The National Energy Board will delay its final recommendation on the proposed Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project by almost seven months because of proposed route changes by the company.
After filing an application in December, 2013, to twin its existing 1,000-kilometre pipeline from Alberta to a Pacific terminal in Burnaby, Trans Mountain Pipeline ULC asked last month to alter a four-kilometre section of the proposed route so that it could consider tunnelling through Burnaby Mountain.
Two possible routes through the mountain were proposed, with the company stating either of the tunnel options were preferred because they would be more direct and less disruptive to area residents than the original plan.
That slight change has prompted the NEB to ask for more studies, and to push back its deadline for assessing the $5.4-billion project to Jan. 25, 2016, from the original date of July 2, 2015.
Sarah Kiley, a spokeswoman for the NEB, said on Tuesday the proposed route change will require Trans Mountain to provide additional information.
“What we’re looking at is a new route that would go through the mountain, so there could be things like geotechnical studies, there could be environmental assessments, information on cultural use, that kind of thing. So there’s a range of information that we would require in order to effectively review this,” she said.
“Today, the board directed Trans Mountain to complete the necessary studies and file them with the board by the first of December, 2014,” Ms. Kiley said. “The board and the hearing participants will also have time to review and test this new evidence. So given these additional steps, portions of the hearings including oral argument, which had originally been scheduled to begin in late January, 2015, will be rescheduled.”
Ms. Kiley said the proposed route change will be handled as a distinct issue within the hearings, so that other matters related to the rest of the route can go ahead as planned.
“The board will continue with the rest of the assessment as scheduled, which includes a gathering of oral aboriginal traditional evidence [that will] begin at the end of August,” she said.
The City of Burnaby owns the land Kinder Morgan wants to access for the slight route change, and it has vowed to do everything it can to oppose the project, including denying the pipeline company access for survey and engineering work.
Trans Mountain has said it will seek an order from the NEB to gain access to City of Burnaby land if necessary, but no such application has yet been filed, Ms. Kiley said.
“Trans Mountain has indicated that they do need access to City of Burnaby lands. If the city refuses access, Trans Mountain can request an order from the National Energy Board to gain access to those lands,” she said. “At this point … we haven’t received that particular order, but when we do, there are provisions under the National Energy Board Act that would … possibly allow Trans Mountain to gain access to land which they do not currently have a certificate for.”
Ms. Kiley said “it’s possible” the NEB could hear submissions from other parties on that issue, but it would not hold oral hearings on it.
Trans Mountain Pipeline ULC (Trans Mountain) is operated by Kinder Morgan Canada and owned by Kinder Morgan Energy Partners. The pipeline from Edmonton to Burnaby has been in place for 60 years, but the company wants to twin it and increase capacity from 300,000 barrels a day to 890,000. The proposal faces opposition from several municipalities, including Burnaby and Vancouver.