Energy board approves pipeline expansion

Pipeline approval might mean a Kinder Morgan payout for TRU and Kamloops

Kinder Morgan’s proposed route for its pipeline expansion through Kamloops. (Kinder Morgan)

Kinder Morgan’s proposed route for its pipeline expansion through Kamloops. (Kinder Morgan)

The National Energy Board has recommended that Kinder Morgan’s proposed Trans Mountain pipeline be approved with conditions.

The proposed pipeline is mostly an expansion of the existing pipeline that runs from Edmonton to Burnaby, including a stretch along the North Thompson River and through Kamloops city limits.

Along with its approval, the National Energy Board also recommended 157 conditions, which pertain to regulatory matters, safety, environmental protection and emergency preparedness and response.

But while the NEB decision signals approval at the federal level, there are still hurdles at the provincial level.

“We are not yet in a position to consider support for any heavy-oil pipeline in B.C.,” said Environment Minister Mary Polak following the announcement.

Polak noted that the province’s five conditions to approve the pipeline, which include Aboriginal consultation, environmental safety and economic concerns, still haven’t all been met.

“Meeting all five conditions will be a challenge. We set the bar high for a reason. We need to ensure B.C.’s concerns around the environment, First Nations’ participation and overall economic benefit are taken seriously,” Polak said following the decision.

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson told CBC’s The House that the decision was “incredibly disappointing” and called the NEB process a “sham.”

The National Energy Board has long been the target of criticism over the abundance of former industrialists on its board. In a December 2015 report out of the Auditor General of Canada’s office, auditors said that the NEB wasn’t doing enough to track company implementation of approval conditions and that it wasn’t following up with compliance and regulatory requirements.

Both TRU and Kamloops stand to benefit if the pipeline is constructed.

In February of 2015, Kinder Morgan made an agreement with the City of Kamloops that would land the city $700,000 if the pipeline project is approved and constructed. Kinder Morgan later struck the same deal with TRU, but for $500,000 intended for scholarships to be doled out over 20 years.

The two conditional payments are part of Kinder Morgan’s $4.5 million-plus Community Benefit Agreement plan that has offered money to more than a dozen communities along the proposed pipeline route.