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McKenna outlines pipeline protections ahead of B.C court reference

Last Updated Apr 26, 2018 at 10:00 am EDT

Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna rises during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, April 24, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

OTTAWA – Environment Minister Catherine McKenna is floating the idea of a joint Ottawa-B.C. panel of scientists to enhance existing research on oil spills as the federal government continues pressing its case for the Trans Mountain expansion project.

McKenna is making the proposal to B.C. Environment Minister George Heyman just as the province prepares to unveil the question it will ask the Court of Appeal as it tries to limit the flow of oil through the expanded pipeline.

B.C.’s efforts to block the $7.4-billion project prompted the builder, Kinder Morgan, to halt spending until Ottawa can convince skittish investors that it will go ahead.

In a letter released today, McKenna says Ottawa has already taken steps to mitigate the damage in the event of a spill, including increased capacity to tow ships and five new emergency response stations, and says she is willing to address some of B.C.’s additional concerns.

If B.C. is interested, she says Canada would also consider a joint scientific advisory panel to take stock of the science available on oil spills, including current models of how to respond in the event of an incident involving a number of different petroleum products.

McKenna also says B.C.’s consultation paper on oil spill management left out the very federal policies and programs she says prove why the federal government believes the pipeline is safe.