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NEB sets out dispute resolution process for Trans Mountain permits

(iStock Photo)

National Energy Board outlines new process for permits on proposed projects

CALGARY (NEWS 1130) – The National Energy Board is setting up a process to resolve future permitting issues between Kinder Morgan Canada and provincial and municipal authorities on the Trans Mountain expansion project.

The NEB said Thursday that under the process, it will take about three to five weeks to reach a decision on future permitting disputes.

The regulator said that it still expects all sides to go through the permitting process in good faith, but the board will step in when necessary on permitting issues that affect NEB conditions on the project. “This generic process will provide a measure of certainty regarding the regulatory tools available to resolve permitting disputes or disagreements in limited circumstances where Trans Mountain and provincial and municipal authorities are unable to do so,” the NEB said in a statement.

Kinder Morgan Canada had asked for a way to resolve future disputes after encountering what it called significant delays on securing permits from Burnaby.

BC municipalities had made submissions against the proposal, with Chilliwack expressing concern that the company may use it as a pressure mechanism or as leverage against the city. Surrey said the motion is an attempt to unlawfully fetter, circumvent, and undermine the legislative scheme to the detriment of municipalities.

Outside supporters of the Trans Mountain project, including the Alberta and federal governments, supported the proposal as a way to address compliance oversight.

The NEB said it expects the process to be rarely used, and it would only step in for limited reasons such as when there’s lack of clarity as to whether Trans Mountain has achieved condition compliance.

Kinder Morgan Canada had asked that a standing panel be set up to hear the potential disputes, but the NEB said it would decide who would hear issues as they arise. The NEB also gave itself roughly double the time the company had requested for decisions to be made in the process.

The company said Wednesday that it estimated the Trans Mountain expansion project was a year behind schedule after encountering regulatory and permitting delays.

The project, which would nearly triple oil-shipping capacity from Alberta to the West Coast, faces significant opposition from numerous Indigenous groups, environmentalists and municipalities in British Columbia.

Burnaby’s Detailed Route Hearings begin next week

The board is preparing to kick off its next round of Detailed Route Hearings in Burnaby.

Landowners in the direct path of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project will be able to speak in front of the NEB and raise their concerns starting Monday.

“These hearings are part of the regulatory approval process that the National Energy Board has to do,” explains James Stevenson, who speaks for the NEB. “It’s really about deciding where exactly the pipeline goes in the ground.”

The meetings began last year. Most recently in Alberta last November, people affected there raised a variety of concerns. “A lot them revolved around how the pipeline was going to be built, everything from dust concerns and noise, to the number of trees that will be cut down.”

They will be closed to the public, and will only hear from registered landowners and others impacted by the potential path of the project.

In the past few years, Stevenson says there have been some cases of security concerns at hearings. “That have involved situations where we’ve had to postpone hearings, and where indeed participants have felt threatened,” he adds.

He says there will be security at the hearings, per usual, and wants to ensure the safety and comfort of those involved.

“Especially given the nature of these hearings. Unlike conventional project application hearings, these are different situations, and as I’ve mentioned, there are individual landowners who might not be accustomed to going into hearing rooms, or court rooms.”

Stevenson is encouraging everyone to speak their mind, and explains trying to create a respectful environment will hopefully help.

Meanwhile, the City of Burnaby has released a video detailing its concerns related to the path and scope of the project.

In a news release, Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan — who is also featured in the 22 minute video — says concerns involve how the project will impact the environment, economy and public.

“The federal government approved the pipeline, but they have not approved the route,” he says in the release. “Because of the damage and disruption it would cause to the City and Metro Vancouver’s environment, economy and neighbourhoods – in perpetuity – the City of Burnaby is determined to ensure that this route is never approved.”

According to the city, the video was made to ensure “everyone has access to information about the unacceptable impacts Kinder Morgan’s proposed pipeline route would have on the environment, economy and people.”