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Constitutional challenge filed against NEB pipeline review

An Abbotsford man is a member of a group which launched a constitutional challenge Tuesday to the National Energy Board (NEB) review of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline.

The motion asserts that the NEB review process unfairly restricts public participation as a result of process design, unduly rejects participant applications and refuses to hear concerns related to climate change or oil sands development.

John Vissers is a 25-year resident of Sumas Mountain, and his property borders the Sumas terminal that the Trans Mountain project seeks to expand.

He applied for intervenor status but was “astonished” when he was denied, with no explanation provided.

The $5.4-billion project would twin the 60-year-old oil pipeline that runs from northern Alberta to Burnaby, nearly tripling capacity to 890,000 barrels per day. The second 1,150-kilometre line would carry mainly diluted bitumen for export to Asia.

Vissers is able to submit a letter of comment, but can’t speak at the NEB hearings scheduled for next year.

The Abbotsford resident has been an intervenor during the Sumas Energy 2 discussions about 10 years ago, and he is surprised at the difference between then and now.

“They listened to everyone,” he said.

The group’s constitutional challenge said in its statement of facts that Parliament amended the NEB Act in 2012, which gave the board “the authority to dramatically limit who may make submissions about a proposed project … This board now does not have to hear from anyone who is not ‘directly affected’ …”

Josh Paterson, the executive director of the BC Civil Liberties Association said, “Now, the National Energy Board and the federal government have changed the rules, keeping out what people have to say. In a democracy, we should be encouraging participation, not building walls to keep people out of public decision-making.”

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