Expert quits ‘rigged’ Trans Mountain oil pipeline review

Economist Robyn Allan calls National Energy Board biased, its decision 'predetermined' in favour of Kinder Morgan

A prominent expert has withdrawn as an intervenor from the National Energy Board review of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain oil pipeline expansion project to protest what she calls a broken system.

Robyn Allan, an economist and former ICBC president, quit in a strongly worded eight-page letter to the NEB outlining her concerns with the review and the board itself.

“The game is rigged,” she wrote. “We are being conned by the very agency entrusted to protect us.”

Among Allan’s criticisms is that the NEB is examining the project based only on Kinder Morgan’s applied for capacity of 540,000 barrels from the new pipeline, not its design capacity of 780,000 barrels, meaning the project is not undergoing proper scrutiny based on the full amount of oil it could carry, or risks associated with the existing pipeline.

That’s just one of a series of “biased” NEB decisions that Allan said have restricted the review’s scope in favour of Kinder Morgan and effectively minimized the analysis of project risks.

She said the outcome is “predetermined by a captured regulator” and that continuing to participate “endorses a broken system and enables the pretence of due process where none exists.”

Allan was also critical of the NEB refusal to allow oral cross-examination in the Trans Mountain project hearings.

“The fight to protect the Canadian public interest must be conducted in an open and transparent forum, where those who desire to participate, have a right and opportunity to do so.”

She said the NEB does not have the expertise or the will to understand issues that may “leave Canadians holding the bag when major or catastrophic events happen.”

Allan’s departure came as the City of Vancouver released a report it commissioned by a U.S. spill expert that argued the Trans Mountain application underestimated the threat to birds and other species if a major spill occurred near the mouth of the Fraser River.

“A major spill near the Fraser River estuary could kill more than 100,000 sea- and shorebirds,” the report concluded, adding that mass mortality “could result in cascading effects throughout the marine-dependent ecosystem.”

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