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Saskatchewan joins provincial battle royale over Kinder Morgan permits

Kinder Morgan has had it up to here with the City of Burnaby holding up its Trans Mountain Expansion pipeline, and now every province from here to the coast is embattled in a legal battle royale.
Joe Sakic
The City of Burnaby, the terminus of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Expansion Pipeline, is using tree bylaws to stall a federally-approved interprovincial pipeline. Photo courtesy Kinder Morgan

Kinder Morgan has had it up to here with the City of Burnaby holding up its Trans Mountain Expansion pipeline, and now every province from here to the coast is embattled in a legal battle royale.

Burnaby hasn’t even granted permits to cut trees, for instance.

On Oct. 26, Kinder Morgan decided to go over the heads of Burnaby, which has been stalling any sort of approval, and asked the National Energy Board (NEB), which has federal authority and has approved the pipeline, to intervene. The pipeline also has federal government approval.

Kinder Morgan said in an Oct. 26 release, “After many months of working in good faith to obtain municipal permits from the City of Burnaby without success, we are asking the NEB to allow us to go ahead with work under the terms and conditions of the applicable certificate and NEB orders.

“The City’s failure to act in a timely manner raises serious issues of jurisdiction that we are compelled to bring to the Board’s attention. The project will provide important local, regional and national benefits and that is why we are also asking the NEB to establish a process for Trans Mountain to bring similar matters to the Board for expedited determination in the future. As previously disclosed, such measures are necessary to help mitigate a possible delay in the construction schedule. While we await the NEB’s determination, as always, our door remains open to the City of Burnaby and we would welcome the opportunity to discuss a solution.”

On Nov. 2, the government of British Columbia got into the act, backing the City of Burnaby.

“While this is a direct matter between the company and the City of Burnaby, the constitutional issues raised may result in restricting B.C.’s involvement in defending provincial interests in the future,” said British Columbia Attorney General David Eby. “That is why we have advised the NEB that the Province of B.C. will be participating in this hearing.”

Thomas Berger, QC, on behalf of the B.C.. government, has asked the NEB to dismiss outright Trans Mountain’s suggestion of abridged timelines for future applications by Trans Mountain to challenge decisions of municipalities and the Province in relation to permits for the project. This position, the B.C. government said in a release, is taken to ensure the Province has adequate opportunity to defend its decisions in the future.

“We have been clear and consistent that we will use every tool available to defend B.C.’s coast, and that is what we’re doing,” said British Columbia Environment and Climate Change Strategy Minister George Heyman. “Our first step was to appear as interveners in the Federal Court of Appeal hearing. We’ve also passed initial regulations to increase responsibility, transparency and accountability for those who move potentially dangerous liquid petroleum products through our province. We will continue to explore other legal ways to defend the interests of British Columbians against this damaging project.”

Then on Nov. 2, Alberta Premier Rachel Notley jumped into the fray, stating, “One jurisdiction does not have the right to obstruct a project of national importance, which is why we will take every legal measure necessary to protect Alberta's interests and see this pipeline completed.

"To that end, earlier today, the government of Alberta advised the (National Energy Board) of its intent to participate fully to support Kinder Morgan in its dispute with Burnaby.”

The Attorney General of Saskatchewan, concerned a British Columbia municipality is holding up a project that would create thousands of jobs for Canadians, has applied for intervenor status in the Trans Mountain Pipeline proceedings currently before the National Energy Board, the government of Saskatchewan said on Nov. 3 in a release.

“We are disappointed the City of Burnaby is deliberately slowing down an important project for an industry that is only now recovering from the severe slowdown caused by low oil prices,” Justice Minister and Attorney General Don Morgan said. “Saskatchewan has consistently taken the position that once an interprovincial pipeline has been approved by the federal government, provinces and municipalities should not be able to interfere.”

The Saskatchewan government said the pipeline is clearly an interprovincial project that falls under federal jurisdiction by virtue of The Constitution Act, 1867. Trans Mountain has asked that written submissions on this issue be provided to the National Energy Board by Monday, November 6, 2017.  Saskatchewan has asked the board for an extension on this.

“Our government will continue to advocate for an expansion of pipeline capacity across Canada,” Morgan said.  “Our energy companies need to get their product to tidewater to ensure they receive the best price possible.  All Canadians benefit from a thriving energy sector, including the citizens of Burnaby.”