Fate of the pipeline is in their hands

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Reporter Jennifer Moreau sat down with the three National Energy Board panel members, David Hamilton, Lynn Mercier and Don Young, who will decide the fate of Kinder Morgan’s pipeline expansion application. (This is the abridged version of a half-hour conversation.)

Jennifer Moreau:Many of the board panel members have oil and gas backgrounds, and some readers are questioning whether there’s a conflict of interest there. Have any of you ever worked for Kinder Morgan or done consulting work with Kinder Morgan or have and stocks or shares with them?

David Hamilton: No.

Lynn Mercier:We’re not allowed to have any shares in any company dealing with energy at all. It’s a very strict process. You have to get rid of anything that you own.

Hamilton:I never worked for Kinder Morgan.

Moreau:This is a huge concern I’ve been hearing from readers, there’s this 150-metre wide zone that many people have concerns about. If they see one of the proposed study corridors is close to their home, they are nervous that maybe that 150 metres would mean their home is either expropriated or there are going to be some kind of restrictions on their land. Can you explain how that works? If you go into the city, that narrows a bit, is that the case?

Hamilton: That safety zone won’t narrow. They always have to have a 150-metre safety zone no matter whether it narrows in the city, and if they don’t have that safety zone, one would assume they are going to have to find another location because we wouldn’t lessen a safety zone, that’s required by standards to have that. It won’t narrow anywhere. The safety zone is still going to have to be 150 metres.

Moreau:People have concerns about property values.

Mercier:We’ll listen to what people have to say. … People always worry about this, and it seems to be when they do analysis, the value of the property doesn’t go down. But it’s the hype that’s created when there’s a pipeline that kind of creates this thing. But once the pipeline is built, they’ve studied and confirmed there is no change in property value.

Moreau:With the people who have applied for intervenor status, when will it be announced who’s in and who’s out?

Hamilton:Staff and ourselves are assessing whether the application is complete. … Once we’ve reviewed all the applications, I imagine towards the end of March probably, we will make a determination on the completeness of it, and then of course, which will follow the list (of accepted participants) and the process for our hearing.

Moreau:I found out Kinder Morgan’s primary study corridor – which was going to come down Lougheed and go up Underhill – I’ve heard now they are more interested in the alternate corridor, the one that runs along the railway tracks. They’ve said if they were going to officially shift focus, that they would have to reapply. I guess that piece of information, they would have to resubmit to the NEB. Have you heard anything about this?

Hamilton:It would depend, if we agree and it could go to a public hearing, then they could file additional information. They can file an addendum or new information we would consider, and then everybody could then consider it as well.

(Editor’s note: We further clarified with the NEB and want to stress there will be no future chance for the public to apply to participate in the hearing, and the deadline is Feb. 12.)

Moreau:What advice would you give people who may have applied for intervenor status if Kinder Morgan is now shifting focus on to the alternative corridor and not coming down Lougheed, because it might change what they have to say?

Hamilton:Well, their application is based on the application as it is now. … We don’t know that till it happens, but our processes allow us to be flexible enough to respond to that if it happens, to ensure if anybody is affected about it, we want to hear about it.

Moreau:But the final route they actually decide after?

Mercier: It’s called a detailed route hearing.

Moreau:The Conservatives changed the rules about who has the final say, and cabinet members can now override the NEB’s decision. Have you had that happen yet, since those rules were changed?

Don Young:Not under the news rules, no.

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