By Natalie Obiko Pearson

British Columbia’s new government vowed to use “every tool” to thwart Kinder Morgan Inc.’s US$5.8 billion oil pipeline expansion, saying it plans to join legal opposition to Canadian federal approval of the project.

“The expanded Kinder Morgan pipeline is not in B.C.’s best interests,” George Heyman, environment minister of the New Democratic Party-led government which took power last month, said in Vancouver Thursday. “A seven-fold increase in heavy oil tankers in B.C.’s coastal waters is simply too great a risk to our environment, our economy and to thousands of existing jobs.”

The province has hired Thomas Berger, a former Supreme Court judge, to advise it as it seeks to become an intervenor in a judicial review of the November decision by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to back the project. Berger, a renowned Canadian legal figure, was instrumental in the inclusion of aboriginal rights in the country’s 1982 constitution.

There are 21 parties challenging the National Energy Board’s approval of the project in court, David Eby, the province’s new attorney general, said.

The Canadian unit of Houston-based Kinder Morgan raised C$1.75 billion in May to help pay for the expansion in one of the nation’s largest initial public offerings. The shares fell 3.7 percent to C$17.28 in Toronto.

The company plans to “move forward with construction activities in September,” Kinder Morgan Canada President Ian Anderson said in a statement. “We are committed to working with the Province and permitting authorities in our ongoing process of seeking and obtaining necessary permits and permissions.”

Pending Conditions

Kinder Morgan still hasn’t met five of the eight conditions required by the environmental assessment certificate issued by the previous B.C. government, Heyman said. Until it does so, the company can’t start construction on public lands, he said.

“Until those plans are completed, Kinder Morgan — with the exception of private land and some clearing of right of way — cannot put shovels in the ground,” Heyman said. That’s unlikely to happen by mid-September when the company planned to start construction, he added. “Until it is completed, they are not able to begin work. They will be in violation of their environmental assessment certificate.”

Most of the pipeline goes through indigenous territory or public land, Heyman said.

The pipeline is turning into a divisive political issue. As British Columbia’s new leadership faces off against Trudeau’s government, the province’s premier, John Horgan, also finds himself confronting his counterpart Rachel Notley in neighboring Alberta — home to Canada’s oil industry and where the Trans Mountain pipeline starts.

Notley, speaking at an event tied to the start of construction on Enbridge Inc.’s Line 3 replacement project near Hardisty, Alberta, said she’s confident the Trans Mountain expansion will go ahead.

“The decision has been taken, and the decision was that the pipeline will go ahead because it’s in the interest of the country as a whole,” she said.

–With assistance from David Marino and Kevin Orland