The mayors of Vancouver, Burnaby, New Westminster, City of North Vancouver, Victoria, Squamish and Bowen Island have declared their “non-confidence” in the National Energy Board’s (NEB) review of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline and are calling on the federal government to put the current process on hold until a full public hearing process is re-instated.
“It has become apparent that the NEB process does not constitute a ‘public hearing’ and is completely inadequate to assess the health and safety risks of a proposed pipeline through major metropolitan areas, and the potential risks of shipping bitumen oil to Burnaby and through Burrard Inlet, the Salish Sea, and along the coastline of British Columbia,” the mayors write in their declaration.
The mayors also call upon the Government of British Columbia to re-assert its role in environmental assessment and to establish a provincial process, including public hearings, to assess the Trans Mountain proposal.
If built, the Trans Mountain pipeline system would transport more than 890,000 barrels a day of primarily diluted bitumen from the Alberta oilsands to B.C.’s west coast. Most of this heavy oil is destined for Westridge dock in Burnaby, where it would be loaded onto 400 oil tankers per year — a six-fold increase from current oil tanker traffic.
“The current hearing process does not allow for consideration of some of the most damaging aspects of the proposal — the inadequacy of emergency plans; the potential for marine oil spills; the effects of the project on climate change, and the threat it poses to our local economy,” says Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson. “We want to demonstrate to our residents and businesses that we are taking the potential risks seriously, and we want to work together with other municipalities in the region to protect our economy, our environment and our people.”
The mayors say the elimination of oral cross-examination from the hearing process has rendered the process inadequate. Without oral cross-examination, the municipalities have been forced to submit their questions in writing and wait on written responses back from Kinder Morgan.
“The proponent has failed to answer the majority of questions submitted by municipalities and other intervenors,” the mayors write in their declaration. “Because of the inadequacies inherent to the review process, hundreds of questions critical to public safety and environmental impacts remain unanswered.”
The declaration continues: “We have serious concerns that the current NEB panel is neither independent from the oil industry proponents nor ready or able to assess the ‘public interest’ of British Columbians. It is no longer a credible process from either a scientific evidentiary basis, nor from a public policy and public interest perspective.”
“We know that our concerns are shared by communities throughout the province,” says Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan. “This flawed hearing process disallows review of aspects of the proposal that could cause the most significant damage. It is critical for this project — and for all projects that can harm communities and the environment — that we have federal review processes that are rigorous and transparent.”
"The City of Victoria is concerned about the impact of increased tanker traffic on our ecology and our economy,” says Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps. “We're happy to stand with other municipalities to request a fair and rigorous process to ensure that both are safeguarded for the long term.”
Resolutions calling National Energy Board's review process of Kinder Morgan’s proposal inadequate have already been passed by the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (September 2014) and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (March 2015).
The province of British Columbia has also taken issue with the NEB process, particularly with regard to its failure to compel Kinder Morgan to release its oil spill response plans in B.C. — while the company releases those very same plans across the border in Washington State.
Photo: Mark Klotz via Flickr