Trans Mountain is again asking the Canada Energy Regulator for permission to bypass the City of Burnaby as it seeks to clear dozens of trees and gain access to restricted land in order to construct its controversial pipeline expansion.
The Crown pipeline corporation filed its request with the federal agency this week, alleging Burnaby has used its permitting powers to stymy the expansion for the past four years. Trans Mountain is asking the regulator to rule that these municipal measures are unconstitutional, in part because the project was given federal “paramountcy” by Ottawa.
In late 2020, the CER ruled that Trans Mountain did not need the city’s permission for some tree clearing work, but the corporation is now asking the regulator to expand that decision so it can cut down 86 more trees in three different areas. The new application, filed Aug. 3, is also asking for the project to gain new access to land on the other side of a railroad that its work crews are not allowed to cross.
Greg McDade, external legal counsel for Burnaby, said he doesn’t see any point in the community even participating in this latest motion with the regulator, given the city’s consecutive losses with similar challenges.
“The regulator has ruled on a number of occasions that, if Burnaby says no, they think the public interest is in the pipeline and they’re prepared to overrule [the city],” he said. “We don’t agree that there’s a stymieing happening here, Burnaby is exercising its jurisdiction appropriately and Trans Mountain doesn’t like it.”
Trans Mountain’s motion alleges that Burnaby refused to issue it a minor permit to bring equipment and materials to this area, which sits just south of the TransCanada Highway along the corridor already approved by the federal pipeline regulator and accepted by the city.
Mr. McDade said Burnaby already granted access to the land near the railroad to Trans Mountain, but the Crown corporation realized later that it needed to work on the other side as well so it applied for a second permit.
“This one was more harmful so they didn’t grant it,” he said of Burnaby’s permitting staff.
Burnaby councillor Alison Gu said Wednesday that bylaws were in place long before the expansion of the pipeline began and are meant to ensure a large swath of the community’s flora is protected.
“The fact that our bylaws are hindering the project simply indicate and demonstrate that this project is not in line with the well-being of our community,” Ms. Gu said.
The CER should take three to five weeks to resolve Trans Mountain’s motion, according to the company’s filing.
The $12.6-billion pipeline expansion is under construction following a series of court challenges and is expected to be completed by late next year. The project will triple the capacity of the existing pipeline from Edmonton to a shipping terminal in Burnaby, giving Alberta’s oil sands greater access to overseas markets.
The federal Liberal government bought the Trans Mountain expansion from then-owner Kinder Morgan in 2018. Ottawa paid Kinder Morgan Canada Ltd. $4.5-billion as the company prepared to halt the project because of regulatory and court delays.
In June, The Globe and Mail reported that Calgary-based Pembina Pipeline Corp. formed a 50-50 partnership with a coalition of First Nations and Métis representatives from communities along the route in order to bid for the pipeline. Pembina bought the remainder of Kinder Morgan Canada and other assets from its U.S. parent company after Trans Mountain was sold to Ottawa.
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