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NEB opens oil pipeline hearing sign-up

An oil tanker moving in Vancouver harbour flanked by tugs. - File photo
An oil tanker moving in Vancouver harbour flanked by tugs.
— image credit: File photo

Neighbours and others concerned about the proposed twinning of Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain oil pipeline now have until noon Feb. 12 to apply to participate in upcoming National Energy Board hearings.

Environmental groups and Burnaby NDP MP Kennedy Stewart have complained that the window of time to sign up is too short and the process to apply online at www.neb-one.gc.ca is too onerous.

To apply on line, applicants must create a government log-in account or else use an existing one with a financial institution, or ask to get a form by mail.

Participation in NEB hearings is now limited to people directly affected by a project or who have relevant information or expertise.

"The daunting application process seems set up to deter people from participating," said Caitlyn Vernon of the Sierra Club.

Applicants must indicate they will speak to one of 12 issues the NEB has listed that it will consider, including environmental risks of the pipeline or tanker traffic to B.C.

The NEB says it won't consider the environmental and socio-economic effects of upstream activities, the development of Alberta's oil sands or the downstream use of the oil transported by the pipeline.

Kinder Morgan filed its formal 15,000-page project application with the NEB last month and is promised an answer within 15 months – unlike the Northern Gateway pipeline process that spanned four years.

The $5.4-billion expansion would nearly triple the existing pipeline's capacity to 890,000 barrels of oil per day. If approved, 400 oil tankers a year would sail through Vancouver harbour, up from about 60 now.

The proposed pipeline route largely parallels the existing 60-year-old pipeline through much of the Fraser Valley, but diverts away from heavily developed areas of Surrey, Coquitlam and Burnaby by instead following transportation rights-of-way.

Belcarra Mayor Ralph Drew, who has pressed Kinder Morgan for improvements to spill response safeguards, said his municipality will apply for intervenor status.

The Metro Vancouver board has not yet decided how it will be involved.

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