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New challenges in energy board review of Trans Mountain pipeline expansion

The city would prefer to see the proposed Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion travel through Lac du Bois.
July 31, 2015 - 6:24 PM

VANCOUVER - The National Energy Board is facing a fresh round of resistance to its embattled review of the proposed Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

Three separate parties — British Columbia's Opposition New Democrats, the City of Burnaby and the Sierra Club — all issued renewed challenges to the process on Thursday.

The NDP submitted its letter of comment to the board to outline concerns with the risks of the project and flaws in the review, concluding the expansion should not proceed.

"Having watched this process unfold for many months now, we can only conclude that the NEB assessment process of this particular project is fundamentally flawed and broken," reads the letter, signed by leader John Horgan and environment critic Spencer Chandra Herbert.

Kinder Morgan hopes to triple the bitumen-carrying capacity of the Trans Mountain line by laying almost 1,000 kilometres of new pipe between Edmonton and Metro Vancouver, increasing the number of tankers in Burrard Inlet to 34 from the current five per month.

The strongly-worded letter from B.C.'s opposition party details four major concerns with the NEB process, including that it lacks the public's confidence, doesn't consider climate change, hasn't required Kinder Morgan to disclose its emergency response plans and failed to ensure First Nations were on board.

Meantime, the City of Burnaby sent a letter to the NEB refusing to provide extra policing services for the upcoming Trans Mountain hearings in September. The board had asked for seven officers and one supervisor.

Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan said the city has limited police resources to serve its own needs, and has asked the NEB to make other arrangements with the RCMP's head office in B.C.

"We are also extremely concerned that the NEB has come into Burnaby and is doing things that we know are going to be provocative," he said.

"They're not allowing people to come to their hearing. They're only going to allow the interveners in two at a time … You can imagine how that's going to affect the public who want to see and hear what's going on."

NEB spokeswoman Tara O'Donovan said the hearing is not meant to be an open forum for the public, but rather an opportunity for interveners to present their oral summary arguments.

"The hearing panel recognizes that there is significant public interest in the proceedings and has decided to live webcast oral summary arguments in both official languages," she said.

O'Donovan added the NEB would have paid for Burnaby RCMP officers to assist at the hearing. She said the board respects Burnaby's decision and is now considering other options.

The NEB is due to release draft conditions for the pipeline on Aug. 12. The board is also under fire for changing a deadline for letters of comment on these conditions.

It initially changed the deadline from July 23 to Sept. 3, but this week it issued a new deadline of Aug. 18, giving opponents just six days to respond.

Sierra Club spokeswoman Larissa Stendie called the NEB handling of the pipeline review process "chaotic," "deeply flawed," and "unfair."

O'Donovan said the date was initially changed in response to an extension request from the City of Chilliwack. Previously, commenters were expected to file their letters before the draft conditions were released, she said.

She said the deadline was changed to give time for interveners and Trans Mountain to respond to letters in their written submissions. Trans Mountain must file its argument by Aug. 20, and interveners must file by Sept. 3.

O'Donovan said letter writers can request an extension and apologized for any inconvenience.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2015
The Canadian Press

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