The National Energy Board’s “redo” of its failed review of the proposed Trans Mountain pipeline expansion is taking on the same look and feel as the process that drove the Federal Court of Appeal to shut down construction on the controversial project, writes attorney Eugene Kung argues in a post for National Observer.
Kung, staff lawyer at West Coast Environmental Law, traces a rushed consultation based on a unilaterally-determined process, stale evidence, and a refusal to consider climate impacts or the effects of the project on salmon spawning habitats. “It appears as if the NEB is repeating the exact same errors that landed the government in court last time: rushing through a process with a narrow scope that ignores important topics and shuts out the public,” he states. All of that in spite of the scathing rebuke the appeals court issued after reviewing the Board’s previous Kinder Morgan process.
“Tell me if you’ve heard this one before,” Kung writes. “The National Energy Board is rushing through a pipeline review with a compressed timeline and narrow scope, where it sides with the proponent more often than not (despite tremendous opposition by intervenors), and excludes the public from ‘public’ hearings. Huge volumes of evidence are filed by the proponent in what appears to be an attempt to overwhelm and paralyze participation in the already limited timeline.”
He adds that, “for those paying attention to the Trans Mountain saga, it feels like an instant replay of the project’s last NEB review,” leading to the ultimate question: “How long ‘til we’re back in court?”
After the Trudeau government gave it 22 weeks to complete the redo, the NEB “launched its new review on marine shipping by unilaterally announcing its process and giving interested parties a one-week period to apply to participate,” Kung recalls. “It also asked for feedback on the proposed scope of the review on the Friday of the Thanksgiving long weekend, with comments due the following Tuesday.”
Even so, “thousands and thousands of letters were faxed to the NEB regarding the limited scope of the review. Side note: Did you know that the NEB will not take letters via email, only fax or in person? Because it’s 2018.”
Stand.earth notes that the NEB’s 40-day review period compared poorly with the more than two years the Board allowed for its original review. “The reconsideration process is so short that at least one environmental group returned $25,000 in participant funding because the group could not find an expert to help it compile evidence in the short timeline.”
Meanwhile, Protect the Inlet reported last week that two pipeline protesters were on their way to jail, even after prosecutors abandoned charges of criminal contempt, because Trans Mountain—now a federally-owned Crown corporation—demanded they be punished. Anglican priest Rev. Laurel Dykstra of New Westminster and parishioner Lini Hutchings were each sentenced to seven days and a C$2,000 fine on civil contempt charges.
“Trans Mountain is threatening the bank accounts of regular people who disagree with them,” Dykstra said. “After the Crown dropped charges against us, Trans Mountain picked them up and wants us to foot the bill for their corporate lawyers’ hourly rates and flights from Calgary. It’s vindictive, it’s targeted, and we won’t be intimidated.”
“Trans Mountain’s bullying is an offence to Canadians and will not succeed in discouraging opposition to a project that disregards Indigenous rights, public health and safety, our environmental targets, and common sense,” Hutchings agreed.
“The fact that Trans Mountain, as a Canada-owned corporation, is pursuing these charges, means that they are effectively going against the Crown prosecutors’ decision to withdraw charges. It is petty bullying,” said Protect The Inlet spokesperson Sarah Beuhler. “Finance Minister Bill Morneau and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau should have to defend their decision to continue prosecuting these folks.”