Coastal GasLink claims it has not violated a compliance agreement it signed with the state to mitigate watershed damage along its pipeline route.
However, on October 14, the BC government ordered a ‘stop’ for any activity in violation of the agreement.
TC Energy, the parent company that will build the 670-kilometer gas pipeline through northern BC, confirmed in an email to The Tyee that work has not stopped along the pipeline route.
“EAO has confirmed that it does not expect Coastal GasLink to cease operations if adequate environmental mitigation is in place at the site,” said a company spokesperson. “Coastal GasLink understands that we have complied with this mandate and will continue to do so.”
BC’s Office of Environmental Assessment said on October 14 that it issued the order as a result of inspections along a 14-kilometer pipeline route in the Anzac River Valley, northeast of Prince George.
The order states that the company “must cease all changes” from the approved work plan required under a recent compliance agreement.
An environment ministry spokeswoman said inspectors had found “cases of violations” but added that the environment was unaffected by the violations.
“These included work that differed from the approved work plan approved by the EAO, and issues related to erosion and sediment control,” the ministry said in an email. “If the CGL amends the activities so that the work follows the content of the work plan, or the work plan is amended and approved by the EAO, the CGL will be in compliance and will be able to resume work in the areas where work stopped. increase.”
TC Energy said the order was issued “without prior notice or explanation,” adding that it was working with EAO to “understand the details behind this order.”
The department’s order, a weekend article in the Vancouver Sun, initially reported that Coastal GasLink had issued a cease and desist order. A few hours later, the article was replaced with a statement that the company was “in hot water.” The revised story has been updated to include comments from TC Energy.
It has been two years since EAO first identified the problem of soil erosion and deposition along the pipeline route. Since then, multiple orders for ongoing issues and he has issued two fines totaling about $250,000.
On July 14, the state announced it had signed an agreement with the company to ensure stricter measures to control erosion and sedimentation.
“Failure to comply with the agreement could result in escalation of enforcement actions, including a work stoppage order by the Environment and Climate Change Strategy Minister,” the state said in a news release at the time.
The agreement covers 32 specific sections along pipeline routes ranging in length from 65 meters to over 18 kilometers. Overall, these sections cover approximately 100 kilometers over 500 kilometers of the 670-kilometer route.
The contract requires the company to develop a “Work Execution Plan” prior to commencing liquidation in these sections. Plans must be developed and independently reviewed by a qualified professional before being submitted to the EAO for approval.
These plans have not been made public and TC Energy did not respond to Ty’s request to view the Anzac River Valley work execution plan.
The longest section covered by the agreement is an 18-kilometer section where the pipeline runs parallel to the Maurice River, known as Wet Sweten Nation as Wet Sweten Nation. Continued opposition from the country’s genetic leaders and their supporters has led to some high-profile police actions in recent years.
This includes sites where Coastal GasLink is currently drilling under the river.
On October 5, BC Greens MLA’s Adam Olsen addressed parliament calling on the state to issue a cease and desist order to the company, noting that salmon are currently spawning in the Morris River.
“Coastal GasLink cannot be trusted to protect our environment,” said Olsen, representing Saanich North and Islands. The company has received 51 warnings, 16 orders and two fines from his EAO, he added.
“They have damaged wetlands, rivers and lakes along the route of the pipeline. exposed,” he said. “Everyone with any authority just stands on the sidelines while this company, with its terrible environmental record, drills, drills, and blasts beneath the largest remaining Chinook spawning ground in the Skeena system. .”
Olsen described the project’s “conflict of compliance and regulatory issues” and accused the state of not taking responsibility.
“The minister is responsible for issuing a work stoppage order if this company is not complying with contracts, orders and environmental regulations. Will he do it today until this company achieves compliance?” asked at
BC Environment Minister George Heyman defended the state’s job of overseeing the project, saying the EAO had conducted “multiple” inspections and investigations and imposed penalties on the company. He also pointed to recent compliance agreements and said, “We’re going to make sure there are no issues of violations or violations.”
There is no indication that Coastal GasLink is currently non-compliant in any section involving drilling operations under Wedzin Kwa.
The Anzac River Valley, where the state said the most recent violation was confirmed, is located between Lake McLeod and Tumbler Ridge, about 100 kilometers north of Prince George. According to Conservation North Director Michelle Connolly, the basin has undergone “aggressive” logging in recent years, significantly increasing turbidity in the basin.
Community organizations advocating for the environment in north-central BC last month issued recommendations from a 2020 Forest Practices Commission study that called for the province to better protect old growth and biodiversity in the area. asked to implement.
Connolly worries that the pipeline construction will put additional pressure on watersheds already heavily impacted by logging.
“Anzac epitomizes the cumulative impact, because of industrial logging and, of course, pipelines,” Connolly said.
“Specifically, I don’t know if there’s a way to really analyze the impact of pipelines, or the impact of logging,” she said. , told us they hadn’t paid attention to putting the pipeline over the river.”
Cowichan Valley MLA BC Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau told Tyee this week that she believes companies like Coastal GasLink will need “real results” to comply with state regulations. Told.
“The current scheme seems to create a situation where paying fines is less expensive than complying with permit conditions,” she said. “True accountability and true results mean that this company will not be allowed to proceed with further construction until the entire permit is complied with.”
Mr Furstenau also expressed concern that Coastal GasLink’s work execution plan had not been made public and called on the state government to present the work.
“Trust is the currency of democracy,” she said. “In particular, the project involved public subsidies. This is an example of where you should expect the highest level of transparency and scrutiny.”
Issues with Coastal GasLink’s erosion and sediment management were announced in October 2020 by the EAO for not developing or following site-specific plans to prevent spills for five of the pipeline’s eight sections. It was identified for the first time when it was determined that
Two months later, the EAO issued an order requiring Coastal GasLink to hire an independent auditor to oversee erosion control measures to stem the flow of silty water into sensitive watercourses and wetlands. . Since then, he has issued six additional orders to the original order, all for ongoing erosion and sediment control problems at dozens of locations along the pipeline route.
As recently as July, just days after the state signed a compliance agreement with Coastal GasLink, EAO inspections identified more violations of soil erosion and sediment management measures. The state recommended another penalty for the company, according to an inspection report released last month.
The ministry said EAO compliance and enforcement officers continue to “collect and evaluate” information from inspections earlier this month.
“Additional inspections continue and we have compliance and enforcement officers at the site last week and this week,” it said. “They will continue to conduct spot inspections to ensure compliance with the requirements of the agreement and environmental assessment certificate.”
A full inspection report outlining the violations that led to the latest order will be finalized and made public in the coming weeks, the ministry said.