Residents Sidelined

Burnaby gets a lot of press in relation to Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain Expansion Project. Meanwhile Chilliwack actually produced the greatest number of statements of opposition to the route of the project, with almost half of all statements filed with the NEB on the over 1100 km project.

Typically each person who files a statement of opposition that meets the requirements of the NEB Act gets a hearing to make their case before an NEB panel. How would the NEB handle the volume of statements of opposition filed from Chilliwack?

sign_and_wells_300w.jpgWell, they'd exclude almost everyone from the detailed route process, declaring concerns about our drinking water sources to be "general concerns". Which is what they did March 13. Incredibly they issued the hearing order for our area without having ruled on Kinder Morgan's realignment application in one of the most critical parts of the proposed route in Chilliwack! It's a vital time to give the City your input. Contact info at the bottom of this post!

The proposed pipeline is in 7 major segments with varying numbers of sub-segments. Chilliwack is crossed by segments 6.2 to 6.4. Kinder Morgan applied for a realignment in segment 6.3 where they had initially planned to go in a BC Hydro right-of-way. Inexplicably they chose an alignment between two 500 kV circuits where there would be the greatest possible electrical issues!

After what Kinder Morgan claim was two years working with BC Hydro to make that alignment work, BC Hydro simply refused to let the pipeline go there. However Hydro said the pipe could go along the south edge of their right-of-way, alongside 230 kV lines.

segments_61-64_seg63_700w.jpg

Instead of applying for a route change to go in the alignment BC Hydro said was acceptable, Kinder Morgan applied to go to the old Trans Mountain right-of-way, spending over a year so far on that option for this 1.8 km bit. (And some make the claim BC is delaying the project!)

If approved, the realignment would take the new pipeline out of the BC Hydro right-of-way and instead put it across an elementary school and through residential neighbourhoods where the NEB questioned whether it is even possible to construct and where, according to Kinder Morgan's evidence, in the event of later emergency "permanent structures" (ie houses) might have to be removed. It would also move the new pipeline significantly closer to four City drinking water wells.

One can't help but wonder why Kinder Morgan keeps picking the worst possible options! The realignment application was strongly opposed by WaterWealth and the City of Chilliwack of course, for the risk it would bring to City water sources and to the safety of area residents. The hearing was adjourned January 18, 2018. We are waiting for the NEB's ruling.

Yet even though we don't know what the route will be in the middle of Chilliwack, the NEB went ahead March 13, 2018 and issued the hearing order for the major segment 6! They issued a schedule for the process for segment 6.7 and 6.8 in Abbotsford and Langley, leaving the schedule undetermined for segments 6.1 to 6.6. The NEB say they'll figure out the process when it happens if the realignment hearing for 6.3 goes against Kinder Morgan.

With the segment 6 hearing order they also eliminated almost everyone who has tried to have a say in the route of the project. This was unexpected and extremely disappointing for WaterWealth after some 5 years of working in the regulatory processes to represent our home community's interests. In fact, in the realignment hearing a member of the NEB panel asked how they could get more of the public to engage in regulatory processes. Not deliberately excluding people who have legitimate concerns would be a good start!

Since 2013, WaterWealth was an intervenor in the initial NEB process on the project (when the City was merely a commenter). We presented to the Ministerial Panel (when the City merely said that everything they had to say was in their letter of comment to the NEB). We wrote to government decision makers at every level (letters we subsequently found were discussed with Kinder Morgan even in cases where we never received a reply). We were an intervenor alongside the City in the realignment hearing, and throughout it all we worked to inform residents of their rights and to support public engagement in the processes.

When we wrote federal decision makers -- Prime Minister Trudeau, Natural Resources Minister Carr, and each member of the Cabinet Climate and Energy Committee -- we did not get a reply at first. Then three weeks later an op-ed appeared in the Edmonton Journal by Liberal MPs defending their decision to approve the project. WaterWealth's Program Director commented on that op-ed online and made mention of not having received a reply to our concerns from the federal government.

Four hours later (what a coincidence!) we got a reply from the Prime Minister's Office saying they were referring our letter to the Minister of Natural Resources. This was not particularly helpful given that the letter made clear that it had also gone to the Minister in the first place. However we waited for the Minister's response. And waited. And waited.

