Burnaby politicians slam NEB for cancelling local Kinder Morgan pipeline info sessions

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Burnaby politicians are worried their constituents are being shortchanged by the National Energy Board’s decision to cancel further public information sessions into Kinder Morgan’s proposed Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

The NEB has opted instead to have concerned citizens sign up for online Q-and-A presentations.

Burnaby-Douglas NDP MP Kennedy Stewart said he is already hearing from people disappointed at the news and is worried that the online forum could exclude older, less tech-savvy residents who live on or near the route of the proposed expansion.

“They started to do these and they are extremely useful because you have back-and-forth between the staff and the citizens — there are six NEB staff there, experts on environment and engineering, and they’re very, very useful,” said Stewart, referring to the public session he attended last week in Edmonton.

He said he is concerned Burnaby may not get any NEB hearings on the project, noting that a previous public hearing on a commercial tolling operation in the area took place in Calgary.

Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan said the online-only sessions send the wrong message to his community, which has many people in it who already feel the project favours the applicant.

“One of the things that happens when you do it online is you keep people in isolation from other people who may have opinions,” Corrigan said, adding that people won’t be able to meet others of like mind at these online sessions and then organize further resistance or support for the project.

“It doesn’t bode well for the next process.”

After announcing the nine B.C. dates last week, the NEB cancelled the sessions Tuesday, stating that “we have decided that hosting a single information session in a centralized location is not the best way to reach people.”

The web-based presentations will open in late November and will allow people to add their questions before and during the sessions.

The information sessions are happening before a wider consultation process with registered interveners goes ahead in the coming months. Stewart said he wants to find out how citizens can register as interveners in what is “usually a very short window for people to sign up to participate.”

The Harper government’s 2012 changes to the NEB act were preceded by complaints that environmentalists had “hijacked” the Northern Gateway process.

Houston-based energy giant Kinder Morgan, which owns the only outlet for Alberta crude to get to the west coast, plans to file with the NEB in December its full application to nearly triple the daily capacity of the pipeline to 890,000 barrels from the current 300,000 barrels.

Kinder Morgan had no comment on the upcoming information sessions, spokeswoman Lexa Hobenshield said last week, but is in the process of finalizing its formal application to the NEB.

“As you can appreciate, there are a number of reviews we need to go through, so I think we’re just being careful,” she said.


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