BURNABY, B.C. – The National Energy Board got an earful Tuesday on the first day of hearings into Kinder Morgan Canada Ltd.’s plan to expand its Trans Mountain pipeline network to the West Coast.
Amid protests and marches outside, an NEB panel was told its process is “out-dated,” that it does not have the authority to determine whether First Nations have been consulted and that, overall, the $5.4 billion project should not be approved.
Anthony Capuccinello, solicitor for the City of Surrey, through which the pipeline runs, was the first intervenor to summarize his city’s arguments regarding the pipeline.
Lawyers for other local municipalities, First Nations and non-governmental organizations are preparing final oral submissions over the next two weeks on the project, which would expand the Trans Mountain system’s capacity to deliver oil from Alberta to the West Coast by 590,000 barrels per day.
Arguing that the NEB’s approach to granting and overseeing pipeline approvals is out-dated, Capuccinello called Kinder Morgan’s story supporting its Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project “a fiction.”
He said the pipeline company should compensate his city for the additional cost of building and maintaining infrastructure such as sewers and roads, which in Surrey is complicated by the need to work around the existing Trans Mountain pipeline, and he said would be further complicated by the expansion.
“It is not for the City of Surrey and residents of British Columbia to pay those costs and subsidize the shareholders of Trans Mountain,” Capuccinello said.
In a sharply worded address, he repeated the city’s written argument filed last week, that the expansion would boost the cost of building and maintaining infrastructure like sewers and roads in metro Vancouver by $93 million over 50 years.
Surrey, unlike the neighbouring city of Burnaby, isn’t necessarily opposed to the project, but expects to be compensated for the additional infrastructure costs its construction would impose on the city.
“The city does not in principle support any expansion of the Trans Mountain system that negatively impacts the city of Surrey,” Capuccinello said.
He also asked the NEB to require Kinder Morgan to decommission, remove and relocate portions of the existing Trans Mountain pipeline through Surrey, a step which the city said in its written argument would “significantly reduce the costs of operating, maintaining and replacing infrastructure.”
He said the cost of removing the existing line in Surrey and relocating it is estimated at $36 million, or one per cent to two per cent of the project’s total cost.
Later in the day, representatives from the Musqueam Indian Band expressed “great concern about the pipeline route, and not just the pipeline route but the increased tanker traffic that goes with it.”
“Musqueam has established aboriginal rights to fish in its traditional territory,” the band’s lawyer James Reynolds told the hearing.
The Musqueam band is demanding the government “fully justify” the expansion project, which it said will infringe on its ability to fish territory including the Burrard Inlet in Vancouver, which the Supreme Court has recognized as its traditional territory.
“We submit that the evidence that Musqueam gave has clearly satisfied the test of showing non-trivial infringement,” Reynolds said. “The burden is now on the Crown to justify the infringement and this has not been done.”
The requirement to justify an infringement on an aboriginal right, the band noted in a written submission filed in November, is “distinct from a regulatory process such as the NEB process and the Crown’s duty to consult and accommodate unproven rights.”
The hearings are scheduled to continue in Burnaby before shifting back to Calgary, where oil and gas companies and other First Nations will be allowed to summarize their arguments.
On Wednesday, representatives from Burnaby, home to one of the project’s most outspoken opponents in Mayor Derek Corrigan, are scheduled to make final arguments.