The National Energy Board (NEB) has issued a 533-page report recommending approval of the Trans Mountain Expansion Project, subject to 157 conditions.
The federal government now has seven months to give an answer on the project. In January, the province of B.C. formally declined to endorse the project, citing concerns over oil spill response and prevention as the major factor in its decision. However, Alberta has come out in favour of the pipeline.
The Board recommendation followed a public hearing process that included a scientific and technical examination of all the evidence brought before the three-member NEB panel. The board completed an environmental assessment of the project in accordance with its authority under the National Energy Board Act (NEB Act) and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act 2012.
Through the public hearing process the Board considered evidence and arguments made for and against Trans Mountain's application to construct and operate the project, including information regarding the consultation undertaken with Indigenous groups, the potential impacts and proposed mitigation measures. The board then considered the benefits and burdens associated with the project, attempting to balance various interests and factors, before determining whether, in its opinion, the project is in the Canadian public interest.
According to the board, taking into account all the evidence, considering all relevant factors, and given that there are considerable benefits nationally, regionally and to some degree locally, the benefits of the project outweigh the residual burdens.
The board's recommendation report is one of the factors that Governor in Council will consider when making the final decision on whether or not the Project should proceed.
The Trans Mountain Expansion Project proposes to expand the existing Trans Mountain pipeline system between Edmonton, AB and Burnaby, B.C., increasing the capacity of the existing Trans Mountain Pipeline System from 300,000 barrels per day (bpd) to 890,000 bpd.
According to the NEB, almost 90 per cent of the pipeline route for the Project parallels existing disturbance, which will reduce the need for new disturbance, and minimize the potential impacts of construction.
The Project includes approximately 987 km of new pipeline, new and modified facilities such as pump stations and tanks, and the reactivation of 193 km of existing pipeline. The Westridge Marine Terminal would also be expanded under the proposal.
The 157 conditions include regulatory and/or overarching requirements as well as requirements pertaining to project engineering and safety; emergency preparedness and response; environmental protection; people, communities and lands; economics and financial responsibility; and, project-related marine shipping.
The hearing began on April 2, 2014 when the Board determined the project application was complete and released its Hearing Order. There were two excluded periods in which the Board requested more information from Trans Mountain in order to proceed with the hearing. The hearing record closed on February 17, 2016 when Trans Mountain filed its final written reply argument.