Pipeline Update

Since the Trans Mountain Expansion Project was announced it has proceeded under 3 companies, 2 federal governments, 2 federal approvals (after the court nullified the first one), 2 BC governments, 3 Alberta governments, and a change of regulator with accompanying changes to their enabling legislation and federal environmental assessment legislation.

transmountain_timeline.png

In Chilliwack the city government chose to only file a letter of comment in the facilities hearing, and on the issue of routing came out in favour of the route across Chilliwack, then strongly against, then for, and now ... well, at least looking at options.

WaterWealth was launched early 2013 with a focus on BC water law, but by necessity has been involved in the Trans Mountain project since our inception. A key element of our work has been to support public engagement in regulatory processes.

The need to champion public participation

In the 2015 federal election the Liberals promised to overhaul the National Energy Board. Following up on that promise, an Expert Panel on the Modernization of the National Energy Board was formed. The Panel released its report May 15, 2017. Among the findings:

“The broad perception shared with our Panel was that hearing proceedings are designed for lawyers and specialists, and that average citizens are not on a level playing field. Canadians told us that the design and conduct of hearings made them feel as though they were out of their depth.”

Further, the Panel wrote:

“The regulator should examine and reform its processes to achieve a higher degree of engagement and flexibility, toward the outcome that the public feel welcome and to enable the participation of interested parties who may not be experts in legal process.”

In keeping with these findings the Panel recommended:

“a Public Intervenor Office, based on successful models from other jurisdictions, to represent the interests and views of parties who wish to use the service, and to coordinate scientific and technical studies to the extent possible.”

Unsurprisingly, the government did not act on the recommendation for a Public Intervenor.

WaterWealth's work has taken a variety of forms – ‘Lunch and Learn’ events; hosting and co-hosting meetings of residents; sharing information through media, social media, email, phone, and digital conference; talking with people on their doorsteps and at public events, and presenting wherever invited.unfair.jpg Similar to the Expert Panel we’ve heard too many stories of frustration and disempowerment from individual homeowners forced into quasi-legal processes against a corporation that has government backing and teams of management, engineers, consultants, lawyers and staff to stack each hearing.

We’ve had some successes;

74statements.jpg🟢 Chilliwack had the greatest level of public involvement in the first round of statements of opposition to the route of the pipeline. Not because other areas don’t have issues, but because in Chilliwack residents were informed and supported to participate. Approximately 50% of all statements of opposition filed on the project were from Chilliwack. Another 30% were from Burnaby where the MP and the city government worked to inform and support residents.

🟢 Of seven post-approval route changes the company made under section 21 of the NEB Act only the one in Chilliwack got a full hearing -- because of the level of public engagement in Chilliwack.

🟢 In the 2019 round of statements of opposition a homeowner WaterWealth is working with achieved the only new hearing to include all three issues available in the list of issues possible under the CER Act (location, methods of construction, timing of construction).

🟢 Chilliwack’s District Parent Advisory Council (DPAC), also working with WaterWealth, was one of only three new hearings from the 2019 round to get two of the possible three issues ruled in scope.

(Most new hearings (13) are limited to only one issue, restrictions only applied in the 2019 round.)

We've also had some good efforts that didn’t quite get there;

DJI_0029_300.jpg🟡 Along with many other organizations and individuals, WaterWealth worked to hold Trans Mountain accountable for illegal and untested snow fence spawning deterrent installations. In a meeting with a BC deputy minister we were told repeatedly that they couldn’t treat Kinder Morgan any differently than everyone else -- not that anyone was asking them to. Continued pressure over a year and a half resulted in one ticket carrying a $230 fine for all seven installations in BC. We’re curious whether 'everyone else' gets one ticket for multiple offences, but that’s an issue on the backburner for now. We also took up the issue with the College of Applied Biology, but incredibly they ruled that a biologist carrying out actions that violated NEB conditions and BC's Water Sustainabilty Act did not violate the College's code of ethics.

