Canadian regulator to hold hearings on Trans Mountain pipeline

Wed Apr 2, 2014 7:32pm EDT
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By Julie Gordon

VANCOUVER, April 2 (Reuters) - Canada's energy regulator said on Wednesday it would hold hearings on Kinder Morgan Energy Partners LP's proposed expansion of the Trans Mountain oil pipeline from Edmonton to Vancouver, with its review expected to wrap up in mid-2015.

The National Energy Board (NEB) said it identified 12 issues for discussion during the hearings, including the environmental effects of the project, its impact on aboriginal interests and contingency planning for accidents, among other things.

Kinder Morgan filed an application in December to nearly triple the capacity of its 715-mile (1,150-km) Trans Mountain line, which is the only pipeline running from Alberta's vast oil sands to British Columbia's coast.

The C$5.4 billion ($4.89 billion) project involves twinning the existing pipeline where possible and would boost capacity to 890,000 barrels per day (BPD) from 300,000 BPD.

The proposed expansion has strong support from oil producers, who are eager to get their product to Canada's Pacific coast for export to international markets, potentially alleviating steep price discounts on oil sands crude.

But the increased capacity would add to tanker ship traffic along the Pacific Northwest, fueling backlash from environmental groups over the potential for marine oil spills.

The public hearings on the Trans Mountain expansion will start in January 2015, with the NEB set to hear traditional aboriginal evidence in August and September of this year.

The regulator will hear from environmental and nature conservation groups, municipalities, community organizations and private citizens affected by the proposed expansion, along with energy producers and business groups that back the pipeline.   Continued...