VANCOUVER – A Vancouver-area mayor is urging Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to immediately suspend National Energy Board hearings into the proposed Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.
Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan has sent a letter asking Trudeau to put the review on hold while the federal government implements promised changes to the way the regulator evaluates projects.
“I am now writing to request that the amendments be expedited to avoid perpetuation of the current, deeply flawed NEB process that the public and your government have already acknowledged is inadequate,” he wrote.
Interveners filed final written arguments Tuesday ahead of hearings starting next week on Kinder Morgan’s US$5.4-billion proposal to triple the capacity of its Trans Mountain pipeline from Edmonton to Burnaby.
Critics have condemned changes the Conservative government made to the review process, including setting time limits for hearings and assessments and limiting who can participate.
Trudeau promised in June to engage in a “new open process” for all pipelines, including analysis of upstream impacts and greenhouse gas emissions.
He also said in August that a Liberal government overhaul of the process would apply to existing pipelines and that the Trans Mountain review “needs to be redone.”
Burnaby Coun. Sav Dhaliwal said the city was disappointed that little progress had been made on the promises.
“We are very concerned that the federal government has not really taken their commitment seriously,” he said.
Dhaliwal said an amended review should require Kinder Morgan to respond to all questions posed by interveners and face cross-examination in hearings. It should also consider the project’s impact on climate change, he said.
Corrigan first asked Trudeau to pause the review in November. At the time, Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr said the government would soon announce changes to the pipeline approval process, but the Trans Mountain review would continue.
Micheline Joanisse, a spokeswoman for Carr, said Tuesday that the board is conducting a “thorough, science-based review” of Kinder Morgan’s proposal.
“The government has committed to regaining public trust by ensuring projects undergo credible and robust environmental and regulatory reviews,” she said.
“Our plan will include a transition period for projects currently under review to provide some certainty through the modernization process. No project proponent will be asked to return to square one.”
The City of Vancouver concluded in its final submission that the project’s adverse effects outweigh any possible benefits and the environmental assessment is incomplete.
“Of the nearly 1,400 questions submitted by the city to Kinder Morgan, at least 40 per cent of responses given by Kinder Morgan were deemed by the city to be unsatisfactory,” the city said in a release.
North Vancouver’s Tsleil-Waututh Nation said in its final argument that the risk of a spill due to a seven-fold increase in tanker traffic in Burrard Inlet was too great.
“Our obligation is not to oil. Our obligation is to our land, our water, our people, our life,” it said. “This project represents a risk that we, the Tsleil-Waututh people, are not willing to take.”
The province of B.C. said this week it could not support the project due to concerns about spill response and aboriginal support. Alberta offered its endorsement Tuesday, citing economic benefits.
Premier Christy Clark said her government was “mostly satisfied” with the NEB process.
“There have been some bumps in the road, certainly, in terms of our participation, but we think they’ve been addressed by the NEB.”
In May, a three-member panel is set to inform the federal cabinet whether it approves the project. Ottawa will then have three months to make its decision.
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