The federal government is extending its Kinder Morgan pipeline review by several months to allow for a upstream greenhouse gas emissions assessment and more consultation with First Nations.
The move pushes the final answer for Kinder Morgan from August to December of this year. The changes were part of the government’s Wednesday announcement on interim principles designed to restore trust in a process that has drawn ire from the public and politicians for months, according to James Carr, the federal minister for Natural Resources.
Under the current rules, cabinet has the final say on whether the pipeline will proceed, and government’s own deadline will be extended by four months giving them a total of seven to consider the project. The government has no current plans to deal with downstream greenhouse gas emissions – only upstream at the point of extraction.
When asked if and when the government plans to address public complaints about the NEB’s hearing process, like the lack of oral cross examination or ability for the public to sit in on the hearings, Carr replied that the government can’t apply long-term NEB reforms to the current projects.
“That would not be fair or responsible, but the comments, such as the one you just made, reflecting what your community is saying, will be very important to the Government of Canada as we look at the best way we can reform the regulatory system in the long-term, and all of the issues you mentioned will be considered,” he said.
NDP MPs quickly accused the Liberals of reneging on their promise of a new process.
Terry Beech, MP for Burnaby North-Seymour responded in an interview with a reporter.
“First of all this is a new process. This is a revised process. In order to do a full revision of the National Energy Board process, that’s going to take significant more time. We have to remember there are a large number of community groups that have spent money and thousands of hours preparing their presentations, right?” he said.
Ian Anderson, president and CEO of Kinder Morgan Canada responded to the federal announcement late Wednesday.
“While we have concerns about how this delay could impact the project schedule, we support the principle that public confidence in the review process is crucial and look forward to working with the Government of Canada on how our years of work in the area of consultation will be considered,” he said in a statement.
While the entire process is now somewhat muddled, the City and District of North Vancouver, Tsleil-Waututh Nation and North Shore No Pipeline Expansion took their one and only chance to address the panel at the NEB hearings this week. The common theme in their arguments was the catastrophic impacts a spill would have.
On Monday, lawyer Maegen Giltrow, speaking for the City of North Vancouver, pointed to Trans Mountain’s failure to model a diluted bitumen spill in Burrard Inlet. Instead, she said, Trans Mountain only emphasized the low likelihood of a spill, rather than the consequences of one, going so far as to oppose independent spill models commissioned by the Tsleil-Waututh Nation.
“From the City of North Vancouver’s perspective, the glaring question is why would you not model spills of that size and in those locations? Why would you not look at what the spill trajectory would be, what the clean-up implications would be, the human health impacts would be? The people of the City of North Vancouver live here and from the perspective of the residents of North Vancouver, it would be reckless to avoid or ignore this evidence.”
Tsleil-Wautuh Nation, which is currently in the midst of a lawsuit against NEB, the Crown and Trans Mountain over their lack of constitutionally mandated consultation, made its final arguments on Tuesday. Their lawyer Scott Smith led his presentation with a reminder that the Tsleil-Waututh have been the People of the Inlet and stewards of the land and water they depend on for survival since “time out of mind.”
“It will deprive past, current and future generations of Tsleil-Waututh people of the control and benefit of water, land, air and resources in their territory and second, it does not represent the best use of their territory and their water, land, air and resources to satisfy the needs of their ancestors or present and future generations of Tsleil-Waututh people,” he said.
North Vancouver District Mayor Richard Walton’s presentation later that day highlighted the value North Vancouver residents place on their waterfront, which “already shapes the economy, ecology and lifestyle of the entire North Shore,” he said.
He went on to specifically mention the risk posed to the protected but still environmentally sensitive Maplewood Flats Conservation Area, just east of the Second Narrows.
North Shore NOPE’s final arguments on Wednesday raised the foreseeable shot and long-term impacts on human health should a spill happen.
“When there is an oil spill, all those chemicals vapourize and they’re in the air like a mist. The skin can absorb them,” said NS NOPE founder Janice Edmonds, noting no spill response is fast enough to combat the immediate exposure.
Long-term health effects common in people who have experienced an oil spill include changes to hormones and the immune system, birth defects, blood and liver illness, chronic respiratory effects, mental health impacts like anxiety and depression and genotoxic effects – changes in DNA – as well as the known carcinogenic properties of benzene and hydrocrabons, which are mixed together in diluted bitumen, she added.
– with files from Brent Richter
Jennifer Moreau is a reporter with the Burnaby Now, a sister paper to the North Shore News. For more stories from the Burnaby Now visit the website burnabynow.com.