Anti-pipeline views grow

Municipalities and residents in British Columbia are set to argue that the proposed route of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion would damage sensitive ecosystems, harm public parks and trails and adversely impact homeowners.

The National Energy Board will hold hearings starting Monday on the route that would run through Burnaby, Coquitlam and north Surrey. Burnaby is a major opponent of the project and has publicly battled Kinder Morgan Canada (TSX:KML).

Burnaby will present for three days at the hearings, saying in a statement it will demonstrate the "significant and unacceptable" financial, environmental and social risks of the company's proposed route through the city.

"Because of the damage and disruption it would cause to the city and Metro Vancouver's environment, economy and neighbourhoods — in perpetuity — the City of Burnaby is determined to ensure that this route is never approved," said Mayor Derek Corrigan in the statement.

The Government of Canada approved the 1,147-kilometre pipeline project in November 2016 along a roughly 150-metre wide corridor. The detailed route approval process will determine the exact placement of the new pipeline.

People who anticipated their lands may be adversely affected by the route were able to file statements of opposition. The National Energy Board began holding hearings on the route in late November and has approved some segments in eastern B.C. and Alberta.

The existing Trans Mountain pipeline has carried oil from near Edmonton to a marine terminal in Burnaby since 1953. The company tried to double the new line with the existing pipeline where possible, but in Burnaby, the old line runs beneath neighbourhoods and city streets, said spokeswoman Ali Hounsell.

The route in Coquitlam does not parallel the existing pipeline, said a Trans Mountain spokesperson.

She noted that the federal government's approval came with 157 conditions, including that the company create environmental protection plans and minimize impacts in sensitive areas. The company is also committed to returning any environment it has disturbed back to its previous state, including replanting trees, she said.

A group of Burnaby residents remain concerned about the project's impact on green space. 

The forested area is protected by a statutory covenant that obligates Shell to maintain it as a buffer. 

Shell Canada said it has been in touch with Kinder Morgan regarding their proposed pipeline route and discussions are ongoing.

The organization had raised a number of concerns about construction in a green space that borders 27 of its townhouses in Burnaby. But after an arbitrated meeting in December, Kinder Morgan addressed all its concerns, including committing to add an alternate path for children to walk to school, said Baker.

"From our perspective, the best option was to have a face-to-face conversation," she said. "They were very willing to accommodate and work with us going forward."

James Stevenson, a spokesman for the national energy board, said the board will work as expeditiously as possible but the standard timeline for a decision following route hearings is about three months.

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