June 29,2012 Burnaby NewsLeader
The general corridor, if approved, for the proposed Trans Mountain pipeline expansion will also serve as a "potential expropriation zone," says Burnaby-Douglas NDP MP Kennedy Stewart.
As reported in the NewsLeader, Kinder Morgan Canada will seek approval for a 150-metre-wide (492-foot-wide) general corridor as part of its application for its proposed expansion of the pipeline from Edmonton to Burnaby.
If approved by the National Energy Board (NEB), it would then seek approval for a specific route within that corridor, that typically requires a right-of-way 18-metres (60 feet) wide.
"If they get that area approved, that is the area in which they would legally be allowed to expropriate," Stewart said. "It's probably the most important decision."
For perspective, 150 metres is longer than a CFL football field. Stewart likened it to a 40-lane highway, or five to six times the width of Hastings Street.
"It's a huge zone ... They could really build [the twinned pipeline] within that 150 metres."
Stewart said Kinder Morgan stated that was the potential area for expropriations during the public forum on the proposed pipeline expansion hosted by St. Timothy Anglican Church in North Burnaby Wednesday night.
About 200 people attended the forum, where speakers included Stewart, Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan, and representatives from Kinder Morgan, Chevron and the Tsleil-Waututh First Nation.
Kinder Morgan's commercial tolling application filed Friday with the NEB presents the first opportunity for public consultations on the project, Stewart said.
It's an opportunity whose window could be shrinking fast in light of significant changes to the application process included in the federal omnibus budget bill C38, set to pass in the Senate any day now.
Changes including limiting the time for the process, said Stewart. In the past, the process for such projects could take four to five years or, in the case of the Mackenzie Valley pipeline, 20 years.
Bill C38 would limit the application and consultation process to no longer than two years, as well as limit who can participate to only those with local interest, which is still undefined, he said.
"Even if the National Energy Board says no, this isn't a good project, they've changed the rules now so the [Natural Resources] Minister can actually override the National Energy Board. That's a very important change."
And it's no secret where the federal Conservative government's preferences lie.
"I've asked a number of questions in the House of Commons to Conservatives about this," said Stewart. "They're pro-pipeline, they support these [projects]. I asked them quite straightforwardly, 'do you support the Kinder Morgan project' and they say yes."
If the NEB approves the company's general corridor, "within this 150 metres Kinder Morgan really has a blank cheque to make their pipeline go through," he said. "They won't use all of that 150 metres, they'll only use 18 to 30 metres in there, but it really limits the rights of property owners significantly."
For its part, Kinder Morgan is in the early stages of its consultation process, which is set to get fully underway in September.
"At Wednesday night’s panel, we were pleased to have the opportunity to answer questions and hear from local residents," said Lexa Hobenshield, the company's external relations manager, by email. "We have always said that local input is critical to our plans. We encourage local residents to continue to remain involved – our website is at www.transmountain.com and those with questions or concerns can reach us at 1.866.514.6700 or email@example.com.
"Our focus will be to plan to build the expanded pipeline safely, while minimizing impacts to landowners and neighbours as well as environmental impacts," Hobenshield said.
As for Stewart's description of the corridor as a potential expropriation zone, she said only, "We have had longstanding relationships with our landowners and neighbours and will continue to operate the pipeline for many years to come – so it is our intention to do what we’ve always done, treating landowners fairly and equitably.
"Through studies and our engagement process in the coming year, we will determine a proposed corridor to submit to the NEB for approval. We will try to address individually impacted landowner’s questions and concerns through a comprehensive consultation process."