As protesters marched and banners unfurled, intervenors began their final arguments Tuesday on Kinder Morgan’s plan to twin its Trans Mountain oil pipeline.
A National Energy Board panel started 10 days of oral hearings in Burnaby as scheduled despite calls from activists and politicians to cancel them in light of the federal Liberal government’s pledge to overhaul the review process.
The City of Surrey – the first intervenor – demanded the NEB compel Kinder Morgan to decommission and remove the original 60-year-old pipeline under urban residential neighbourhoods in Surrey and instead upsize the new pipeline or run twin lines on a new route far from homes.
Surrey also wants the NEB to keep the pipeline from biting into environmentally sensitive Surrey Bend Regional Park – Trans Mountain’s preferred new route through the city – and instead suggests following Golden Ears Way, the South Fraser Perimeter Road and CN Rail rights-of-way.
NEB directors noted the hearing pertains only to the expansion project but Surrey assistant city solicitor Anthony Capuccinello insisted the board has legal jurisdiction to order old sections of the pipeline be retired or improved.
“Once you want to expand a system your system comes under scrutiny and terms and conditions can be imposed with respect to the entire system,” he argued.
Capuccinello said it would be unreasonable for the NEB to impose emergency response requirements that apply only to the new pipeline, not the “outdated and obsolete” original one.
“Are you really expecting the public to believe that you can impose conditions but only with respect to new pipeline?”
Surrey is not flat-out opposed to the project as Burnaby is, but insists it cannot harm the city’s interests or result in municipal taxpayers subsidizing company costs.
It wants additional conditions imposed that would guarantee compensation for all municipalities for extra infrastructure costs that may be triggered by the pipeline expansion or future pipeline maintenance, as well as reimbursement for municipal costs in the event of an emergency or other pipeline incident.
A study tabled in evidence estimates Surrey, Burnaby, Coquitlam, Langley Township and Abbotsford will have to shoulder $93 million in additional municipal infrastructure costs over the next 50 years as a result of the pipeline expansion.
NEB regulations require communities to adjust their design and construction methods to work around pipelines, which can mean higher costs when building roads or replacing buried utilities like sewer lines.
New Westminster Fire Chief Tim Armstrong took aim at Kinder Morgan’s refusal on security grounds to provide municipalities with its full emergency response plan, just a heavily redacted version.
Armstrong called it “an unacceptable answer as we are named partners in their response plan without any consultation” and firefighters are likely to be first on scene in any disaster.
Hearing doors were closed to the public but opponents made their voices heard outside.
Protesters chanted “Trudeau, you said no” as they marched down Willingdon Avenue and then rallied outside the hearing room at the Delta Burnaby Hotel.
“The federal government has failed abysmally to live up to its own lofty rhetoric,” Squamish Nation Chief Ian Campbell said, referring to the Liberal election campaign promise to fix flawed NEB reviews.
Federal officials have said they won’t short-circuit the hearings or comment further before the NEB makes its recommendation in May.
On Monday, seven activsts were arrested after they used kayaks to board a barge in Burrard Inlet where Kinder Morgan crews were test drilling for the planned tanker terminal expansion.
The B.C. government said last week the project has not met the province’s spill safety and other preconditions for support.