Groups and individuals with an interest in the proposed Trans Mountain pipeline expansion are already planning to seek intervener status at public hearings on the project expected to begin in 2014.
The locally based B.C. Grasslands Conservation Council intends to apply for such status, said executive director Scott Benton.
“What we’ve been waiting for is to find out what route they’ve picked,” Benton said. “They’re preferring a route through the Lac du Bois grasslands, so we’ll be taking a look at that.”
Intervener status offers participants the opportunity to present evidence at the hearings. They may also be questioned on that evidence. Interveners also have the right to receive all hearing documents.
Other participants may attend the hearings and submit letters of comment but cannot intervene in the proceedings.
National Energy Board spokeswoman Sarah Kiley said parties will be able to apply for intervener status as of mid-January, but not every applicant is accepted. The hearings are expected to take more than a year.
The NEB sets out specific criteria and some applications are rejected, Kiley said. Specifically, the NEB wants to hear from people who are directly affected by the project or who have relevant information or expertise.
After Kinder Morgan filed its application for the project on Monday, Green Party MLA Andrew Weaver and the party’s interim leader Adam Olsen announced their intention to seek intervener status.
They cited as concerns the proposed capacity of the expanded pipeline, almost double that of the Northern Gateway proposal, and increased tanker traffic that would result.
Weaver also expressed concern over shipment of diluted oilsands bitumen, saying there is no science that can predict how it would behave in marine environments.
Benton said the council wants to know about potential impacts on grassland habitat in terms of visibility and specific species.
“Species at risk are always a concern,” he said. “I’m sure they’re a concern to Trans Mountain, too. It’s the scale of those impacts of the pipeline as it passes through the grasslands.”
Anyone wishing to participate in the hearings or obtain NEB funding to enable participation should not wait to apply. Funding is available to assist with travel to hearings or hiring of expertise, legal or otherwise.
To sign up for email updates and learn more about participation, refer to the Major Applications tab at the website neb-one.gc.ca. For more information, contact Reny Chakkalakal, NEB hearing process adviser, at TransMountainPipeline.Hearing@neb-one.gc.ca or toll-free at 1-800-899-1265.