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British Columbia Accepts Final Approval of Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion

A second green light has been given to construction of export pipeline capacity to Canada's Pacific Coast for Alberta oilsands production, the nation's biggest and fastest growing natural gas consumer.

British Columbia's Liberal government Wednesday announced acceptance of the federal Liberal cabinet's Nov. 29 final approval of Kinder Morgan Canada's expansion of Trans Mountain Pipeline to Vancouver from Edmonton, the Alberta capital.

The acceptance includes a 20-year agreement by the pipeline to give BC annual payments of C$25-50 million (US$18.8-37.5 million), depending on oil traffic volumes, for a "clean communities program" of environmental initiatives such as parks and marine conservation.

Construction of C$6.8 billion (US$5 billion) in additions to 64-year-old Trans Mountain is scheduled to begin in mid-2017, with a 2019 in-service target. Capacity will nearly triple to 890,000 b/d and is fully booked by Alberta oil shippers.

BC Premier Christy Clark, Environment Minister Mary Polak and Natural Gas Development Minister Rich Coleman described the project's final form as an outstanding example of clean, responsible and cooperative industrial development.

The package, crafted by more than 200 federal and provincial approval conditions, includes corporate and government programs of tanker safety, emergency preparedness, spill response, and aboriginal participation.

BC also gains a secure share in oilsands development as a growing natural gas supplier of Alberta thermal production plants. TransCanada Corp.'s western supply collection grid, Nova Gas Transmission Ltd. (NGTL), forecasts bitumen extraction demand will grow by 75% to 3.5 Bcf/d as of 2025. Much of the gas will come from accelerating development of BC's Montney Shale formation, delivered by NGTL pipeline additions.

BC's Trans Mountain acceptance coincided with the latest in a string of U.S. celebrity protester visits to the northeastern Alberta belt, with the stars demanding a halt to production and pipeline projects in the names of climate change and aboriginal rights.

Greenpeace and a coalition of native power crusaders gave Jane Fonda a helicopter tour of the Fort McMurray mining district and staged an Edmonton news conference for her but turned down an invitation to meet Alberta Premier Rachel Notley.

As leader of the province's first left-leaning New Democratic Party government, Notley does not take a back seat to Fonda as an environmental and human rights advocate. But the premier, a lawyer, said the actress should learn that success requires credibility. "By all means advocate, but know a bit about what you're talking about," Notley said. She pointed to an Alberta carbon tax, oilsands emissions cap, and aboriginal cooperation policies that contributed to the federal and BC Trans Mountain expansion project endorsements.

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