Imagine a twinned Kinder Morgan pipeline that sends oil sands crude not to its current Burnaby export terminal but to one in northwestern Washington instead.
It would still mean hundreds more tankers carrying much more crude oil through the Gulf Islands, past Victoria and up the west side of Vancouver Island.
But NDP leader Adrian Dix would have kept his Earth Day election promise not to transform Vancouver harbour into "a major oil port."
NDP energy critic John Horgan did not rule out that scenario in a Black Press interview Wednesday, going so far as to say he met Kinder Morgan officials the previous day and anticipates their proposal could evolve ahead of a formal application later this year to the National Energy Board.
"It wouldn't be a challenge in Burrard Inlet any longer," Horgan said, when asked if oil flowing to a different terminal would still be problematic for the NDP.
"There are a number of options they may pursue," Horgan said, adding he can't pre-judge them because the company has not yet made them public.
"I'll leave it to them to put forward the options they consider viable," he said. "The current proposal is a massive expansion of export capacity in Burrard Inlet. So I'm hopeful Kinder Morgan will review our leader's position and act accordingly."
Kinder Morgan officials didn't comment on the idea of a new terminal this week.
A statement posted online in February says the company has considered terminal alternatives but has yet to find an option compelling enough to deviate from the existing corridor.
Horgan was also asked if a less sensitive terminal might be Deltaport or even Fraser Surrey Docks, which could accept larger ships if the Massey Tunnel is replaced with a bridge.
"Deltaport would be a more likely scenario [than Fraser Surrey Docks for Kinder Morgan to propose]. But again those are options for the proponent."
He cautioned any twinning of the pipeline would be "transformative change" that would present "a challenge and a problem for us" but that it would be up to Kinder Morgan to bring back proposals that are defensible and in the public interest.
The Trans Mountain pipeline forks at Abbotsford, with a spur running south to Cherry Point refineries in northwest Washington, where tankers already bring oil from Alaska.
Running the new pipeline south at Sumas to a new export port in Washington would bypass the most heavily populated parts of the Lower Mainland that pose major construction challenges.
Asked if the risks of an oil spill on land along the pipeline route is a concern, Horgan said Trans Mountain has an existing right-of-way that's "been there for 50 years with more or less unblemlished activity."
As for more tankers passing Vancouver Island, the MLA for Juan de Fuca noted several hundred tankers a year already sail through U.S. waters bringing Alaskan crude to Washington refineries.
"Tankers are going past my constituency right now to Cherry Point," he said.
An NDP-approved Kinder Morgan twinning would avoid at least one oil pipeline confrontation with Ottawa and could see the province rake in more royalties.
B.C. Green Party Leader Jane Sterk accused the NDP of trying to "have their cake and eat it too" by appealing to urban environmentalists while leaving the door open to a twinned Trans Mountain pipeline with a different backdoor outlet.
"Our voters and the voters of the NDP who care about the environment and have an understanding of climate change would say that's a betrayal," Sterk said.
Anti-oil sands campaigner Ben West said a twinning with a new terminal would still endanger the coastal environment and the atmosphere.
"Tankers moving through the Salish Sea means risk for the Salish Sea, whether you put a terminal at Point A or Point B."
While the Greens oppose both Enbridge and Kinder Morgan pipeline projects, the NDP would subject Kinder Morgan to a made-in-B.C. environmental review, rather than delegating the decision to Ottawa.
Kinder Morgan's current $5.4-billion proposal would triple its current Trans Mountain capacity to 890,000 barrels of oil per day, bringing 400 tankers a year to its Burnaby terminal, up from around 60 now. It would mainly primarily bitumen from the Alberta oil sands.
Company president Ian Anderson issued a statement saying Kinder Morgan is confident it can answer concerns and is incorporating feedback into the project plans regardless of which party wins the election.
UPDATED: Dix rejected Deltaport as an alternative oil terminal Thursday, telling CKNW he opposes a massive jump in oil exports from Metro Vancouver whether it's shipped out of "Vancouver, Delta or anywhere else."
BC Liberal environment minister Terry Lake said Horgan's comments show Dix is not being clear with voters on the party's pipeline position.
"In typical NDP fashion they make a promise and then when you look at the details, the promise is really not what it seems," Lake said. "The NDP must take a clear, consistent position and be honest with British Columbians."
The BC Liberals have said the Trans Mountain expansion would be subject to the same conditions set out by the premier last summer for new heavy oil pipelines.
Above: Maps of Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain pipeline right-of-way, NDP energy critic John Horgan.