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Finding a safe route for Trans Mountain pipeline could take years, according to NEB docs

Monday, June 18, 2018

BC communities say new owner must honour NEB pipeline process Prime Minister Trudeau put in place

June 18, 2018, Vancouver — National Energy Board (NEB) documents show there is no approved safe route for the Trans Mountain pipeline with as many as 25 hearings pending, which could delay the pipeline project by more than two years.

Community representatives and legal experts along the Trans Mountain pipeline route say the federal government, as owner of the pipeline, must honour its commitment to the NEB process, including the 157 conditions, to ensure the project’s safety. These conditions include obtaining more than 1,000 permits required for the construction and approving a safe, final route through multiple route hearings. There are also around 40 pre-construction conditions still under review, including a dozen that apply to the Burnaby terminal, which is slated for construction in a week.

“There is no quick way to build the Trans Mountain pipeline because the federal regulatory process must be honoured,” said environmental lawyer, Eugene Kung. “Bypassing the Trans Mountain federal regulatory process, which has been in place for four and a half years, would be tantamount to placing government above the rule of law, something Trudeau and his ministers claim to care a great deal about.”

The NEB conditions are weak, ignoring concerns made by First Nations and science on bitumen spills. However, at a minimum, whomever owns the pipeline must at least honour what is there. Kinder Morgan, the former owner, has already asked for relief from some of the conditions, which were supposed to be legally binding.

In Chilliwack, where Kinder Morgan’s proposed route cuts through the city’s only supply of drinking water, route hearings aren’t scheduled to end until October, 2018, two months after the pipeline changes ownership.

“Prime Minister Trudeau has repeatedly said he wouldn't have approved the pipeline if it wasn't safe and that communities grant permission,” said Ian Stephen, a Chilliwack resident, who has participated in the NEB hearings. “It will be interesting to see if our own government opposes community efforts to move the pipeline to a safer route, or imposes a route that has not been deemed safe.”

Meanwhile, some of the other delays include:

  • The Coldwater Indian Band has requested an alternative route for segment five of the pipeline, a request the NEB is still to decide on.
  • On that same segment, the Stk’emlupsemc te Secwepemc of the Secwepemc Nation (SSN) has proposed two possible reroutes. Kinder Morgan said the smaller of the two routes would take up to two years of work and the larger option up to four years.
  • In Burnaby, a hearing to move old pipe into a tunnel won't be completed until September 21. After that, the NEB will require time to render a decision. Burnaby is also appealing the NEB ruling in their route hearing.

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For more information and for a copy of all route hearing delays, please contact:

Ian Stephen, Chilliwack, BC resident, 604-791-0226

Eugene Kung, lawyer at West Coast Environmental Law Association, 604-601-2514

Lynn Perrin, Abottsford, BC resident, 604-309-9369

Rachel Symington, Chilliwack, BC resident, 778-773-0340