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B.C. Dilbit Panel Announcement Deals Latest Blow to Kinder Morgan Pipeline

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British Columbia won’t let Kinder Morgan Canada Inc. or its customers boost the volume of diluted bitumen they ship from its shores until it’s satisfied that it’s possible to clean up after a marine oil spill.

Environment Minister George Heyman announced Tuesday that the province will set up an independent scientific advisory panel “to determine whether diluted bitumen can be effectively cleaned up [1] after being spilled in water,” the Globe and Mail reports. “Until that committee reports, the government will impose a regulation prohibiting any expansion, either by pipeline or rail, of heavy oil sands crude.”

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Heyman gave no immediate timeline for the panel to address the issue. If the scientists find there is no plausible way to clean up diluted bitumen once it has leaked into waterways, the paper adds, “the province would likely move to make the regulation permanent.”

Kinder Morgan has struggled to secure financing [3] for, and investor confidence [4] in, its project.

After Heyman’s statement, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley accused [5] B.C. of “political game-playing” that runs counter to the Canadian constitution.

“Having run out of tools in the toolbox, the government of B.C. is now grasping at straws,” she said in Edmonton. “The action announced today by the B.C. government can only be seen for what it is, political game-playing and political theatre. Unfortunately, it is a game that could have serious consequences for the jobs and the livelihoods of millions of Canadians who count on their governments to act within the scope of their authority.”

Pipeline opponents were just as quick to defend the “monumental” announcement, detailing the impacts of past dilbit spills and urging supporters to flood Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with calls and emails to counter the determined industry lobbying they said was sure to follow.

“This could be the end of the line for Kinder Morgan,” wrote [6] 350.org campaigner Atiya Jaffer. “But we know that right now, the most powerful fossil fuel companies and Big Oil billionaires are calling up Justin Trudeau, demanding that he override this decision. That’s why we need to demonstrate that all across Canada, people support today’s monumental announcement. We need to remind [7] the Prime Minister of his own words that ‘only communities grant permission [8]’ for projects like Kinder Morgan.”

Today’s moratorium is great news,” added [9] Stand.earth campaigner Sven Biggs. “But we need to keep the pressure up if we want to stop Kinder Morgan for good. The province will be conducting a review of whether it has the systems and technology in place to clean up an oil spill,” and “it will want hear from people like you.”

He added that, “if I were an investor in Kinder Morgan, I would be on the phone with a broker right now. In the short term, these new restrictions mean the pipeline cannot go into operation. In the long term, the outcome of the review has the potential to become a permanent roadblock.”

The Seeking Alpha investors’ blog picked up the story almost immediately, with News Editor Carl Surran noting [10] that Kinder’s stock “tumbled 2%” on the news.

The province’s NDP government, environmental groups, and B.C. First Nations have long accused the federal National Energy Board of failing to adequately consider [11] the additional environmental threats posed by increased bitumen shipments through the Salish Sea, in its rush to approve the Texas-owned company’s plan to triple the size of its existing Trans Mountain oil pipeline running from near Edmonton, Alberta to Burnaby, B.C.

All those parties are in public this week, as the NEB holds hearings on the detailed route [12] for the expanded pipeline and Kinder Morgan’s continuing quest [13] for special treatment for its project.