It is unsurprising that few are aware of the detailed route process on Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain Expansion Project. Notices of the process have not been approved by the National Energy Board (as of Tuesday evening, January 31) and so Trans Mountain has not begun serving them to landowners on the route or publishing them in local papers.
Meanwhile Trans Mountain has been hand-delivering glossy four page fliers in Chilliwack, titled "Protecting the Chilliwack Aquifer" and "Chilliwack Project Update". Much of the content of the fliers is the sort of advertising one would expect, however the project update flier contains the statement "Other route locations are no longer under consideration." It is hard to imagine that statement being intended to do anything but mislead Chilliwack residents, coming as it does just before the start of the detailed route process by which the National Energy Board will determine whether the route should be approved or not.
The same flier under the heading "Next Steps: Plan, Profile and Book of Reference" does mention some of the detailed route process, however what it fails to say is perhaps more important than what it does say. The flier fails to mention:
- that people with an interest in the lands the pipeline is proposed to cross can file written objections with the National Energy Board within 30 days of detailed route notices being served and published;
- that the NEB will follow up on those objections with hearings to determine whether the proposed route for the pipeline is in fact the best route for the pipeline, and;
- while the flier does mention that the NEB has a guide to help people understand their rights in the process, it gives only the web address of the NEB's home page, not the web address of the guide.
Regarding whether or not the pipeline route is in fact finalized, a January 26 email from the National Energy Board Project Manager clarifies:
"As we discussed on the phone the other day, the final route is not determined until it is approved by the NEB. The step to provide notification is still to come, and people can oppose the route at that point. If they meet the requirements of the NEB Act, a detailed route hearing will occur to decide if the route should be approved or not.”
So contrary to what Texas-based Kinder Morgan would have us believe, the Canadian pipeline regulator says that the route is not yet final and that you have rights under the National Energy Board Act to oppose the proposed route.
The actual link to the NEB guide for landowners and the public is: http://neb-one.gc.ca/prtcptn/lndwnrgd/index-eng.html
The steps of the detailed route process are;
- Trans Mountain file a sample Plan, Profile and Book of Reference, and sample section 34 notices with the NEB. They did that December 9. There is one sample section 34 notice of the type Trans Mountain will deliver to landowners right on the route of the pipeline, and another of the type to be published in the newspaper.
- NEB approve those sample documents. That hasn't happened yet (as of Tuesday Jan 31) so the final notices may differ from the sample ones linked to above.
- Once approved, Trans Mountain will serve notices to landowners on the route and publish them in local papers. In Chilliwack watch the Progress for that publication. Trans Mountain are only required to publish it once.
- Once notices are done, anyone with an interest in the lands of the pipeline route has 30 days to file objections in writing.
"Interest in the lands" is not limited to land owners, and may be fairly widely interpreted by the NEB panel. This process is not about whether or not the pipeline project should be built. That, so far as the NEB is concerned, was decided in the main hearing on the project which concluded with the NEB recommendation that the project receive federal approval. Subsequent to that recommendation the project did receive federal approval and a certificate of public convenience and necessity. That was what triggered this detailed route process. In this process objections may be made regarding;
- the location of the route, and/or;
- methods of construction, and/or;
- timing of construction.
- WaterWealth would like everyone whose homes or businesses get their water from the City of Chilliwack or Yarrow Waterworks systems or from private wells in the Sardis-Vedder Aquifer to object to the pipeline route crossing the Sardis-Vedder Aquifer and the City of Chilliwack's Protected Groundwater Zone, and passing under the Vedder River upstream of Yarrow Waterworks wells.
- People whose children attend schools on or near the route might object to the the risks it could pose to children's health.
- People who live where Trans Mountain intend to use directional drilling to put the pipe under properties where they can't fit machinery in to dig a trench might object on the basis that if they can't dig to put the pipeline in they wouldn't be able to dig to service it when sooner or later in-line inspections indicate a problem in that portion of the pipe.
- Objections the NEB consider valid and relevant to this stage of the process (meaning they address location of the route or methods/timing of construction) get a public hearing. The normal process is for the NEB to book some place like a community centre to hold the hearings in, then for each person who filed a written objection to get their own mini-hearing to make their case that the proposed route is not the best route.
- After the hearings the NEB decides if the proposed route is the best route. If they rule that it is not the best route then there will be a process to identify a new route, and the route finalization process repeats.
in WaterWealth's view the aquifer that supplies the potable water every home and business in Chilliwack depends on should be an indisputable barrier to the pipeline project. A route that puts the water supply of a growing city at risk cannot be the best route. One alternative might be to run the pipeline along Highway 1, whether on some reasonable route alongside the highway right-of-way or if necessary even in the highway right-of-way as it does in many areas between Hope and Chilliwack. If convenience of construction in steep terrain is reason enough to go along the highway, surely the safety of the water supply for some 80,000 people is at least as good a reason.
A route along the highway would provide the company some cost savings and advantages;
- They would not have to use the heavier pipe that they agreed to use to cross the aquifer.
- The need to do directional drilling to go under homes would be eliminated as the pipeline could make its way across open land along the highway instead of so close between people's homes that they can't get an excavator in to dig a trench.
- The Vedder Mountain Fault, which lies close to the current route's crossing of the Vedder River and which is one of four fault lines on the route flagged by Natural Resources Canada as being of particular concern would be avoided, and with it the need for extra engineering for that seismic risk.
- Those savings could help offset the cost of also decommissioning the existing 63-year old pipeline that is crossing the aquifer now and running it in the new trench around the aquifer along with the new pipeline. In that case repairs needed on the existing 63-year old pipeline in the section being decommissioned would no longer be necessary, again providing savings that could apply to the re-routing.
- Emergency response would be simplified with crews and equipment able to access the pipeline from the highway in the event of a spill rather than having to deal with residential neighborhoods or forested areas along the Vedder River.
Of course how it all might shake out in the company's balance sheets on this 1179 km, $6.8-billion project pales in significance compared to the benefit to our home. We who call Chilliwack home would not just hope that the water supply we trust to be there every day is safe from spills from these two pipelines, we would know that it is safe. The opportunity to remove this risk from the water supply must not be missed.
If you want to make sure you do not miss the publication of the section 34 notice for the detailed route process you can sign up to keep informed at the bottom our 'Not On The Aquifer' page, www.waterwealthproject.com/nota
Check the "Send me email updates" box to be kept up to date on the process and the work to have these pipelines moved off of the aquifer.