CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - Kinder Morgan Canada Ltd (KML.TO) on Friday withdrew its request to install anti-fish-spawning mats in construction areas for its embattled Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, potentially delaying the C$7.4-billion ($5.91-billion) project.
Canada’s National Energy Board (NEB) regulator last month barred Kinder Morgan from installing the mats, which are placed on the bottom of waterways to prevent fish from laying eggs, saying they had “not yet been authorized.”
The company then sought relief, saying they were essential to stopping fish from being harmed during construction, and that a delay in installing them could push back the date for shipping oil on the expansion.
But in a letter to the regulator on Friday, a Kinder Morgan lawyer said the mats were effective only if put in place before the spawning season, which has begun, and that the window to install them had now passed.
The lawyer also said the company would remove some mats that it had already installed.
The letter did not address potential delays to the project’s timeline that were mentioned by the company in a separate letter last month.
The NEB and Kinder Morgan Canada, a unit of Houston-based Kinder Morgan Inc (KMI.N), did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The company’s mention of potential delays to the project last month marked a departure from its longstanding public stance that the project remained on track despite mounting opposition and regulatory hurdles.
While the project has federal approval, it faces opposition from environmental and aboriginal groups and the provincial government of British Columbia, through which the pipeline passes.
The NEB has so far granted permission only for construction of a marine terminal associated with the project.
The fish mats, which came to light in part due to a blog post by the company, constitute work along the pipeline route and were not authorized, the NEB has said.
Backed by the energy sector, the project aims to nearly triple the capacity of the existing pipeline from Canada’s oil-rich Alberta to the west coast by late 2019.
A legal challenge being heard this and next week in Vancouver could overturn Trans Mountain’s approval.
Reporting by Ethan Lou