Overflow crowd at Burnaby pipeline workshop

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Wanda Chow
So many people showed up at Saturday’s information meeting on participating in the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion process that a second session has been scheduled for Feb. 9, said Burnaby-Douglas MP Kennedy Stewart.

Stewart estimated there were about 400 people in attendance at Confederation Community Centre, and said some people had to be turned away.

The meeting was to explain how people can apply to participate in the process and was scheduled after the National Energy Board (NEB) cancelled its own local meetings last fall and opted for online sessions instead.

“So far it’s the only meeting of this type,” he said by phone from Ottawa Monday. “The NEB should be doing these things but they’re not.”

Last month, Kinder Morgan filed its 15,000-page formal application with the NEB to almost triple the capacity of its Trans Mountain pipeline between Edmonton and Burnaby, which would significantly increase tanker traffic in Burrard Inlet as it increases exports of oil sands crude to overseas markets.

Stewart stressed the workshop was open to people on both sides of the issue—he saw people there he recognized from all political stripes—and focused on how the review process works with an eye to helping people apply for intervenor status before the NEB’s Feb. 12 deadline.

“There will be plenty of time for people to protest, now is not the time,” he said.

While Stewart and his staff originally planned to take people from the meeting to his nearby constituency office, which has been turned into an unofficial registration centre, to help people submit their applications, that was kiboshed by a note on the NEB website saying it would be down for the weekend for maintenance.

Stewart’s Plan B move in this seeming chess match was to make up packages for those in attendance, including a form to fill out and sign their consent to have his staff submit applications on their behalf at a later date.

He noted that people can either apply online or contact the NEB and have a package mailed out to them, with the deadline looming, but forms are not available to download and submit, limiting people’s options.

Among the myths Stewart sought to debunk is that “people have been told the process is difficult to get into but it’s not … It’s an 11-step process but only four of them require you to do anything.”

There was a wide range of people in attendance, from teenagers to seniors, as well as a good mix of people for whom English is a second language who noted that so far all of the NEB’s advertising about the process has been only in English.

“We know in Burnaby you need to advertise in more than one language” to get the word out, he said.

He also had seniors complaining about the online-only aspect of the process, saying if Stewart’s office had not called or mailed out information “they had no idea this was happening.”

Before the meeting on Saturday, Ivan Holmes, 84, said of the pipeline expansion, “I think the whole thing is ridiculous.”

A Burnaby resident since 1957, Holmes said he’d rather see more effort to pursue alternative energy sources like solar and wind power. He was frustrated that Saturday’s meeting was the only public forum on the pipeline proposal that he’d heard about.

“We are all concerned about the pipeline and how it will affect our properties,” said North Burnaby resident Renate Stuhler, who lives along the proposed pipeline route.

Stuhler said she’s been frustrated by the whole process so far—just an open house that didn’t really give her any straight answers about where exactly the pipeline would go in proximity to her property.

And one of the youngest people who attended was Hamish Clinton, a student at Alpha secondary, who said he got interested in the pipeline issue after his debate team at school discussed the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline project.

Clinton said he’s hoping to learn more about the pipeline going through Burnaby and to see more young people getting involved in the issue.

• Kennedy Stewart will be hosting an additional information meeting on Sunday, Feb. 9 from 1 to 3 p.m. at Confederation Community Centre, 4585 Albert St. in Burnaby. Info: 604-291-8863.

~ with files from Mario Bartel