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UPDATE: Pipeline hearings wrap up in Kamloops; panel will consider returning

Thompson-Nicola Regional District chair John Ranta responding to a question from the public in front of a federal panel on the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion proposal.
July 21, 2016 - 1:00 PM

KAMLOOPS - The Thompson-Nicola Regional District’s support of the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion project came under fire today in front of a federal panel.

Regional district board chair John Ranta spoke in favour of the pipeline expansion on behalf of the district’s directors as hearings on the pipeline expansion project continued today, July 20, at Thompson Rivers University.

After his presentation, public attendees were able to ask Ranta questions about the board’s support, with some taking the opportunity to question the decision. During Ranta’s questioning, Will Horter from the Dogwood Initiative was told by panel member Tony Penikett the hearings were not a place for cross examination as Horter repeatedly asked Ranta about where information Ranta mentioned came from.

“I’m just here for whatever I can do to express the views of the TNRD board,” he told the panel. “I didn’t ever intend to be so controversial.”

Despite the debate, Ranta believes the presentation went well.

“The overwhelming majority of the Thompson-Nicola regional board supported the resolution,” he says. “In any project... you will always find objectors to it and the objectors in this case seem to be willing to ask questions that have no real answer in order to make presenters look as if they don’t know what they’re talking about.

“I hope that wasn’t the case in my case.”

He supports the project himself and says it would be a big boost to the regional, provincial and national economy. The pipeline is also a safer option compared to trains or trucks.

“The possibility of additional trucks on the highway or railcars carrying bitumen is a far less safe alternative to the pipeline that’s already been in the regional district for 60 years,” he says.

The regional district board voted at their May 28, 2015 meeting to support the pipeline, citing the Kinder Morgan's safety track record, the less safe alternatives and financial opportunities. Five members of Kamloops city council who were on the board supported the motion.

Senator Nancy Greene-Raine also voiced her support of project at the hearings. She said her support was based on the strong review proccsses at provincial and federal levels and the need for projects like this to support the economy.

Kamloops Coun. Denis Walsh attended the hearing to express his views on the pipeline. While city council hasn’t endorsed the pipeline in any way, the city has a community benefit agreement with the pipeline company and will be financially compensated if the expansion is approved.

“We’re already doing a lot of work through our taxpayers on this project in the sense it’s going to be safe for the residents of Kamloops,” he says. “I think it was good management practice because there is going to be an infringement on our city.”

Walsh is disappointed by the regional district’s support of the pipeline, and says more information is needed before making that decision. City council is staying out of the fray for now in regards to support or opposition, he says.

With the two days of hearings wrapped up, panel member and spokesperson Kim Baird says local speakers touched on topics heard at other hearings and helped create a more nuanced picture of citizens hopes and concerns.

"There was some dialogue about the need for engagement with the public on how to implement climate chat or energy planning going into the future," Baird says. "The fact that the public hasn’t had an opportunity to engage on those topics yet I thought was an interesting conversation."

The panel was criticized by attendees for a lack of public awareness about the hearings. The panel will consider returning ot Kamloops, though there isn't a wide window for it to happen. The public meetings will continue until the end of August and a report needs to be submitted November 1 to the Natural Resources Minister.

"We’ve received invitations from citizens of Kamloops to come back," Baird says. "We will consider it, it is possible."

She says having fewer people make presentations over the two days of hearing could be considered a positive because it allowed those who did attend a much longer presentation time and a chance for questions to be asked.

The public can contiune to submit presentations to the federal panel online.

The panel will report back to the Minister of Natural Resources Nov. 1, 2016 with their findings. The pipeline already has conditional approval from the National Energy Board. If approved pipeline construction would run from the north of the city's borders to the south west. Two routes are proposed, with the city preferring the route through the Lac du Bois grassland over one through Westsyde.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Brendan Kergin or call 250-819-6089 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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