NEB steps out of the board room

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Mario Bartel
The National Energy Board isn’t a multi-headed monster ready to devour all who stand before it.

In fact, the board members who will be guiding the 15-month process of reviewing the application by Kinder Morgan to expand its Trans Mountain Pipeline from the oilsands of northern Alberta to the Westridge Marine Terminal in Burnaby are stepping out of the boardroom to encourage the public to get involved in the hearings. The deadline to apply as an intervenor or commenter is Feb. 12.

“This is kind of a new world,” said Don Young, one of three board members who will be conducting the review. “Transparency is extremely important to the NEB.”

So much so the board members did the media rounds through Metro Vancouver on Tuesday, something they’ve never done before prior to a review process.

“It’s kind of taking the mystique away,” said David Hamilton, a part-time board member who lives on Vancouver Island.

“We’re putting a face on who we are and the process.”

For Young, Hamilton and Lyne Mercier, the third board member, that process is already underway as they read through the 15,000 pages of Kinder Morgan’s application. To help them navigate the often dense, technical details the board has at its disposal more than 450 professional staff that includes biologists, engineers, experts in aboriginal affairs, socioeconomic policy, safety and, of course, lawyers.

“They help us craft our information requests so we can dig into what it’s necessary for us to know,” said Mercier.

Once the deadline for applications to participate in the hearings has passed, the board members will review each one and schedule dates and locations for the formal hearings from there. That should happen by the end of March.

Hamilton fully expects they’ll be back in Metro Vancouver when the time comes.

“We like to go where the impact is,” he said.

Intervenors and commenters don’t necessarily have to appear before the board. They can also submit written letters.

The NEB offers online and phone support, as well as some funding, to help interveners and commenters properly prepare their presentations.

“It’s important to be prepared,” said Young. “It’s a substantial commitment of time and resources.”

So far the NEB has received more than 380 applications from intervenors and commenters. Mercier said she expects that number will continue to climb as the Feb. 12 deadline nears, thanks to the efforts of people like Burnaby-Douglas NDP MP Kennedy Stewart, who’s been holding public meetings to inform people how they can participate in the hearings.

“All the submissions enrich the application and help make us more knowledgeable,” said Mercier.

“We don’t want people to be complacent,” said Young. “Don’t stand by and wait for somebody else to look after your interests.”