Pipeline intervenors get extension
The National Energy Board (NEB) has extended the deadline for intervenors to file requests for information on the proposed expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline.
The original deadline was May 2 but following several extension requests, including from the City of Burnaby, it has been changed to May 12.
But while Burnaby city hall is pleased, it says it's still not long enough.
"An additional 10 days doesn’t begin to allow enough time to consult experts or to consider the application, then to detail to the NEB the serious threats Kinder Morgan’s proposal poses to our city and citizens," said Mayor Derek Corrigan in a press release.
“Kinder Morgan’s pipeline proposal submission is 15,000 pages long and has taken years to prepare. This ridiculous timeline–and the NEB’s simultaneous and shocking removal of the opportunity to cross-examine Kinder Morgan experts–completely subverts the democratic process we’ve all come to expect in Canadian hearings critical to our safety and the safety of future generations."
The city had earlier raised concerns that intervenors will not have a chance at the NEB hearing early next year to question Kinder Morgan. The NEB also released "draft conditions" detailing what requirements Kinder Morgan would have to meet.
“All of most important issues are being deferred until after approval. This is dangerous and completely unacceptable,” Corrigan said in a release. He noted that, under the NEB’s plan, the company's emergency response plan will not have to be submitted "until 90 days prior to commencing operations."
NEB spokesperson Sarah Kiley said the process has more approved intervenors—400 who can file evidence and 1,250 who can submit letters of comment—than for any previous project.
Participants are able to submit written information requests of the company before the new May 12 deadline. The issues Burnaby city hall is raising are "exactly the type of thing we'd expect to see in an information request," Kiley said.
Follow up questions can then be submitted during the second round of information requests. That deadline is Sept. 11. If the intervenor feels the company hasn't provided a full answer, they can also apply to the NEB to compel it to do so, Kiley said.
There is precedence for the format. Traditionally there have been opportunities for oral cross-examination of evidence, "but we have had hearings in the past where we did not have that option," she said, calling it a "procedural choice" of the NEB panel.
When dealing with highly technical information, "we find that we get better responses, more fulsome responses, if those questions are put in writing."
The oral hearings in January 2015 will be the chance for intervenors to wrap up their final arguments for or against the project.
As for the draft conditions, they are a legal requirement, said Kiley. Even if the NEB recommends not approving the project, the federal government could still choose to let it go ahead. The conditions would then already be in place.
She stressed the draft conditions are expected to change as information comes forward through the hearing process. In the meantime, they provide some suggestions for intervenors as to questions they might want to ask.