A date has been set for the visit of a government-led panel in Abbotsford to discuss the proposed expansion of the Trans Mountain Pipeline that runs for 30 kilometres through the city, but concerns have been raised about a lack of notification to those wishing to participate.
The federal government has convened a special ministerial panel that will visit several communities along the pipeline’s route and hear from residents and organizations affected.
The National Energy Board (NEB) has already recommended the approval of the pipeline, subject to 157 conditions, but the federal government will have the final say and is expected to make its decision by the end of the year. The project would see the capacity of the pipeline nearly tripled, and new facilities would be added along the route, including in Abbotsford, where another tank would be built at Kinder Morgan’s Sumas Mountain tank facility. Kinder Morgan also operates a pump station on Sumas Prairie.
The panel, which began hearing submissions on July 7 in Calgary, will visit Abbotsford on July 26. Specific times and locations for the meeting have not been set, but the first session is expected to revolve around an invitational roundtable comprising local government officials, while the second will include local non-governmental organizations (NGO).
The City of Abbotsford had previously expressed concerns about the cost the expansion project would impose on municipalities, although following the NEB decisions Mayor Henry Braun said discussions with the company and conditions recommended by the NEB will alleviate some of those issues. The Fraser Valley Regional District had also provided submissions to the NEB and is another possible local government participant.
Several local non-governmental groups had also expressed concerns with the pipeline.
An organization representing local farmers called the Collaborative Group of Landowners Affected by Pipelines has requested compensation for the effect of the project and the pipeline’s upkeep on their land. A member said they have been approved to participate as an NGO.
PIPE UP, a Fraser Valley-based group that has opposed the pipelines for environmental reasons, has also applied to take part in the panel discussions.
“PIPE UP are trying to participate in Chilliwack, Abbotsford and Langley because there are different issues in different communities,” member Lynn Perrin said.
However, she said the process to apply has been unclear, and it’s not yet known when members will be able to present.
The panel will hear submissions on three other days in the Fraser Valley. An invitational roundtable for landowners is set for the morning of July 21 at the Coast Chilliwack Hotel. A roundtable with representatives from local First Nations groups will follow at 12:30 p.m. However, concerns have also been expressed about a lack of information on that meeting.
“They have committed a fairly major faux pas,” Cheam Chief Ernie Crey said Monday. “No invitations have been sent around to First Nations.”
Crey later said that a source in Ottawa told him invitations to local chiefs and councils were to be mailed earlier this week.
“As you know, the panel sits in Chilliwack on July 21,” he said. “This is a shabby treatment of the bands and hardly measures up to the court rulings which have pronounced on what constitutes proper and meaningful consultations with First Nations.”
Mayor Sharon Gaetz said Monday that neither the City of Chilliwack nor the Fraser Valley Regional District had been formally invited to the panel’s meeting in Chilliwack either.
The News asked Natural Resources Canada which groups had been approved to take part in the panel roundtables. While no answer was available before The News went to press with Friday’s paper, a spokesperson later wrote in an email.
“Stakeholders, Indigenous groups and the public are invited to take part in panel roundtables taking place in Chilliwack and Abbotsford. Speaking times will be shared to allow an equal voice for all those present at meetings and to hear from as many people as possible. Generally, presenters will be asked to limit their comments to 3 to 5 minutes in the interest of time.”
There will also be an online questionnaire available for those unable to meet panel members, and written comments can be provided via email.
The panel’s members include former Tsawwassen Chief Kim Baird, University of Winnipeg president and vice-chancellor Annette Trimbee, and former Yukon Premier Tony Penikett. Their job will be to report back to Minister of Natural Resources Jim Carr.
“We look forward to hearing from Canadians and communities along the proposed TMX pipeline and shipping route,” the panel said in a Natural Resources Canada press release. “We will carefully review and consider all input received to report back to Minister Carr this November on what we have heard.”
– with files from the Chilliwack Times