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NEB cancels Burnaby pipeline info session
The National Energy Board (NEB) has cancelled planned information sessions in Burnaby and Vancouver that would have helped explain how people can participate in hearings on Kinder Morgan's proposed expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline.
"I'm just flabbergasted that they cancelled these," said Burnaby-Douglas New Democrat MP Kennedy Stewart.
The NEB was to hold the sessions in communities along the pipeline route that runs from Edmonton to Burnaby, but after holding four of them—two in Alberta and two in B.C.—they were cancelled "out of the blue," Stewart said from Ottawa.
"They said there were too many people interested," he said.
Instead, the NEB will host several sessions live online.
Such information sessions occur on all other such projects in Canada, he said, and are "essential" for people directly affected, such as homeowners who find out the pipeline is proposed to go through their property.
In addition to informing people how to get involved in the hearing process for the expansion application, expected to be filed late this year, they explain to people what their rights are and how to become an intervenor at the hearings, which will likely be held in Calgary.
"When this application kicks off, if it's approved, the National Energy Board grants Kinder Morgan the right to expropriate property," Stewart said. "So if people don't get involved now, it'll be too late after.
"This is two million people, essentially, that have been cut out of the process, at least this first stage of it."
Stewart attended the first info session in Edmonton, which was "so valuable" to the land owners who attended.
"So if Kinder Morgan comes to the door with a piece of paper that they're asking you to sign, do I have to sign this or not, what does it mean if I do or don't sign it. All those kinds of questions could be answered. But now they're not going to have any kind of information about this until the process officially starts."
Stewart noted there is $1.5 million in NEB funding available to help people participate as intervenors, to hire lawyers and experts, for example.
"Without these kind of initial information hearings, you're not going to know that," he said.
"If they want to create conflict in the local community, this is a really good way."
In response to the NEB's move, Stewart plans to try and fill the gap by hosting information meetings of his own.
"We can't let this thing come and people not be prepared. It's just not right."
Westridge resident Hartwig Boecking, whose property with a clear view of Burrard Inlet could be expropriated under one of Kinder Morgan's routing options, called the cancellation of the meetings "awful" news.
"They expect everybody to have a computer and not everybody has a computer or they're not computer savvy," said Boecking. "It's really marginalizing. It's a very, very sneaky approach, in my opinion."
One of his neighbours doesn't have a computer and only receives updates verbally through Boecking who said it puts local seniors at a disadvantage. It's simply much easier to communicate with people in person, he said.
Boecking questioned the motives for dropping the Burnaby session after already holding one in Edmonton.
"I think they know they get the strongest flak from over here so they like to separate the people more," he said.
"Is the NEB really trustworthy? Many people are wondering if they'll really get a fair shake here with the whole thing, how they approach it."
For its part, the NEB believes the online information sessions is the best way to accommodate the most people.
"We can do one presentation or we can offer four or five and open it up to anyone, regardless of where they may be. So that is the option we chose," said NEB spokeswoman Sarah Kiley.
"It's exactly same presentation [as the in-person sessions], we're simply trying to offer it in a different way and hopefully reach more people."
The sessions will take place live, and will include a question-and-answer portion.
For people without computers, they can phone in during the online sessions, or they can contact the NEB's process advisor, who is delivering the presentations, and ask her questions directly, Kiley said.
As for holding in-person information sessions in some communities and not in others, "quite frankly, they weren't very well attended," she said of the four meetings already held.
That had the NEB looking at the best way to reach people.
"We find that by offering one centralized location … if someone happens to be on vacation, or they're not available those evenings, for whatever reason, then they've missed their opportunity. This way we're able to provide more options."
• To learn more about the online information sessions or about how to participate in the hearing process, visit neb-one.gc.ca, get email updates through firstname.lastname@example.org or call the NEB's process advisor Reny Chakkalakal in Calgary toll-free at 1-800-899-1265.