Citizens Challenge Restrictions On Energy Board Hearings

By November 4, 2014Guest Columns, Hot Topic

Citizens file suit with Federal Court of Appeals challenging restrictions on Energy Board hearings
By Ben West. ForestEthics Advocacy is supporting the efforts of citizens pursuing a legal challenge to restrictions on the National Energy Board’s hearings into the proposed Kinder Morgan pipeline. The legal challenge has now been officially filed with the Federal Court of Appeals.

Ben West pictured at right

The plaintiffs contend that, following sweeping legislation introduced two years ago by the federal government, the National Energy Board Act has unduly restricted public comment on pipeline proposals and is unconstitutional. They are also challenging National Energy Board rules which prevent any discussion of climate change and the implications of expanding tar sands development at the upcoming hearings for Kinder Morgan’s proposed Trans Mountain Expansion Project.

“The Harper government seems to be bending over backwards to help these pipeline companies push through these unpopular tar sands export projects with less public scrutiny and participation,” said Ben West, Tar Sands Campaign Director with ForestEthics Advocacy.

Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline expansion proposal is currently in the NEB review process. The pipeline would mean an expansion of Alberta crude shipped to the BC coast from approximately 300,000 to as much as 900,000 barrels/day, with the new capacity focused on export.

This case is one of several court cases related to this controversial project. Legal challenges to the review process have also been filed by the Tsleil-Waututh First Nation, whose traditional territories and waters of Burrard Inlet are where Kinder Morgan’s export terminal is located. The City of Burnaby has also filed a federal Court challenge to the NEB’s ruling that Kinder Morgan can proceed with surveying work on Burnaby Mountain along the proposed pipeline route.

“Not only have they limited public participation into the NEB process but the scope of the review is far too narrow,” said co-plaintiff Dr. Lynne M. Quarmby, a Professor of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry at Simon Fraser University. “Climate impacts of this vast expansion of fossil fuel export are not even being considered, which in itself makes a full environmental assessment impossible.”

“This challenge is about basic democratic rights for citizens affected by these pipeline proposals,” explained John Vissers, a co-plaintiff who was denied intervenor status at the NEB even though his family home and property is next to the Kinder Morgan tank farm in Abbotsford, BC.

“We’re proud to support this citizen-led effort to challenge legislation that is designed to restrict democratic input from the people affected by these pipelines. This case has implications not only for this dangerous pipeline proposal but ultimately it could determine if we have the ability to decide for ourselves what is in the public interest in this country. That’s why it’s such an important case,” said West.

Additional background on the legal challenge is available here.

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