While Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline has captured the lion’s share of public attention when it comes to pipelines, oil sands and tankers, opposition to an even bigger pipeline project is beginning to take shape in southern B.C.

Earlier this week Kinder Morgan announced its plans to seek regulatory approval to increase the capacity of the existing Trans Mountain pipeline — which links the Alberta oilsands with a shipping port in Burnaby, B.C. — from 300,000 to 850,000 barrels per day.

That’s a substantial increase over the company’s earlier plans to increase capacity to 700,000 barrels per day. By comparison, the Northern Gateway project would have a capacity of 525,000 barrels per day, if approved.

Kinder Morgan’s announcement comes just two weeks after the dropping of the 2012 budget, during which the federal government confirmed its plans to “streamline” the regulatory process for major industrial projects.

What exactly the government means by “streamline” remains to be seen, but what we do know is that big projects will now pass through the regulatory process with significantly less oversight, which is a major concern for all Canadians.

Suffice to say, we want answers about what all of this means — for the regulatory process, for the killer whale critical habitat the federal government must now protect, and for Canadians’ ability to participate in decision-making about oil tanker regulation and practices. That’s why today, Ecojustice filed a petition to the Auditor General of Canada, asking for more answers from the federal government.

When it comes to mega-pipeline projects there are serious environmental concerns at play: risk of oil spills, impacts on wildlife, ecosystem degradation — the list goes on and on. Canada’s regulatory framework is designed to address these environmental concerns and make sure these major projects are in the public interest.

The climate change implications of projects like this may be even more dramatic — continued extraction, development
and export of fossil fuels runs contrary to warnings from leading climate scientists. But with the federal government poised to roll back the laws that enshrine environmental protections, serious gaps between what is good for the air, water and land all Canadians need to survive and the bottom line of an economy powered by the revenues of the oil and gas industry are more glaring than ever.