Four months after the provincial government categorically said it could not support the Northern Gateway project as presented, Environment Minister Mary Polak said there's been no movement towards reaching the five conditions her government has set for new heavy oil pipelines.
As the province, Northern Gateway and other interested parties wait for the National Energy Board to offer its recommendation to the federal government on whether or not the $6.5 billion project should be allowed to proceed, there have been no talks between the the various sides about the specifics of the pipeline.
"As it stands the proposal is there as it was presented, it's not one that we support and we made that clear in our submission," Polak said. "Nothing has happened in the interim, but I wouldn't have expected anything to either, because that's just not the way the process occurs."
Northern Gateway is seeking to build twin oil and condensate pipelines from northern Alberta to Kitimat with the aim of opening up Canadian oil exports to Asia. Opponents, including the provincial government in its written and oral final arguments, question the environmental safety of the plan.
In 2012 Premier Christy Clark unveiled five conditions she said any new oil pipeline must meet before its approved. The first condition could be achieved as soon as December, if the National Energy Board offers a positive recommendation to the federal government.
The final four conditions are tricker for Northern Gateway to achieve. The province insists on having a world-class land and marine spill response capacity, something that doesn't yet exist in the province. It also wants to ensure First Nations groups have been adequately consulted, but many aboriginal leaders have spoken out strongly against having a diluted bitumen pipeline crossing their traditional territories.
The province appears to be making progress on the fifth condition, that it receive an adequate share of the economic benefits of the pipeline. High-ranking officials from the B.C. and Alberta government have been meeting about key pipeline issues and Clark has hinted progress is being made.
Despite those government-to-government negotiations taking place, Polak said the province hasn't been been meeting with Northern Gateway out of respect for the regulatory review process.
"In the interim there hasn't been any venue for that to occur," she said.
ForestEthics Advocacy spokesman Ben West said if no progress is being made on the five conditions, then the province should stop issuing permits to Northern Gateway to proceed with ongoing preliminary engineering activity.
"As it becomes increasingly clear that the five conditions the Premier has set up aren't being met, what's the Premer actually going to do about it?" he said. "I think she simply needs to say that they're not going to issue any of these permits."
The permits, issued by the Ministry of Forest, Lands and Resource Operations allow the pipeline company to do things like soil testing and other work which will inform the detailed design phase, if things get that far.