The brand new panel has begun to seek community comment about the proposed expansion of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Pipelines. The panel was formed by the Federal Government in May 206 in response to the loud opposition when the NEB recommended approval of the expansion.
The members of the panel are:
- Kim Baird, the chairwoman. She is a former elected chief of B.C.’s Tsawwassen First Nation who now runs her own consulting firm specializing in indigenous policy, governance and development issues.
- Tony Penikett, the former premier of Yukon. He is the author of Reconciliation: First Nations Treaty Making in British Columbia.
- Annette Trimbee, the president of the University of Winnipeg and a former deputy finance minister in Alberta. She served on Alberta Premier Rachel Notley’s royalty review panel last year.
At its first public meeting last Thursday the three members of the panel sought input from about 60 Calgarians at the Telus Convention Centre. The event was surprisingly informal. The panel members barely introduced themselves. They repeatedly encouraged comment and participation. They asked useful clarifying questions after everyone, who wanted to speak, had had a chance to speak.
Most participants expressed the opinions that you’d expect from Calgarians:
- The NEB has conducted a thorough, competent, and likely excessive, application process.
- It’s time to move ahead with construction and operation. Canada needs the economic and employment benefits.
- Blocking pipelines in the interests of slowing climate change won’t actually work because oil will simply be shipped by rail with higher cost, more spills and larger greenhouse gas volumes.
- The environmental opponents are greatly over-stating the risks and hugely under-valuing the stellar accident-free performance of Trans Mountain Pipelines during its 60+ year history.
- The anti-development opponents appear to not understand how energy is essential to the quality of life Canadians enjoy.
- Due to lack of market access, Canada is being forced to sell its oil and gas at a discount to its only customer, the United States. Why would anyone think that’s a good idea?
Only one participant suggested that the big business lobby was very much in control and that aboriginals are about to be short-changed once more. An NDP MLA and the Wildrose MLA energy critic attended to listen. Only once did the chairwoman interrupt to remind two debating participants that the purpose of the event was to provide comments to the panel and not to debate the validity of positions expressed by participants. It was all polite and orderly.
The participants included a number of experts with powerful points. These included:
- A pipeline technician pointed out that Alberta offers technology, expertise and experience when it comes to pipeline design, construction and operation that is eagerly sought for pipeline projects around the world. Why can’t Canadians be satisfied by the recommendations being offered by this expertise?
- An experienced Calgary pipeline engineer summarized some of his projects consulting with local people all over the world to make sure that pipelines are designed and built in the most low-risk and non-disruptive way. Why can’t Canada respond to the concerns of directly-impacted people in a like manner?
- A retired executive with pipeline regulatory experience pointed out that other countries visit Alberta frequently to learn about our regulatory environment. Why do Canadians struggle to believe that, despite some warts, we operate a regulatory framework that is the envy of many other countries?
During a mid-afternoon break, the panel members acknowledged that they are headed to a much different experience and set of opinions when they continue on to hold a consultation in the lower mainland in BC.
As the afternoon unfolded, it became abundantly clear that many of the pipeline opponents aren’t actually against pipelines but have found it useful to hijack the consultation and approval process to advance other agendas. Sadly the hijacking has been successful to-date while progress on other agendas is barely noticeable.
Read more insightful analysis from Yogi here