Dozens of landowners, First Nations and local governments have filed objections to the proposed route of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, opening up a process that could result in parts of the project being moved or further delayed.
The Canadian Energy Regulator has received about 100 applications, known as statements of opposition, since the federal government approved the pipeline expansion project for the second time in June.
The applications could result in new hearings on specific portions of the route, although Trans Mountain maintains it has built that possibility into its construction schedule and doesn’t believe the process will pose a major challenge. Trans Mountain, now a Crown corporation after the federal government purchased the pipeline last year, has already started construction at its terminal in Burnaby, B.C., and expects to begin work on some areas of the route this fall.
The Trans Mountain expansion has become a significant issue in the federal election campaign. The Conservatives under Andrew Scheer have proposed a national corridor to head off the sort of legal and regulatory setbacks that have hampered Trans Mountain, while the Justin Trudeau’s Liberals point to their purchase of the pipeline as proof that they support Alberta’s energy sector and resource development. The NDP and Greens both oppose the pipeline.
The CER, formerly known as the National Energy Board, has opened up a process for landowners to raise objections and request either a hearing or enter dispute resolution.
Landowners whose route hearings were disrupted by last year’s Federal Court of Appeal court ruling, which overturned the pipeline’s approval, must start the process over. Others who had their cases rejected or want to file new objections must demonstrate how their circumstances have “materially changed” since the last time the route was considered.
David Gray, who lives in a semi-rural area in Langley, east of Vancouver, is asking the CER to move the route or tunnel under his land to avoid ripping up a wooded section of his property.
“Once it destroyed, it doesn’t come back," Mr. Gray said in an interview. "We’re old, there’s no way we’ll be able to grow that back in our lifetime. … They’re going to leave a scar that doesn’t heal.”
Mr. Gray said Trans Mountain could address his concerns without disrupting the construction process or schedule. “I’m not trying to save the world. I’m just trying to save our place.”
Other applicants include the City of Chilliwack, B.C., and several other groups and landowners in the community, who argue the pipeline threatens local drinking water; the nearby Coldwater Indian Band, which is also concerned about drinking water; the City of Langley, which says the route would prevent future development; several companies in B.C. and Alberta that say the route threatens their businesses; and individual landowners.
Ali Hounsell, a spokeswoman for Trans Mountain, said she couldn’t predict how the CER might handle the applications, but she said the process isn’t a significant risk.
“A major shift to the route is unlikely, because the pipeline corridor is already approved,” she said.
Ms. Hounsell noted the 100 statements of objection represent only a small fraction of the 3,200 tracts of land along the route.
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney suggested, without evidence, that the applications were connected to what he has derided as a U.S.-funded environmental campaign to target the Alberta oil industry.
“This is just another stage in the tar sands campaign where astroturf organizations funded by foreign interests continue to try to obstruct a project that Canadians and British Columbians support by two-to-one," he told reporters in Calgary.
With a report from Justin Giovannetti in Calgary
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