Is National Energy Board hearing just window dressing?

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The National Energy Board has said no to MP Kennedy Stewart’s request to extend the application period to participate in the Kinder Morgan pipeline hearings, but how does this fit the bigger picture?

Stewart was raising the same question we were asking the board: what’s the point of having a public hearing when Burnaby residents don’t even know where the pipeline route will be?

To be clear, Kinder Morgan has not broken any rules. Apparently, it’s normal to submit an application with a preferred route and an alternative.

But the reality is the general public was not aware that Kinder Morgan switched route preferences in the south of the city till we broke the story – hence the request for an extension.

The company assures us and the board that all of the affected residents on both routes have been notified, but who defines directly affected? Thanks to the confusion about where the route will go, it was largely left to Kinder Morgan to determine who should be invited to apply for the hearing.

Furthermore, we know the Conservatives changed the energy board’s rules and tightened the criteria of who is allowed to participate. That’s why people are being asked to apply earlier, before the energy board even decides whether the application is complete, which is the first step in the approval process.

What’s clear here is this new, streamlined procedure is flawed. Fewer people can have a say in the process, and the board’s recent decision reflects that.

If the Conservatives want to streamline this process, the board should require pipeline companies to consult the general public, make a final decision on the route, and then apply to the board for project approval.

When people are lacking proper information to make informed decisions about a massive oil pipeline running through their city, democracy suffers, and we question whether this hearing is just window dressing.

© Burnaby Now