NEB lim­it­ing wit­nesses to speed up pipe­line hear­ings

The Globe and Mail Metro (Ontario Edition) - - REPORT ON BUSINESS - SHAWN MCCARTHY I AN BAI­LEY

Oral ses­sions will be held for In­dige­nous com­mu­nity mem­bers, but oth­ers will have to file writ­ten ev­i­dence

The Na­tional En­ergy Board will limit non-In­dige­nous wit­nesses to writ­ten ev­i­dence as it works to con­clude a re­con­sid­er­a­tion of the Trans Moun­tain pipe­line ex­pan­sion within the tight dead­line set by the fed­eral gov­ern­ment.

In a hear­ing or­der re­leased on Fri­day, the board said it will hold oral ses­sions start­ing in late Novem­ber for In­dige­nous com­mu­ni­ties that have reg­is­tered con­cerns about the marine im­pacts of the pipe­line project. Other wit­nesses will have to file writ­ten ev­i­dence, al­though the Na­tional En­ergy Board (NEB) panel may de­cide to hold some hear­ings in Jan­uary to al­low for cros­sex­am­i­na­tion.

The board noted it ap­proved 80 per cent of ap­pli­cants who sought stand­ing as in­ter­venors – in­clud­ing the gov­ern­ments of Al­berta and Bri­tish Columbia – but turned down 25 peo­ple who were ei­ther not di­rectly af­fected by the project or could not show rel­e­vant in­for­ma­tion or ex­per­tise.

It also urged in­ter­venors to address their ev­i­dence to a nar­row set of is­sues – such as cur­rent ef­forts to pro­tect species at risk or rec­om­men­da­tions for ad­di­tional pro­tec­tive mea­sures – that were not in­cluded in the orig­i­nal hear­ing, which con­cluded in 2015.

The panel has un­til Feb. 22 to pro­vide a re­port to the gov­ern­ment that would address de­fi­cien­cies the Fed­eral Court of Ap­peal pointed out when it quashed Ot­tawa’s ap­proval of the project in late Au­gust. At the same time, Ot­tawa has re­launched con­sul­ta­tions with In­dige­nous com­mu­ni­ties, which the ap­peal court con­cluded had been in­ad­e­quate.

The ap­peal court de­ci­sion halted con­struc­tion on the project, which would triple the ca­pac­ity of the oil pipe­line from Ed­mon­ton to Van­cou­ver Har­bour and al­low Western Cana­dian crude to reach new Pa­cific Rim mar­kets. A short­age of pipe­line space has re­sulted in Cana­dian oil sell­ing at steep dis­counts to global prices, with mil­lions of dol­lars in rev­enue lost to the in­dus­try and gov­ern­ments ev­ery day.

Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau has com­mit­ted to get the Trans Moun­tain ex­pan­sion project com­pleted. To keep the project alive, his gov­ern­ment bought the ex­ist­ing Trans Moun­tain pipe­line from Kin­der Mor­gan Canada Ltd. for $4.5-bil­lion and is pre­pared to fi­nance the con­struc­tion.

Reuben Ge­orge, man­ager of the Sa­cred Trust Ini­tia­tive of the Tsleil-Wau­tuth Na­tion man­dated to op­pose the pipe­line ex­pan- sion, said on Fri­day af­ter­noon that he had not seen the NEB an­nounce­ment. How­ever, he said his com­mu­nity is pre­pared to par­tic­i­pate in the re­con­sid­er­a­tion hear­ings.

“We have to sit down with them,” he said, re­fer­ring to the en­ergy board. “If we don’t, they can push it through.”

In ad­di­tion to previous sub­mis­sions, Mr. Ge­orge said in an in­ter­view that the Sa­cred Trust had com­mis­sioned an air-qual­ity and health study linked to the po­ten­tial im­pact of an ex­panded pipe­line.

The Al­berta gov­ern­ment said on Fri­day that it wel­comed the NEB’s hear­ing blue­print.

“We’re pleased to see this process mov­ing for­ward,” Mike McKin­non, a spokesper­son for the Al­berta En­ergy Min­istry, said in a state­ment. “We will do what­ever is nec­es­sary to get this pipe­line built as we fight for good jobs and top dol­lar for our oil. As we’ve said be­fore, we will hold the fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s feet to the fire if any key dead­lines for this project slip.”

The B.C. gov­ern­ment said on Fri­day through an En­vi­ron­ment Min­istry spokesper­son that it would not have any im­me­di­ate com­ment on the NEB’s an­nounce­ment.

On marine im­pacts, the court ruled the NEB erred when it con­cluded it did not have ju­ris­dic­tion over the in­creased ship­ping the ex­panded pipe­line ca­pac­ity would bring. As a re­sult, the orig­i­nal NEB panel did not set out con­di­tions to mit­i­gate the marine im­pacts on coast­lines and en­dan­gered species such as the lo­cal killer whale pop­u­la­tions.

“The board is very clear that the en­tire record in the orig­i­nal pro­ceed­ing stands, and [from the fed­eral de­part­ments] they want only new in­for­ma­tion and up­dates to listed species pro­tec­tion etc.,” Robert Steed­man, the NEB’s chief en­vi­ron­ment of­fi­cer, said in an in­ter­view.

He said about a quar­ter of the orig­i­nal 534-page re­port de­liv­ered in May, 2016, dealt with marine is­sues and ef­fects of in­creased tanker traf­fic. The board did con­clude the in­creased ship­ping would have a sig­nif­i­cant im­pact on the killer whale pop­u­la­tions, but did not rec­om­mend mit­i­ga­tion mea­sures.

IAN WILLMS/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

Grade-school stu­dents on a field trip clean up lit­ter in North Van­cou­ver, B.C., across the Bur­rard In­let from the Trans Moun­tain Burn­aby Ter­mi­nal, in Septem­ber. The NEB says it ap­proved 80 per cent of ap­pli­cants who sought stand­ing as in­ter­venors in the re­con­sid­er­a­tion hear­ings.

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