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Kinder Morgan will have to wait a bit longer than it was hoping to resolve its struggle to get the provincial and municipal permits it needs to proceed with a major west coast pipeline expansion project.
Canada's federal pipeline regulator, the National Energy Board (NEB), rejected the Texas-based energy company's proposal to cut off arguments and limit the debate about a request to quash provincial and municipal powers to protect their environment and territory.
Kinder Morgan has asked the NEB to intervene with the other levels of government to prevent them from delaying construction on the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project by denying required permits. It also asked the NEB to give interested stakeholders until Monday, Nov. 6 to submit their arguments about its request, a deadline that was rejected on Friday evening by the regulator.
The NEB has powers of a federal court and would be able to overrule provincial or municipal laws if its members agree with Kinder Morgan's arguments.
"The Chair of the Board has authorized a Panel to deal with this matter," wrote Sheri Young, secretary of the Board in a letter sent to Kinder Morgan. "Given that today's date is Friday, 3 November 2017, and that Trans Mountain proposed a step for attorneys general to make filings on Monday, 6 November 2017, the Board wishes to advise all interested parties that the Board’s schedule to consider these matters will not include any filing deadline of 6 November 2017."
The NEB said it would explain how it plans to review Kinder Morgan's request in a new letter to be sent out "shortly."
B.C. Environment Minister George Heyman said that the regulator should reject Kinder Morgan's request, noting that it would "short-circuit" his province's constitutional powers to protect the environment. The minister also said that the company's recent actions have been "reprehensible" since it started construction activity in seven B.C. streams and disrupted fish habitat, before it had permission to begin this work.
Kinder Morgan has said its actions were meant to protect the environment and prevent fish from spawning in areas that would later be affected by construction.
The federal government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau approved the Kinder Morgan pipeline last year, requiring the company to meet 157 conditions in order to proceed with the project. Trudeau has defended the project, saying it is critical for the Canadian economy to create a path to new markets for the country's slumping oil producers that must now sell almost all of their oil in Canada and the United States.
While the B.C. government is opposed to Trans Mountain because it is concerned about the environmental and economic risks to the west coast, the provincial governments of Alberta and Saskatchewan say that the pipeline is in the national interest because it can generate jobs while operating safely.
Kinder Morgan has warned that the project could fail if it is unable to resolve ongoing delays that have been triggered by slow approvals for permits. It has also warned the NEB in a legal letter that it can no longer "tolerate further delay."
If built, the new expansion would triple the capacity of existing pipeline infrastructure to up to 890,000 barrels of crude oil per day from Alberta's oilsands producers to the west coast of B.C.