The Canadian government has indicated it won’t intervene in the hearing that Houston-based Kinder Morgan has asked the National Energy Board to convene over municipal permitting for its intensely controversial Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.
“The government of Canada wants this pipeline to be built,” Natural Resources Minister James Carr told reporters from the sidelines of a meeting of the International Energy Agency in Paris. But for the moment, at least, it won’t help Kinder bypass local and provincial permit processes so that it can start work on the project.
“The National Energy Board will decide the merits of the case that’s in front of it,” Carr said. “The Board is quasi-judicial, it’s independent. It will use its own processes.”
The process is likely to extend, rather than shorten, Kinder Morgan’s impatient wait for permits it needs to begin full-throttle construction of its $7.4 billion “expansion”—in reality a more or less complete rebuild and tripling of capacity along a partly new route—of the existing Trans Mountain pipeline from near Edmonton to Burnaby, B.C.
Carr’s comment came after the Board “opted to stage a full hearing, with cross-examination” into the American company’s request that it force British Columbia and some municipal governments to provide some missing permits, overriding their customary procedures. The panel set dates for those hearings for late this month and early next (November 29 and December 4), National Observer notes.
The hearings will be the first ever in which other interveners will be allowed to cross-examine company officials—a practice banned in the board’s Trans Mountain hearings during the Harper government.
It was the second time in as many days that the Liberal government signalled that the project was on its own. The National Observer also reported that Ottawa had decided not to participate as an intervener in the NEB’s hearings.
“The energy giant alleges that the city of Burnaby is using its bylaws to cause delays in the company’s efforts to proceed with construction of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project,” the Observer reports. The province and the city—both of which oppose the project—deny that, and in turn accuse the company of asking the NEB to steamroll their constitutional jurisdiction.
In its haste to get moving on a project that has called its management into question, the company has already been caught improperly suppressing fish spawning in some B.C. rivers, and ordering steel without meeting quality control conditions.
The Texas company is also facing a variety of court actions challenging the Board’s 2016 approval of its pipeline plan without adequate public or Indigenous consultation, and without adequately considering its impact on shipping traffic through the Salish Sea, home to a severely endangered orca whale clan.
Several British Columbia commentators have warned the federal government that it risks intense blowback from the ridings it holds in the province’s populous Lower Mainland if it is seen to be forcing the pipeline through on Kinder Morgan’s behalf.