🔴 In Kamloops, WaterWealth supported residents’ efforts toward a motion to city council that, had it passed, would have been the first move in Canada to make use of new powers under section 212 of the recently enacted CER Act. The goal was to have the old pipeline removed from a residential neighbourhood to instead join the new pipeline going around those homes. Regrettably the motion failed 7-1 as the majority chose to accept Trans Mountain’s claims that "There's really no limit to a pipeline's lifetime," and "Steel doesn't change appreciably." If the now 67 year old pipe -- built in 1953 with as little as 6.35 mm wall thickness – ever fails there, residents will no doubt remember who voted not to make it safer.

If you value public involvement in these processes and WaterWealth's efforts to fulfill that aspect of what should be the role of a legislated Public Intervenor, please consider becoming a sustaining donor. Donations we receive tend to be incredibly generous, but spotty. If even a modest percentage of our supporters gave the equivalent of a basic Netflix subscription monthly, we'd have a predictable base that at times could provide freedom from having to choose between doing the work and fundraising to do the work!

2020 - lots happening already!

January 16 the Supreme Court of Canada rejected BC’s reference case on the extent of provincial jurisdiction to protect the environment in the context of inter-provincial transport of goods.

January 28 WaterWealth was accompanied by a member of the DPAC executive and a professional biologist to meet with Chilliwack mayor, several councillors, and city staff about the pipeline. Following that meeting it was clear that the City is not interested in working with anyone on the issue, but they are hiring an outside contractor and it does seem like we’re at least heading in the same direction now, even if not paddling together.

January 30 WaterWealth attended a DPAC meeting and was formally approved to work with DPAC in their detailed route hearing.

January 31 the Canadian Energy Regulator issued two procedural directions and five (of seven) hearing orders for the remaining 23 detailed route hearings on project segments 5, 6, and 7.

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Key among those filings for us was "The WaterWealth Project (WaterWealth) remains an intervenor in the Hearing for the City of Chilliwack (MH-026-2020)." Not having to apply again was a pleasant surprise, laying to rest the uncertainty of being granted that standing.

February 4, the Federal Court of Appeal dismissed challenges by Tsleil-Waututh Nation, Squamish Nation, Coldwater Indian Band, and Ts’elxwéyeqw Tribes of the project's second federal approval. There were strong words at a press conference after the court decision. Chief Lee Spahan of Coldwater Indian Band, where they are also working to change the route to protect an aquifer drinking water source, repeated words he has said all along; “Water is life. Water is sacred. And for Coldwater, we will continue that fight to protect water.” There may be Supreme Court of Canada challenges still to come, but those take time. 

So, it looks like we’re in the home stretch on the work to protect our local infrastructure (and a whole lot more) from this federal infrastructure project. Evidence preparation and paper processes are under way. Hearings will run through to oral portions sometime this summer (dates tba).

finished.jpgSo long as the City does not withdraw from the hearings (they say they won't), we will at last get to make our case to the regulator that a route that puts at risk residential areas, schools, community wells, and locations of exceptional ecological value is not the “best possible” route that the CER Act calls for. Not when alternatives exist with none of those things.

Meanwhile we're heading again toward the starting line for citizen monitoring of Trans Mountain stream crossings. We’ve seen Trans Mountain's work around rivers and streams; blocking spawning where there wasn’t even any construction about to happen, turning a section of Stewart Creek into a brick half-pipe to repair a crossing where the old pipeline had lain exposed for years, and having a frac-out during directional drilling at the North Thompson #6 crossing replacement.

We hope to have independent, volunteer eyes-on for as much of Trans Mountain's work around streams as possible, within constraints of participant safety and the injunction against being near Trans Mountain's work. The hope is that people watching and recording will encourage a better standard of work from this Crown corporation, and to document and bear witness when there are failures.

nt7_b.jpgNorth Thompson River looking downstream toward the crossing
where the frac-out later resulted in drilling fluid into a salmon-bearing tributary
Pre-construction info & photos here

 


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commented 2020-02-06 17:05:12 -0800 · Flag
Good to see you are keeping up the fight to protect Chilliwack’s Aquifer. It seems like the only fight we may win now that the courts have approved the pipeline. I watched the presentations to the Supreme Court. I saw no comments made to First Nation Presenters but lawyers presenting for the Provincial Government to stop the pipeline were challenged often. It was obvious what side the Supreme Court was on but I was shocked it was so quick and had 100% support! Janet Pohl