Earlier this week, Ecojustice lawyers filed a letter in full support of a request Kinder Morgan made to the National Energy Board.
Yes, you read that right.
Our clients, Living Oceans Society and Raincoast Conservation Foundation are still gravely concerned about Kinder Morgan's proposed Trans Mountain Expansion Project. They want to ensure that the project, which would twin the 60-year-old pipeline and triple its capacity to almost 890,000 barrels per day for export to Asian markets, is not given the green light by the board, and are worried about the impacts of this expansion on the environment and communities in British Columbia and beyond.
That is why we are supporting Kinder Morgan's request for 23 additional days to answer the more than 10,000 questions that 122 intervenors have asked of the company as part of this review.
As intervenors, our clients want Kinder Morgan to provide as much information as possible about this proposal. Accordingly, we have asked the board to take it one step further, and apply provisions in the National Energy Board Act that allow it to "stop the clock" on this review, so that Kinder Morgan not only can answer the 10,000 questions, but also provide additional information and fill in information gaps that are missing from their proposal.
Our letter included a list of at least 33 studies or commitments by the company that have not been provided as part of its application. Some of these documents are studies that Kinder Morgan has promised will be done later this year; early next year or in some cases; after the review has been completed.
Recently, we wrote about how several critical elements of the board hearing process have been eliminated from the Kinder Morgan review, including the fact that there will be no cross-examination of evidence and no oral hearings in affected communities.
The time limits are also exceedingly short -- much shorter than they have ever been for a proposal of this magnitude. The changes are a result of a new 15-month limit on review hearing processes introduced as part of the federal government's 2012 omnibus budget bill.
The board, in its haste to keep this review within the 15-month time frame, has decided to give Kinder Morgan 14 additional days, not the 23 they had asked for.
We are mystified that with so much at stake, with the risks of this project being so high, the board would quibble over nine days. We would have expected the board to err on the side of good process and give Kinder Morgan the extra time to answer the questions that have been asked by municipalities, landowners, local businesses, First Nations and environmental organizations.
And if the board won't give the company, whose application is at issue here, extra time to provide necessary and important information to a broad array of intervenors, governments, First Nations and the public, then what does this mean for the next steps in the process?
As of today, we are in agreement with Kinder Morgan: more time is required to ensure that the information upon which the board will ultimately base its recommendation is as thorough and complete as possible. Now we have to wait and see whether the board will sacrifice the public interest to the government's altar of efficiency.
This piece was written by Ecojustice staff lawyer Karen Campbell. Ecojustice is one of Canada's leading charities using the law to protect and restore Canada's environment. Learn more at ecojustice.ca.