CALGARY — The National Energy Board has allowed Kinder Morgan Canada to bypass some bylaws in Burnaby, B.C. that stand in the way of its Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project.
The decision released on Thursday was met with outrage with those opposed to the project calling it overreach, and welcomed by proponents who said it was for the good of the country.
“We are pleased with the decision we have received from the NEB today, as it reinforces our view this federally approved project is in the national interest,” Kinder Morgan Canada said in a statement.
The company had filed notices with the NEB on Oct. 26, asking the regulator to step in on a constitutional basis because it felt permit delays in Burnaby were hindering a federally approved project.
In releasing its decision, the NEB said the company is not required to comply with two sections of the city’s bylaws, allowing it to start work at its pipeline terminals subject to other permits or authorizations that may be required.
Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan, a staunch opponent to the project, said in a statement that the city was acting in good faith and the NEB’s decision is flawed.
“We believe that this is an abuse of federal powers, and city staff are shocked by the NEB’s decision,” said Corrigan.
He said Trans Mountain was going through the same application process as others, and that the NEB had chosen to exempt the project from the important requirement despite potential environmental, social and financial consequences.
B.C. Environment Minister George Heyman said the province was also dismayed, and was looking to appeal the decision.
“I’m shocked the NEB has ruled in favour of Kinder Morgan and frankly I’m angry on behalf of British Columbians,” he said.
“The NEB placed a condition on this project that Kinder Morgan needed to get all necessary permits from local governments and today’s decision essentially changed their own condition for this project and granted Kinder Morgan a waiver.”
Outside the province, the decision saw more support, with Alberta Premier Rachel Notley saying the decision brings the project closer to getting underway.
“Alberta welcomes today’s National Energy Board ruling. It gets us another step closer to shovels in the ground and more markets for our energy resources – something that benefits each and every Canadian.”
Tim McMillan, head of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, said the decision was a critical step to advance a project that had seen considerable stakeholder collaboration.
“This decision acknowledges that federal permits that are deemed in the national interest will not be delayed at the local level.”
Burnaby’s lawyer Greg McDade had argued in two days of hearings that wrapped up Monday in Calgary that the city was following its standard permitting process, and that the company was to blame for the slow pace because of shoddy applications.
“Our regulatory process was never about shutting down the pipeline. It was about making sure parking and traffic and those sorts of things were properly handled,” said McDade on the ruling.
“It’s clear that the municipality was regulating in good faith on local issues and the NEB has ruled that’s unconstitutional. So they’ve sided yet again with the company against municipalities.”
The board said it would release its reasons for the decision at a later date.
Kinder Morgan Canada has said the $7.4 billion pipeline expansion is already months behind schedule and further delays could threaten the viability of the controversial project.
Ian Bickis, The Canadian Press