PRETTY much all of the recent pipeline debate has been about Enbridge's Northern Gateway Project as the National Energy Board's hearings are underway in Vancouver.
This week has been marred with headlines about a lack of public access, protestors crashing the hearings, and the National Energy Board's total refusal to consider the environmental impacts of pipelines in the big picture.
But a second pipeline with much greater local implications is in the works.
If the NEB approves Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain pipeline expansion from Alberta to Burnaby, we will not have weekly oil tanker trips from Burrard Inlet, but daily.
It's not too soon to start thinking about how we want those hearings to play out.
Top of the list would be holding the hearings in an open venue large enough for anyone to come and watch in person. You can't call it a public hearing if the public isn't allowed in to hear what's being said, as we're seeing this week at the Sheraton Wall Centre.
Holding the hearings in such a fashion not only fuels the cynical theories that approving the pipelines is a foregone conclusion, it incites the very activism, gate crashing and disruption it was intended to prevent. And rightly so.
When it comes time for the NEB to listen to stakeholders' concerns, praise and condemnation for Kinder Morgan's proposal, the process must not only be beyond reproach, it must appear to be beyond reproach.