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British Columbia Burnaby mayor asks Trudeau to halt Trans Mountain pipeline hearings

A ship receives its load of oil from the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Expansion Project's Westeridge loading dock in Burnaby, B.C.

JONATHAN HAYWARD/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan is asking Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to suspend federal hearings into Kinder Morgan Canada's proposed expansion of its Trans Mountain oil pipeline.

A National Energy Board panel's review of the $6.8-billion expansion project began last year, and arguments from intervenors are scheduled to be heard later this month in Burnaby.

"It is evident that the NEB process is broken, and there is little value in a fact-finding process that has no reasonable prospect for testing evidence," Mr. Corrigan said in his three-page letter sent on Monday to Mr. Trudeau.

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He said the NEB needs to revamp its flawed procedures so that environmental and community views are properly taken into account, including examining the pipeline route's impact on Burnaby.

"We therefore urgently request that you put the current NEB panel review on hold until the new process and a broadened panel have been implemented. We ask that you immediately suspend the current hearings," Mr. Corrigan wrote.

Kinder Morgan is seeking NEB approval for a pipeline from Alberta's Strathcona County to Burnaby that would nearly triple the total capacity to 890,000 barrels a day.

Industry analysts say twinning the existing Trans Mountain pipeline would be an attractive way for Canada to diversify its oil exports.

Earlier on Monday, the B.C. government said it cannot support the pipeline expansion project because Kinder Morgan has provided insufficient details of its spill-response plans.

"These are real conditions. They are not a straw man put up to ensure that nobody can ever meet them," B.C. Environment Minister Mary Polak said during a conference call.

The B.C. Liberals said Monday that they would be willing to re-evaluate Trans Mountain if the company delivers information that addresses the province's concerns. Kinder Morgan's plans would increase the number of oil tanker shipments from Vancouver's Burrard Inlet to 34 a month from five.

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"A seven-fold increase in oil tanker traffic through Vancouver's local waters is simply not worth the immense risks posed to our economy and environment in the event of a major oil spill," Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson said in a statement.

Kinder Morgan countered that the project would be carried out to the highest environmental standards and continue consultations with aboriginals and other groups. "The project, as outlined in [a] report by the Conference Board of Canada earlier this month, is expected to generate $46.7-billion in government revenues and 802,000 person-years of employment over more than 20 years," the company said.

Last year, the NEB process was interrupted when an energy-sector expert, Steven Kelly, who provided some of Kinder Morgan's evidence, was named to the board, albeit without a role in the pipeline's proceedings. This led to a delay in the original schedule.

After Mr. Trudeau led the Liberals to victory in the October federal election, some had speculated that the regulatory process would be thrown into limbo as a result of the party's position that reviews were lacking in environmental stringency. However, Jim Carr, the federal Natural Resources Minister, has said Kinder Morgan would not have to go back to square one with its application.

"There will be a transition phase, and I will be working with my colleagues in order to be clear about what that transition phase means, and we will do that as soon as we can," he said late last year.

The energy sector has turned its attention to the Trans Mountain expansion, and increasingly, TransCanada Corp.'s Energy East venture, for its oil export hopes since U.S. President Barack Obama rejected the Keystone XL pipeline in November.

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