The National Energy Board has endorsed an expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline following a reconsideration of its impact on marine life off the B.C. coast.
The energy regulator says an increase in tanker traffic resulting from the pipeline would hurt southern resident killer whales and increase greenhouse gas emissions.
But it says those consequences can be justified in light of what would be the pipeline’s benefits.
“While these effects weighed heavily in the NEB’s consideration of project-related marine shipping, the NEB recommends that the government of Canada find that they can be justified in the circumstances, in light of the considerable benefits of the project and measures to minimize the effects.”
The energy board says it will impose 156 conditions on the project if it is approved. It has also made 16 new recommendations to the federal government.
Alberta has been fighting hard for the Trans Mountain expansion so that the province could move more crude oil to ports and from there to lucrative overseas markets.
The energy board’s original approval of the project was set aside last summer by the Federal Court of Appeal, which said the regulator had not properly considered marine life.
The NEB’s report starts the clock on a 90-day period for the federal government to decide whether the project should proceed.
Officials in Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi’s office have said a final decision won’t be made until consultations with affected Indigenous groups are complete.
The consultations were also an issue the federal Appeal Court raised when it put a halt on the project.