- Our Town
Islands Trust applies as a commenter on pipeline expansion
The Islands Trust is among one of the more than 2,000 applicants hoping have their opinions heard at a set of National Energy Board hearings into the expansion of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline. The Trust had made a formal request to the NEB that they extend the deadline for application, but the request was denied.
“I know we are not the only ones who have made such a request,” says Sheila Malcolmson, Council Chair of the Islands Trust. “We would have liked to have had more time to make the application so that we could have more public debate surrounding the issue prior to making our submission.”
The NEB’s deadline for submitting an application on this matter was February 12th. Malcolmson says the Islands Trust was not informed of this until January 14th, which left, as stated in the letter requesting an extension, “an insufficient amount of notice for an elected body with accountability to taxpayers to make such a significant decision.”
The Islands Trust requested that the deadline be extended until March 7th, so that the Council could discuss the issue at its meeting taking place between March 4th and 6th.
Malcolmson says that the request was denied promptly, and the Islands Trust did manage to get their application in prior to the deadline.
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also requested a deadline extension (the risk of an oil spill caused by increased tanker traffic in along coastal waters is of significant concern to the state of Washington) and was also rejected. However, the EPA did not manage to get its submission in prior to the deadline.
In applying to participate in the hearings, the Islands Trust chose the role of a commenter on the Kinder Morgan project.
“As an intervenor, we will have the opportunity to make a very thorough written submission outlining our concerns about marine safety and the increase in tanker traffic that the pipeline will bring to our waters,” says Malcolmson. “As our members are not situated along the actual route of the pipeline, and the hearings are actually focused on the pipeline itself and not tanker traffic, we decided to use this particular method for stating our case. We have a very limited budget and we want to use a variety of approaches to change policies on oil spills and tankers. We didn’t want to put all our eggs in one basket, with these hearings alone.”
The Islands Trust could have applied to be an intervenor, as the City of Vancouver has. Malcolmson says that at the NEB hearings for the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline, intervenors essentially got the chance to hold something comparable to the trial to state their case, hiring lawyers to cross-examine expert witnesses. All of this was open to public viewing.
“But we have no idea what the process is going to look like this time around,” says Malcolmson. “The rules for these hearings changed as part of the 2012 federal budget, and we have no idea what the new process is going to look like. That’s another reason we wanted the extension.”
Malcolmson says that the National Energy Board will review the Islands Trust application to be a commenter on the Trans Mountain expansion, along with all the other applications, and let them know in September of next year if they qualify to submit their comments. The NEB is expected to make its comments to the federal government, based on information it gathers in the hearings, in the spring of 2015.