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NEB Denies Kinder Morgan Request to Begin Tunneling Through Burnaby Mountain

In an order issued just before the December holiday, the National Energy Board has denied Kinder Morgan Canada’s request to begin tunneling through Burnaby Mountain, a step the company calls a “critical path item” for construction of its controversial, C$7.4-billion Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

In August, Trans Mountain asked the NEB to ‘prioritize’ the tunnel and allow it to start construction on the tunnel’s entry and exit portal sites,” Burnaby NOW reports. “To meet the pipeline’s in-service date of 2019, construction needs to start immediately, as the tunnel will take two years to build.

But even though the portals would be on Kinder Morgan property, and the company says their location would not likely change as a result of detailed route hearings, the City of Burnaby argued the tunneling would put it at a disadvantage when those hearings begin later this month.

“The location of the portals has the effect of fixing the location of the approved route at the boundaries of Trans Mountain’s property, in the vicinity of these critical Burnaby lands,” the city said in a submission to the NEB. “This is particularly concerning given the significant potential municipal regulatory and public interest issues with the proposed route adjacent to or in the vicinity of the portal lands, including crossings of critical municipal infrastructure and roadways.”

Kinder Morgan apparently didn’t reply to Burnaby NOW’s request for comment. But Burnaby lawyer Greg McDade said the company’s own practices may have helped drive the Board’s decision.

“Kinder Morgan has been saying since 2013 we have to start construction, we have to start construction, and the schedule is constantly being delayed for reasons that are internal to Kinder Morgan. I think their credibility is kind of shot on those issues,” he said.

“I think that’s at the heart of the NEB’s ruling: They simply didn’t accept Trans Mountain’s statement about urgency; they’ve cried wolf one too many times. I think the NEB had to ensure there was any credibility with those hearings.”