Troubled Texas-based Kinder Morgan Canada faces new impediments to its plan to triple the capacity of its Trans Mountain pipeline, after the National Energy Board ordered new hearings on the project and a B.C. First Nation called for the project to face the same stricter climate test the Board recently announced for the Energy East pipeline.
The NEB’s new hearings will nominally be limited to considering a number of realignments where the right-of-way for the expanded pipeline departs from the existing one. At minimum, NEB Chief Environment Officer Rob Steedman said the hearings—to start later this year and run into next—may “force Kinder Morgan to tweak its route or [face] further conditions,” the Globe and Mail reports.
The company insists it will still begin construction on the C$7.4-billion line this month, but says most of the work will be conducted next year.
However, the new hearings open the door for opponents to widen their legal front against the Trans Mountain project.
The NEB gave Kinder Morgan its general approval last year, over more than 450 submissions in opposition to it, the Globe and Mail notes. Since then, however, the Trudeau government has widened the scope of topics the NEB is mandated to consider beyond those it weighed in its approval of the western pipeline. Future assessments must consider the climate impacts of the hydrocarbons a pipeline delivers, and be more attentive to the concerns of First Nations.
The Board announced earlier this year that it would apply the more rigorous examination in its reconstituted review of Calgary-based TransCanada Corporation’s proposed Energy East pipeline. The hearings on Kinder Morgan’s route changes open up an opportunity for intervenors to demand that it face the same criteria.
Some opponents of the line are already doing just that in another setting. Reuters reports the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, whose traditional territory includes Burrard Inlet, the location of the Trans Mountain terminus and ship-loading facility, has asked the Federal Court of Canada “to consider the federal government’s position for a tougher review on a rival project,” in considering a motion that seeks to quash last year’s approval entirely.
More than two dozen environmental and other groups, joined last week by the government of British Columbia, are part of the same challenge.
The federal government joined Kinder Morgan in opposing the Tsleil-Waututh motion, Reuters observes, “telling the court [that] Canada’s opinion on Energy East was ‘irrelevant’ to Trans Mountain.”