Report that differ from the initial NEB report
  • Provide recommendations regarding any new or amended EA Certificate conditions in response to those portions, within the limits of provincial jurisdiction

This means that the EAO’s scope is the changes to the NEB’s Reconsideration Report, which focused on the effects of Project-related marine shipping. In addition, EA Certificate conditions can only be legally binding on the project proponent. Trans Mountain does not own, and has limited influence over, the tankers that would transport the products that would be delivered by the Project. Marine navigation and shipping are areas of federal jurisdiction, regulated by several federal agencies. This context means there are limitations on what Provincial Ministers are able to attach as conditions to the EA Certificate. However, the provincial and federal governments have shared jurisdiction over the environment and some of the socio-economic components that may be impacted by the Project, and the responsibility to protect and manage marine resources is a joint effort.

Details of what the province is reconsidering are contained in the Draft Provincial Reconsideration report

What is the Province proposing to change?

The EAO is presently proposing the following amended and new conditions to those already attached to the Trans Mountain Expansion Project’s EA Certificate:

  1. Proposed amendment to EA Condition 35 (Fate and Behaviour of Bitumen Research) to include ‘potentially affected coastal local governments’ in the list of groups that must be consulted or otherwise involved in the development and reporting out of the research. Updates to the research would be required every five years during operations, or as otherwise authorized by the EAO
  2. Proposed new condition (Human Health Risk Report), which would require Trans Mountain to retain a Qualified Professional to prepare a report describing the ship-source marine spill human health risks, response and monitoring, in accordance with a number of requirements and in consultation with various parties. The report would include:
    1. The identification of human exposure pathways in the event of a ship-source marine spill, including but not limited to exposure via marine subsistence foods and air emissions
    2. The roles and responsibilities of local, provincial, and federal authorities related to impacts to human health in the event of a ship-source marine spill
    3. In the event of a Project-related ship-source marine oil spill, the measures and responsible party to reduce exposure

Additional information on the Conditions can be found in the Draft Provincial Reconsideration report

More details on what work has happened in the province’s reconsideration process is available here.

What is the Province not able to change?

This provincial reconsideration process cannot revoke the provincial EA Certificate or provincial approval, or otherwise ‘cancel’ the Project. The BC Court of Appeal provided direction to consider the changes between the two NEB reports (focused on the effects of Project-related marine shipping), and the Province and the EAO are bound to that scope.

This process cannot consider anything outside that scope which includes things like:

  • Whether or not the Project should be built
  • Any aspects of the pipeline, fuel storage facilities, or export facility
  • Environmental or socio-economic effects related to pipeline construction or operation
  • Anything else not specifically related to changes in the NEB’s Reconsideration Report

How can I get involved?

We are seeking public comments on the Draft Provincial Reconsideration Report during this process to help ensure we’re considering all the relevant details. The following questions may help guide your feedback on the Reconsideration Report:

  • Is there any specific knowledge you would like to share about the changes in the NEB Reconsideration Report from the original NEB Report?
  • Are there any concerns related to Project-related marine shipping that are not already addressed in federal or provincial Project conditions, or other government initiatives?
  • Are there any new or amended B.C. Environmental Assessment Certificate conditions in response to the changes in the NEB Reconsideration Report (related to marine shipping) that the EAO should consider?
  • Do you have any other comments on the Draft Reconsideration Report?

If you’d like to share your thoughts, please visit the Public Comment Period page

Where can I find more information?

The links under each topic above lead to more relevant detailed information. You may also find the following helpful:

What are the next steps?

Following completion of the public comment period, the EAO will be revising the reconsideration report in consideration of all feedback received. The EAO will also be providing additional opportunity for comment and engagement to Squamish Nation, Tsleil-Waututh Nation, the City of Vancouver, Trans Mountain, and provincial and federal government agencies. As appropriate, the EAO will have further engagement with other Indigenous groups and parties.

The EAO expects to finalize the reconsideration report by early summer 2021 and provide it to Ministers to inform their decision on whether to add or amend any conditions to the TMX Environmental Assessment Certificate.