Removal of B.C. city’s hurdles clears path for pipeline project
Construction can commence on temporary infrastructure site after Burnaby slowdown
After a lengthy delay receiving necessary permits from the city of Burnaby, B.C., Kinder Morgan finally was given the green light from the National Energy Board to begin work on the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.
The light turned green for Kinder Morgan and its Trans Mountain expansion project on Thursday, as the National Energy Board ruled in favour of the company, saying it can proceed with the work related to the project immediately.
It was welcome news for Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, who has recently been criss-crossing the country, making the case for the importance of pipeline infrastructure.
“We are, of course, very pleased to see this decision,” said Notley on Thursday afternoon. “We see this as a good step forward and we are excited to see that it probably means the NEB has accepted our argument that this is a project that is in the national interest and as a result we can’t have individual jurisdictions interfering with it.”
Kinder Morgan had been frustrated by the lack of progress in obtaining the necessary permits to move forward with the project, thanks to the City of Burnaby’s passive-aggressive behaviour in issuing the permits.
Instead of weeks, it was taking months; the company had applied for the permits in June and had yet to see one issued.
Fed up with the delays, Kinder Morgan filed a notice of motion last month, challenging Burnaby on constitutional grounds.
In the filing, the company stated that a municipality could not “manoeuvre out of their duty to issue permits by imposing unreasonable requirements and delays that allows them to impair the core of the federal authority, thereby doing indirectly what they cannot do directly.” As it should have. The company had received all the requisite approvals from both the federal government and the NEB; since when is an approval, not an approval?
More to the point — where did Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan get off thinking a municipality could override approval for a federally sanctioned project?
Hearings were then held over the last week at the NEB’s offices in Calgary — which one could say took on a circus-like quality as the counsel for Burnaby tried to make the case for the city on the grounds that the reason the permits had not been issued was due to the fact they hadn’t been properly completed. Really? A publicly traded, multibilliondollar company that operates pipelines across North America doesn’t know how to fill out the paperwork at a municipal level for permits it needs to proceed with a project. Give me a break. More likely was the fact that the company was already in the penalty box with those in a position to approve the permits because the constant barrage of negative sentiment spewing from Corrigan, who has never missed an opportunity to voice his opposition to the project.
It was fair for Kinder Morgan’s counsel to make the case during the hearing as to whether the company was even getting a fair shake in terms of the permit process.
Corrigan’s response to the NEB ruling was laughable.
“It’s frustrating because we were dealing with them in good faith,” he said. “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.” Give me a break. That comment is nothing short of disingenuous — because there has been nothing good faith about it.
For those who have been in the oilpatch for a while, that statement by Corrigan calls to mind a comment made by the late J.C. Anderson at his company’s annual meeting about a rival oilman: “If bullshit was music, he’d be a big brass band.”
Thanks to Thursday’s ruling, Kinder Morgan can start work immediately, which means it can move ahead with construction at the temporary infrastructure site near the Westridge Marine and Burnaby Terminals.
As pointed out by federal Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr, this point of forward progress is critical for so many reasons.
“This is a very important element of our trade policy and our economic strategy,” he said in an interview last week. “That we want to reduce reliance on one trading partner and TMX will help us do that. In addition to job creation, economic stimulation and government revenue, it is important that we signal to the world that we are prepared and willing to send our product internationally.”
Beyond sending a signal to other countries looking to Canada as a supplier of energy, it is equally important we are seen to be able to handle our own issues and move forward because it gives us negotiating leverage.
While it’s true that Keystone XL is back on the books and has received an approval of sorts from Nebraska, it still isn’t a done deal because TransCanada still needs to come up with its final determination as to whether it will proceed with the long-delayed project.
Finally — as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau just left China, albeit without any agreement to negotiate a free-trade agreement with the world’s second largest economy — no one should think for a minute that energy access was not on the agenda.
And by moving forward with TMX, Canada, as Carr said, is signalling we are open for business.
The citizens of Burnaby and the Lower Mainland, who still can’t make the connection between energy enabling their comfortable lives and being a key input into economic growth they clearly take for granted, will no doubt continue to squawk about the pipeline.
As Notley said last week in her speech given to the Energy Forum held by the Vancouver Board of Trade and reiterated on Thursday, there isn’t a school, hospital, bike lane or port anywhere in the country that does not owe something to Alberta’s energy sector.
Those are things that are as important to the citizens of Burnaby, the province of B.C., as they are to the rest of the country.
The NEB, as an agent of the Crown, has spoken.
And what it effectively said on Thursday is that a city cannot hold the country’s economic future hostage by delaying the issuance of permits on a project that falls under federal jurisdiction.
To that, and in the spirit of the season, it’s time to sing the Hallelujah chorus from Handel’s Messiah.
It probably means the NEB has accepted our argument that this is a project that is in the national interest.
Where did Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan get off thinking a municipality could override approval for a federally sanctioned project, asks columnist Deborah Yedlin.