MP calls for open Burnaby hearings in pipeline process
Kinder Morgan Canada hasn't finalized a route yet for the proposed twinning of its Trans Mountain pipeline, nor has it made a formal application to the National Energy Board (NEB), but Burnaby-Douglas NDP MP Kennedy Stewart believes there's still much that can be learned from the company's commercial tolling application.
That's why Stewart has written to the NEB calling for open, oral hearings in Burnaby for the application, which was filed June 29, through which the regulatory body will decide how much the company can charge customers for moving oil through an expanded pipeline.
The 1,150-km pipeline stretches from Edmonton to its terminus in Burnaby. The expansion is largely aimed at getting Alberta oil sands bitumen crude to export markets in Asia.
Premier Christy Clark's recent assertion that British Columbia would need to receive additional benefits before the provincial government would consider approving the expansion is an example of what might be learned at an open hearing in Burnaby, said Stewart. He suggested additional fees could be added to the tolls which could then be passed on to provincial and local governments and First Nations.
The prospect of Burnaby operations such as the Chevron refinery and Suncor having to compete for space on the pipeline with overseas pipeline customers also has implications for local jobs, he said.
"It's such a giant project that all the steps in the process should be as open as possible."
Stewart said local landowners whose properties may end up being along the expanded pipeline's route may want money built into the toll to pay for related safety measures.
"I think it's perfectly appropriate for individual landowners or groups of landowners to have an opportunity to participate in these kinds of processes."
It's through the NEB process and public hearings, preferably oral hearings that allow for questions and answers, that people may get answers about the project, he said.
It's up to the NEB to decide the format of the process.
"This is the first phase in what may be a major consultation process as big as the Northern Gateway pipeline, so there's no reason why this shouldn't be as open as that process."
He noted that while Kinder Morgan has chosen to embark on the commercial tolling process first, Enbridge will undergo that as the third phase of its Northern Gateway application, only after its pipeline and specific details are approved.
"For me, it's just such an important project for Burnaby and for British Columbia that we should be given the maximum ability to participate in it, I think."
When the $4-billion pipeline project is compared to the amount of public consultation Burnaby city hall typically undergoes for a rezoning or new community centre, "we deserve at least one hearing here in Burnaby if it's such a big project that's going to be affecting us here."
Lexa Hobenshield, Kinder Morgan Canada's external relations manager, said by email that the company will abide by the review process set out by the NEB.
"This toll application is not about approving proposed routing or construction of the proposed expansion project—that is a separate application that we expect to file in late 2013," she stressed, adding information on the project is available at www.transmountain.com.
The company has announced its proposal to twin the pipeline to expand from its current 300,000 barrels per day capacity to 750,000 barrels daily. Its expansion application to the NEB will include a potential corridor. If the project gets the go-ahead, the company would then come up with a detailed specific route which would go through its own NEB approval process.
If it receives all the required approvals, Kinder Morgan will spend $4.1 billion and two years building the expansion, which would then go into service in late 2017.