Too many questions unanswered at National Energy Board Hearings on Trans Mountain Project

Stephen Hazell

Stephen Hazell
Director of Conservation
and General Counsel

The National Energy Board’s review of the Trans Mountain Pipeline/Tanker Project has left too many questions unanswered. The $5.5 billion project would drastically increase the flow of bitumen through pipelines from Edmonton to Burnaby and increase tanker traffic in Vancouver’s harbour and the Salish Sea nearly seven-fold. Without adequate evidence of possible environmental effects, the National Energy Board (NEB) simply can’t properly complete the environmental assessment that the National Energy Board Act and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 demand.

On behalf of Nature Canada and BC Nature, the Environmental Law Centre (ELC) legal team challenged Trans Mountain’s evidence regarding the proposed project’s environmental effects in final oral submissions to the NEB in late January. Our lawyers pointed out several deficiencies in the evidence Trans Mountain submitted to the NEB such as: serious inadequacies in baseline data related to birds that could be impacted by an oil spill; limitations in the temporal and spatial extent of possible oil spills; and inadequate assessments of the cumulative effects of small but frequent discharges of oil over long time periods (“chronic oiling”).

Image of an Oil TankerTrans Mountain has dismissed the importance of baseline environmental data and cumulative environmental effects in assessing pipeline/tanker projects. Its failures to seriously examine key environmental risks associated with the proposed project (such as a potentially catastrophic marine oil spill) deprived the NEB of the information it requires to complete a proper environmental assessment.

Throughout the hearing process, NEB refused to allow Nature Canada/BC Nature the opportunity to cross-examine Trans Mountain on its evidence. In our final submissions, we pointed out that the NEB erred in denying cross examination and, as a result, they have not properly gathered the information they are required to in order to complete a lawful environmental assessment. The NEB has the authority to reopen the assessment process to cross examination. Given the government’s recent announcement that the interim principles for environmental assessments of pipelines will require evidence-based, scientific decision making, there appears to be no good reason for the NEB not to allow the evidence to be tested through cross examination.

The Trans Mountain Pipeline/Tanker Projects poses risks to ecosystems from the Prairies to the Salish Sea. We need to know what those risks really are.

For more information on the need for cross examination in the NEB hearings, visit here.
For more information on the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project, visit here.
For more information on Nature Canada submissions to the NEB, click here.
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