NEB to ex­am­ine ju­ris­dic­tion of plans for pipe­line

The Globe and Mail (Alberta Edition) - - NEWS - BRENT JANG SMITHERS, B. C.

B.C. en­vi­ron­men­tal­ist ar­gues that Coastal GasLink re­quires fed­eral ap­proval

A $6.2-bil­lion pipe­line project, al­ready dis­rupted by fierce op­po­si­tion from hered­i­tary chiefs in the B.C. In­te­rior, will be un­der­go­ing scru­tiny to de­ter­mine whether a fresh reg­u­la­tory re­view is re­quired.

The Na­tional En­ergy Board is poised to ex­am­ine an ap­pli­ca­tion from Mike Sawyer, an en­vi­ron­men­tal­ist from Smithers, B.C., who ar­gues that Tran­sCanada Corp.’s Coastal GasLink needs fed­eral ap­proval.

Coastal GasLink re­ceived provin­cial reg­u­la­tory ap­proval in 2014 to pro­ceed with plans to con­struct a 670-kilo­me­tre pipe­line from north­east B.C. to a West Coast ter­mi­nal. The plant, for ex­port­ing liq­ue­fied nat­u­ral gas to Asian mar­kets, will be built by LNG Canada, the Royal Dutch Shell PLC-led con­sor­tium.

All 20 elected Indige­nous bands along the nat­u­ral-gas pipe­line route have signed project agree­ments with Coastal GasLink. But the Smithers-based Of­fice of Wet’suwet’en hered­i­tary chiefs op­poses the line’s con­struc­tion, cit­ing con­cerns about the en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact of the route across their tra­di­tional ter­ri­tory.

The NEB de­clined to add the of­fice and 45 other par­ties to its list of in­ter­venors, say­ing the nar­row fo­cus for now is on the is­sue of reg­u­la­tory ju­ris­dic­tion.

Mr. Sawyer filed his ap­pli­ca­tion last sum­mer. The NEB wasn’t au­to­mat­i­cally ob­li­gated to hear his case, but de­cided last month to set a time­line for pro­ceed­ings. The im­por­tance of the is­sue has been height­ened after the RCMP ar­rested 14 pro­test­ers last Mon­day at a po­lice check­point, lead­ing to the Unist’ot’en block­ade along a re­mote B.C. log­ging road.

Bar­ri­ers were re­moved late Fri­day, al­low­ing Coastal GasLink work­ers to cross the Morice River Bridge to get to a por­tion of the pipe­line route lo­cated 1.1 kilo­me­tres away.

“I think that un­der the B.C. reg­u­la­tory sys­tem, the project was not prop­erly as­sessed. Coastal GasLink should be a fed­er­ally reg­u­lated line,” Mr. Sawyer said in an in­ter­view. “The game’s not over.”

His fi­nan­cial donors in­clude West Coast En­vi­ron­men­tal Law’s dis­pute-res­o­lu­tion fund.

Coastal GasLink must meet a Jan. 28 dead­line for fil­ing its doc­u­ments, while in­ter­venors have un­til Feb. 15 to sub­mit their writ­ten ar­gu­ments. Coastal GasLink would have un­til March 19 to file its re­ply, and then fi­nal oral ar­gu­ments would be heard by the NEB.

Mr. Sawyer said he ex­pects the fi­nal oral hear­ing will be in Cal­gary this spring, but the NEB said it has yet to make a de­ci­sion on whether the venue will be in Cal­gary or Van­cou­ver.

The list of in­ter­venors in­cludes Eco­jus­tice Canada, the coun­try’s largest en­vi­ron­men­tallaw char­ity. Also in­ter­ven­ing will be the B.C. and fed­eral gov­ern­ments, as well as the five in­ter­na­tional co-own­ers of LNG Canada: Shell, Malaysia’s state-owned Petronas, PetroChina, Ja­pan’s Mit­subishi Corp. and South Ko­rea’s Ko­gas. LNG Canada an­nounced in Oc­to­ber that it will forge ahead with build­ing an $18-bil­lion ex­port ter­mi­nal in Kiti­mat on the West Coast, part of $40bil­lion in spend­ing that in­cludes Coastal GasLink.

“Tran­sCanada will con­tinue to re­spond as ap­pro­pri­ate through the Na­tional En­ergy Board and be­lieves that the facts per­tain­ing to this project will sup­port a strong case of con­tin­ued provin­cial reg­u­la­tion of the pipe­line,” Tran­sCanada spokesman Terry Cunha said in a state­ment on Sun­day.

The NEB didn’t grant stand­ing to 46 par­ties, turn­ing down a wide range of mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties and elected bands that sup­port the pipe­line, as well as the Of­fice of the Wet’suwet’en and var­i­ous en­vi­ron­men­tal groups that op­pose the route.

David John­ston, who helped found a grass­roots group in Kiti­mat named The North Mat­ters, said not enough at­ten­tion has been placed on the five elected bands within the Wet’suwet’en Na­tion that back the pipe­line, and that Mr. Sawyer has ig­nored the eco­nomic ben­e­fits.

“He’s try­ing to throw any kind of wrench into this that he can,” Mr. John­ston said. “I don’t think he has a leg to stand on.”

Mr. John­ston made the com­ments after The North Mat­ters held its in­au­gu­ral meet­ing on Satur­day night for the Bulk­ley Val­ley chap­ter of the pro-LNG group, at­tract­ing more than 50 peo­ple from Smithers and the nearby Hous­ton area.

In late 2017, pro-LNG res­i­dents in Kiti­mat and Ter­race launched The North Mat­ters. The group’s or­ga­niz­ers in­clude a gym equip­ment sup­plier, an elec­tri­cian, a board mem­ber at the Kiti­mat Gen­eral Hos­pi­tal Foun­da­tion and a past pres­i­dent of the Ro­tary Club of Kiti­mat.

Mr. John­ston said he ex­pects the Bulk­ley Val­ley chap­ter will also at­tract a sim­i­lar ar­ray of lo­cal res­i­dents.

The NEB said it will not be re­view­ing whether the B.C. En­vi­ron­men­tal As­sess­ment Of­fice (BCEAO) con­ducted an ad­e­quate re­view since the fed­eral reg­u­la­tor will be fo­cused on the is­sue of whether Coastal GasLink should be sub­ject to B.C. or fed­eral ju­ris­dic­tion, and it is not an ap­peal process of the BCEAO’s ap­proval.

“If, fol­low­ing this hear­ing, the board de­ter­mines that it ought to take ju­ris­dic­tion of the project, it would re­quire a sep­a­rate ap­pli­ca­tion and hold a sep­a­rate hear­ing to de­ter­mine whether to ap­prove the project,” the NEB said.

JIMMY JEONG/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

Area res­i­dents em­brace at the site of last Mon­day’s ar­rests near Hous­ton, B.C. They were ac­com­pa­ny­ing Indige­nous lead­ers and RCMP to the Unist’ot’en camp.

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