Nearly six months later, and 11 days after the initial deadline for statements of opposition in the detailed route process, Minister James Carrwe got a letter from the Minister telling us that the detailed route process was the place to raise our concerns.

Fortunately we were already in that process and along with the Township of Langley had caught process errors by the company that had resulted in notifications being redone all along the route and deadlines extended by almost double to more than triple the original period in the various segments. (But, um, thanks Hon.)

We wrote the Minister again, reiterating our concerns and asking if the Minister would "demonstrate that federal support of the project is not blind support by adding your support also to the efforts to protect the well being of our community in Chilliwack?” The Minister's reply, six and a half months later, again directed us to the detailed route hearings.

Now we finally get to the detailed route hearings and are excluded from participating!

However, it is probably a surprise to no one that the system is borked. And it's not the first time WaterWealth has worked outside official channels (kind of the opposite actually). Freed from the demands and constraints of hearing participation, these final months of the 'approval process' on the pipeline are going to be very busy times indeed.

The few individuals who were not excluded by the hearing order are landowners in Yarrow, and their hearings are to do with their properties in segment 6.4. We are left to rely on the City to work inside the process for concerns about the pipeline route generally across Chilliwack, and to make the case that Kinder Morgan's route -- across schools and residential neighbhourhoods, past community water wells, and through some of the most ecologically vulnerable areas of the community -- is not "the best possible route" that the NEB Act says they seek.

Where does the City stand?  -- We don't know. --

After the realignment hearing WaterWealth's Program Director requested a meeting with the City's Deputy Director of Engineering to discuss what's next. That request was declined. The City did do a good job in the realignment hearing, with the Deputy Director of Engineering representing under cross-examination. However the Mayor also publicly opposed WaterWealth on the issue in December 2016.

If the realignment hearing is won, will the City call that good enough? Would they allow the pipeline on the edges of City well capture zones and abandon the ecological issues and Yarrow's wells? Or will they still go to bat for having the route changed to follow the highway, thereby truly protecting all of our community wells and the critical ecological areas put at risk by Kinder Morgan's plans? The hearing order was two weeks ago at time of writing and the City has not filed an application to participate in the detailed route hearing the NEB offered.

main_routes.jpg (Blue shaded area is the aquifer)

At this point if you agree that if the pipeline goes ahead the new construction should be taken as an opportunity, the only opportunity, to move the Trans Mountain system away from exceptionally valuable areas of our community and the drinking water sources some 80,000 of us rely on, now would be a great time to let the City know what you think!

You can contact the Mayor and Council with one message on the city website at www.chilliwack.ca/main/page.cfm?id=673&contactID=181

Or email Mayor and Council individually:

Mayor Sharon Gaetz: gaetz@chilliwack.com

Councilors:

Sue Attrill: attrill@chilliwack.com

Chris Kloot: kloot@chilliwack.com

Jason Lum: lum@chilliwack.com

Ken Popove: popove@chilliwack.com

Chuck Stam: stam@chilliwack.com

Sam Waddington: waddington@chilliwack.com

It is no coincidence that throughout history people prosper where healthy water is found.

Our Wealth is in Our Water. Let's Protect It!

~~~~~

  

WaterWealth needs the support of people who recognize the importance of public
participation in planning and decision making that affects our shared home waters.
Please consider supporting with a donation,
or help us achieve a consistent budget for our own planning by becoming a sustaining supporter.

 

 

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commented 2018-03-31 17:26:52 -0700 · Flag
NEB appears to particularly tone-deaf in the case of Chilliwack’s route segment. Those for AND those against the project overall, agree that a much-riskier new pipeline shouldn’t be built right over our aquifer (again). This directly affects EVERYONE in the community that drinks water. We need to be heard accordingly.
The volume of Letters that were not accepted for hearings, strongly suggests otherwise. Ottawa and the NEB seemed to have skipped Gaining Social License 101.
commented 2018-03-29 04:21:46 -0700 · Flag
KM’s pipeline is a stupid idea from the get-go, because there is no world-class equipment to clean-up a dirty, tar sands spill. This stupid business plan is an insult to the intelligence of the thinking British Columbians. Kinder must think British Columbians are a bunch of GOP dimwits. A spill from this pipeline down into the Fraser River watershed will kill most of BC’s sport and commercial salmon industries. Dump KM, to save beautiful BC.