Regulator outlines next steps for Trans Mountain environmental review
Interveners have tight deadlines to present evidence of the project’s impact on the marine environment
Oct 12, 2018
The National Energy Board has laid out the next steps for a review of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project’s effects on the marine environment and has given 99 stakeholders tight deadlines to make their submissions.
The federal pipeline regulator is giving the company and key federal government departments until the end of the month to present evidence, while other Indigenous, industry and environmental stakeholders will have until Nov. 20 to file their submissions.
Last month, the Liberal government gave the NEB 22 weeks to review the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project to consider the project’s impact on the marine environment.
Dr. Rob Steedman, the NEB’s chief environmental officer, said he is prepared for a “very busy” period as the regulator works to meet the Feb. 22 deadline.
“I’m not going to say it’s not a challenge,” he told CBC News. “The process is designed, as we always do, to make sure there’s fairness and transparency on the information that’s filed, that people can listen to the oral sessions, they can see all the transcripts and documents in public.”
Steedman said that because the subject areas for review are narrow — limited to the impact of the expansion and increased tanker traffic on the marine environment, and specifically on the resident killer whale population — the NEB is confident is can meet the deadline.
He said he wouldn’t “speculate” about whether those impacts could be considered too great to be overcome with mitigation measures.
“We’ll get the evidence from everyone that has it to offer, and who offered to participate, and the board will have to consider those facts,” he said. “They’ll have to weigh the facts and consider the conflicting evidence which inevitably comes up.”
The NEB also revealed its review will assess the impact of increased oil tanker traffic out to about 12 nautical miles from the B.C. coastline.
Steedman says the distance was based on comments received from interested parties.
The Raincoast Conservation Foundation in British Columbia, one of the environmental groups that sued Ottawa over its original environmental review of the project, said the distance doesn’t go far enough.
“From the get-go, it looks like a political exercise, not an environmental one,” Misty MacDuffee, a conservation biologist at the foundation, told the Canadian Press.
MacDuffee said the 12-mile distance could leave out a number of endangered or at-risk whales. Raincoast had wanted the new review to extend 200 nautical miles from shore.
The National Energy Board has until about February 22 to render a decision based on submissions made. We have no idea if the NEB will decide to approve the project or if one or more of the 99 stakeholders will go to court in an effort to amend the NEB guidelines for study.
What we do know is that by the decision date, taxpayers will have shelled out about $75.9 million in interest on the $4.5 billion purchase, plus maintenance costs on the existing pipeline. There should be some offsetting income from oil pumped through the existing line, but we have no idea how much.
The potential for further delays is unnerving. The government is reacting rather than leading on this file. This government wrote the rules for environmental impact studies of pipelines and should have checked to ensure the rules had been met before committing to completing the project. There do not appear to be any upsides to this sorry spectacle.
Tee recent Supreme Court decision that lawmakers are not required to consult with aboriginals when drafting laws has infuriated aboriginal leaders and they will test the decision in every way that they can. That is going to make government plans for reconciliation more difficult. The problems are multiplying and no amount of cheerful chatter is going to help.
Political Consultant & Strategist