NEB extends pipeline review to allow for more info on new route

Workers construct a pipeline as part of the Anchor Loop project in Jasper National Park, completed in 2008. - Courtesy Kinder Morgan Canada
Workers construct a pipeline as part of the Anchor Loop project in Jasper National Park, completed in 2008.
— image credit: Courtesy Kinder Morgan Canada

The National Energy Board (NEB) has extended the review process by seven months for the proposed Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project to allow for more scrutiny of a new route through Burnaby.

Last month Kinder Morgan told the NEB its preferred route to the Westridge Marine Terminal in North Burnaby would now run through Burnaby Mountain. It also stated it needed to do more studies which should be completed by Dec. 1.

While the National Energy Board Act requires the review be completed within 15 months, if the NEB requires the applicant to provide more information, the period of time it takes to comply is not included in that time frame, the NEB explained in a press release.

The period excluded from the time limit calculation will run July 11 to Feb. 3, 2015.

The overall deadline for the NEB to complete the review and submit a recommendation to the federal government was originally July 2, 2015.

It has now been extended to Jan. 25, 2016. The federal government would then have six months to make a final decision on approving the project.

Once Kinder Morgan provides the results of its studies on the Burnaby Mountain section, the NEB and intervenors will have until Jan. 13, 2015 to submit questions  related to them. The company is required to respond to them by Feb. 3, 2015.

There will also be an opportunity for people to apply as new intervenors, said NEB spokesperson Sarah Kiley in an interview from Calgary.

"It's only going to be people who have some kind of tie to this particular section of the route, it's about four kilometres." The NEB would also consider applicants with  information or expertise on tunnelling, horizontal directional drilling or "anything else that's related specifically to that piece of the route."

That process will open in September, but a deadline for applications has yet to be set, she said.

Kinder Morgan had originally proposed that the pipeline run underneath Burnaby Mountain Parkway, Hastings Street and Cliff Avenue to Westridge terminal.

The option to tunnel underneath the Burnaby Mountain Conservation Area was first proposed as an alternate route. But it became the preferred alignment to reduce construction impact on the neighbourhood and avoid direct impact on any Westridge homes, project spokesperson Lizette Parsons Bell told the NewsLeader last April.

While the company needs to do geotechnical studies in the area, so far it has not received permission from Burnaby city hall to do so. Burnaby is on record as opposing the project.

"Trans Mountain has indicated they're have a bit of trouble accessing the land on Burnaby Mountain, which is owned by the city," Kiley said. The company is continuing to work with the city to gain access.

It they're not successful, the company can apply to the NEB to force Burnaby to provide access to allow those studies to go ahead.

Kinder Morgan has not yet made such an application and the NEB would also want to hear Burnaby's side of the issue as well before making a decision, she said.

Meanwhile, Burnaby-Douglas NDP MP Kennedy Stewart issued a press release celebrating the news of the delay.

“Despite crafting a hearing process that excluded many local residents, the NEB could not turn a blind eye to a mystery tunnel through Burnaby Mountain the size of the Canada Line,” said Stewart. “This is a long-overdue victory for this community and reinforces what residents have been saying all along; this is a bad project and a very bad process.”

The NEB's recommendation will now be submitted to the federal government after the next federal election scheduled for Oct. 19, 2015, he noted.

B.C. Green Party MLA Andrew Weaver said the delay has major political ramifications.

"What this has done is pushed the final decision on Kinder Morgan from before the federal election to after the federal election of 2015," Weaver said. "That's not going to be lost on people, because this is very much going to be an election issue."

Kinder Morgan did not immediately comment, saying it is "considering the implications of these changes."

The proposed $5.4-billion pipeline twinning between Edmonton and Burnaby would nearly triple Trans Mountain's capacity to 890,000 barrels of oil per day and bring hundreds of additional oil tankers through Burrard Inlet each year.

~ with files from Jeff Nagel

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