The province has ordered the $14.5-billion Coastal GasLink natural gas project to halt construction on 15 kilometres of pipeline in northern B.C. because of continuing erosion and sediment flows into a river.
Four orders were issued last week and followed an earlier order in April to halt construction for the same problems in the Anzac River watershed, about 130 kilometres northeast of Prince George.
The pipeline — owned by Calgary-based TC Energy — says it had already halted construction earlier on 20 kilometres in the area and hauled 5,000 truckloads of snow from the project route and is working hard to protect watercourses along the site.
The 670-kilometre pipeline, now 87 per cent complete, will feed natural gas from northeast B.C. to LNG Canada’s $18 billion export plant being built near Kitimat. The controversial project has been hit by attacks on construction sites and blockades.
In a written statement, the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office said on-site inspections between May 4 and 6 found activities at four sites that contravene requirements related to erosion and sediment control, which affected the upper Anzac River watershed.
The area is covered by a 2022 compliance agreement that sets out specific work plans that Coastal GasLink must follow to combat earlier repeated sediment and erosion problems on the pipeline construction project.
TC Energy says the region has been affected by challenging spring melt conditions caused by an abundance of snow this winter, a quick spike in temperatures, and heavy rainfall.
TC Energy says it made the precautionary decision to pause construction before the assessment office issuing new stop-work orders on May 4 and 5. The company says it has also launched a third-party review of its erosion and sediment control plans for the area.
The company said it is also dedicating additional crews to erosion and sediment control as well as critical work that would otherwise impact the environment if paused.
The assessment office has levied three administrative penalties against Coastal GasLink in 2022 and 2023 for sediment and erosion control problems totalling $456,200. The assessment office had said earlier this year that recent inspections of Coastal GasLink had shown improvement.
A Postmedia News examination of inspections and penalties published last month, found that Coastal GasLink had a strong compliance record with the B.C. Energy Regulator (formerly the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission) but had a compliance rate of just 30 per cent for more than 60 inspections by the environmental assessment office between 2019 and 2023, including for repeat offences of erosion and sediment control.
Joel Forrest, Coastal GasLink’s project vice-president of stakeholder relations, said earlier that in the company’s experience the assessment office takes a prescriptive approach to environmental protection plans and the company has learned to work collaboratively with them to meet their “high” regulatory standards.