Federal Environment Minister Peter Kent says a damning report on an oil spill from an Enbridge pipeline in Michigan won't prompt Ottawa to shift its stance on the company's proposed Northern Gateway pipeline across northern B.C.
"That was a report on an older generation pipeline," Kent said Wednesday of the Kalamazoo River spill, where U.S. regulators said Enbridge had years of advance warning but failed to prevent the spill and then failed to shut off the flow of oil for 17 hours after the rupture.
He said pipelines remain the safest way of moving oil and that Northern Gateway, if approved, would be built with state-of-the-art technology and emergency response provisions.
Enbridge is in the midst of National Energy Board hearings on the project to run oil sands crude from Edmonton to Kitimat.
"We're letting the panel do its job and we're waiting for the eventual recommendations," Kent said, speaking at a stop in Delta.
Kent was also asked by Black Press whether the Kalamazoo findings are cause for concern about Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain pipeline, which is nearly 60 years old and increasingly carrying oil sands crude.
"While there have been minor spills in the past with regard to the Kinder Morgan line, it has been operated by the company in a highly responsible manner," Kent said, adding it's subject to regular inspection and oversight.
But he added Ottawa is not certain that's enough.
"(Natural Resources) Minister Joe Oliver has made it quite clear that given the number of recent spills – larger and smaller – that we do need to look at some of the older pipelines and perhaps consider the sort of inspection regimes and precautions and technology that's in place today as opposed to when the pipelines were put in the ground."
Kinder Morgan is applying to twin the Trans Mountain pipeline that runs southwest across B.C. and through the Lower Mainland to Burnaby.
Opponents of the new line don't want to see more oil tankers ply Vancouver harbour.
But some Fraser Valley residents are also concerned, not just about a second line but also for the integrity of the existing one.