Kinder Morgan Canada Ltd. doesn’t have to abide by some bylaws in Burnaby, B.C., as the business starts construction on its controversial Trans Mountain oil pipeline, Canada’s top energy regulator says.
The National Energy Board said Thursday that the company isn’t required to comply with parts of the city’s bylaws over preliminary planning approvals and tree-cutting allows for work at its Burnaby storage terminal and a nearby temporary infrastructure site.
Kinder Morgan had asked the regulator to intervene after it complained about delays obtaining local permits required to proceed with construction on the7.4-billion pipeline. It said the city’s refusal to issue licenses raised “serious issues of authority” and that the firm objected on constitutional grounds.
In a brief statement, the committee said that the decision allows the company to begin work on both sites, “subject to other licenses and authorizations which may be required.”
The choice is a small victory for Kinder Morgan, though the NEB has yet to determine whether to set a special panel to quickly solve future permitting issues in accordance with the firm’s request.
Kinder Morgan has stated it needs clarity on allowing before ramping up spending on the 590,000-barrel-a-day growth, while cautioning that startup could be postponed by at least nine months, past September, 2020.
The business welcomed the decision.
“It strengthens the view that this federally approved project is in the national interest,” Kinder Morgan president Ian Anderson said in a statement.
The City of Burnaby and its mayor, Derek Corrigan, have been vocal opponents of the pipeline and have joined a separate legal challenge in the Federal Court of Appeal that also involves other municipalities, First Nations and environmental groups.
However, Mr. Corrigan has also insisted that the city has just followed its regular permitting process. He said the NEB decision was frustrating, but not surprising.
“It has been clear that the National Energy Board is dedicated to ensuring that these projects proceed and are ready to remove any obstacle that gets in their way,” he said, adding that he is worried this will not be the last example of the NEB predominant his town.
“They say they’re only taking both of these areas and removing Burnaby’s input, and other bylaws need to be obeyed, so that they are not able to proceed with impunity,” he said. “However, it does not bode well for any other bylaws being implemented.”
He said the city is awaiting the board’s full reasons to estimate the effects of the decision before considering whether to appeal.
Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, whose administration has intervened in the NEB hearings in addition to the Federal Court of Appeal case, said the ruling was a fantastic step forward.
“It probably means that the NEB has accepted our argument that this is a job that’s in the national interest and, because of this, we can not have human jurisdictions interfering with it,” Ms. Notley told reporters in Edmonton.
Ms. Notley’s support for the pipeline has put her at odds with her NDP counterparts in B.C., where the ruling New Democrats came to power earlier this year on a promise to do what they could to obstruct the project.
B.C. Environment Minister George Heyman said that he had been “shocked” by the NEB judgment.
“And honestly, on behalf of British Columbians, I am angry,” he explained in an interview.
“The NEB put a condition on Kinder Morgan’s job they needed to get permits from local authorities. They have now changed their particular requirements for this project. That’s precisely the sort of interference and one-sidedness within this process that led us into the Federal Court of Appeal to combat this project.”
Mr. Heyman noted that the growth still needs more than 1,000 licenses from the B.C. authorities, and he is worried how the NEB will manage subsequent permitting disputes.
With a report from James Keller in Vancouver