The National Energy Board cleared the way yesterday for Kinder Morgan Canada to begin construction on its C$7.4-billion Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, overruling objections from a municipality that said the Houston-based pipeliner had done a poor job of following processes as simple as local plan approvals and tree cutting permit applications.
“It is apparent that, for the most part, [the NEB] rubber-stamps what Kinder Morgan wants, so it doesn’t surprise me at the end of the day,” said Burnaby, B.C. Mayor Derek Corrigan, a staunch opponent of the pipeline. “It’s frustrating, because we were dealing with them in good faith. We were proceeding through the processes and the requirements that the city has to protect our local environment and our ecology, and the process within the city.”
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“So much for ‘only communities grant permission,’” wrote Dogwood Initiative’s Sophie Harrison in an appeal to supporters Thursday evening. “Kinder Morgan thinks it’s above the law. Unfortunately, the Canadian government agrees.”
The decision on a constitutional challenge from Kinder overruled two local bylaws after the company claimed Burnaby was delaying a project the federal government had already approved. “The company told the NEB it has been frustrated at the lack of firm timelines, guidance, and structure in the local process as it tries to secure permits for actions like tree removal and fence installation ahead of construction of oil storage and loading facilities in Burnaby,” CBC reports. “Burnaby had countered that it was following the standard bylaws process and blamed the company for shoddy applications.”
The three-person NEB panel—composed of the same three Board members who originally recommended federal approval of the project—took just three days to rule on the application, an uncharacteristic bit of administrative efficiency that wasn’t lost on community opponents to the pipeline. “When Kinder Morgan illegally put down nets to stop salmon from spawning, it took the NEB months to respond with a mere slap on the wrist,” Harrison wrote. “But it took the regulator only weeks to take away a municipal government’s ability to make decisions within its jurisdiction.”
The decision means Kinder Morgan can start construction on a temporary site near its Westridge Marine Terminal, and do some work at the terminal itself, as long as other approvals are in place.
“We are pleased with the decision we have received from the NEB today, as it reinforces our view this federally-approved project is in the national interest,” Kinder Morgan Canada President Ian Anderson told CBC. “We await the NEB’s decision on our second motion requesting the establishment of a generic process.”
With that second motion still pending, “the worst part is this could only be the beginning,” warned Dogwood’s Harrison.
“We are still waiting to see how the NEB rules on Kinder Morgan’s other request to create an ‘efficient’ process to bypass other municipal or provincial permits,” she wrote. “It’s not just Burnaby these Texas oilmen are coming after. It’s the authority of every municipality along the expansion route, and even the B.C. government.” Moreover, “stripping municipalities and the B.C. government of their permitting jurisdiction is not only dangerous for our democracy—it’s dangerous for our safety and lives,” given the “horrifying safety record” of a company founded on the ashes of the notorious Enron Corporation.
“They want to pipe toxic substances across local drinking water. They want to bring hundreds more oil tankers to the B.C. coast every year. They want to expand their tank farm on Burnaby Mountain, where tens of thousands of students and community members would have to shelter in place breathing toxic fumes in the event of an explosion.”
And Trudeau—whose three-minute clip asserting in 2016 that “only communities grant permission” is definitely a good listen—“is breaking his promise to enforce his own government’s conditions,” Harrison charges. “He is fighting to undermine oversight and permitting processes designed to protect local people.”