NEB rejects legal challenge involving Burnaby residents

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ForestEthics responds by filing federal appeal and asking for injunction to stop the pipeline hearing

An environmental group is trying to stop the National Energy Board hearing for Kinder Morgan’s pipeline dead in its tracks.

In spring, ForestEthics filed a legal challenge with the NEB, claiming the Kinder Morgan hearing process unfairly restricts public participation and refuses to hear concerns related to climate change and oil sands development. Two Burnaby residents and one SFU prof were applicants in that legal challenge. The arguement was the NEB is restricting people’s Charter rights to freedom of expression by excluding them from the piepline hearing. On Thursday, ForestEthics learned that the NEB rejected the motion, so the group is appealing the decision with the Federal Court of Appeal while seeking an injunction to halt the hearing.

“This is a bold move. It’s a relatively new tactic,” said ForestEthics spokesperson Sven Biggs. “We feel we’re on really strong legal footing.”

Biggs said ForestEthics fully expected the NEB’s rejection, but he was surprised at how long it took.

Burnaby resident Ruth Walmsley was named in the legal challenge. She applied to participate as an intervenor in the NEB hearing but was rejected entirely. She, too, was not surprised at the board’s ruling.

“The NEB has shown itself to favour decisions in the interest of big fossil fuel extract projects,” she told the NOW.

Walmsley is hoping the federal court of appeal will rule in her favour.

“That’s kind of the last hope. … There’s nowhere to go really after that except to stand in front of the project,” she said. “Some people are willing to engage in non-violent, direct action to stop this project.”

The second Burnaby resident named in the original legal challenge is John Clarke, who lives close to Kinder Morgan’s tank farm. He applied as an intervenor but was only given commenter status.

The NOW contacted the NEB for comment, but didn’t hear back immediately. In short, the Oct. 2 NEB ruling argued that freedom of speech, which is guaranteed in the Charter, does not necessarily mean that anyone should be included in the hearing.

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