Pipeline company calls challenger “vexatious”

Smithers resident Michael Sawyer out to “frustrate” liquefied natural gas industry

TransCanada subsidiary Coastal GasLink says Smithers resident Michael Sawyer is only out to frustrate the development of a liquefied natural gas (LNG) industry in B.C.

The company was responding to news that Sawyer filed an application to the National Energy Board (NEB) to ultimately have it conduct an environmental review of a natural gas pipeline project that already has the blessing of the provincial government.

“This ulterior motive renders the application vexatious and an abuse of process,” TransCanada subsidiary Coastal GasLink stated in a detailed brief to the NEB asking it to deny Sawyer’s application.

Sawyer filed his application to the NEB at the end of July, sparking a fierce backlash by LNG supporters in the region awaiting word any day now that LNG Canada will announce its decision to build a $40 billion facility in Kitimat to super-cool natural gas for export to Asia.

The 675km Coastal GasLink pipeline would ship natural gas from northeastern B.C. to Kitimat but Sawyer’s critics say his application and the prospect of a federal environmental review would unnecessarily delay LNG Canada’s plans.

Coastal GasLink queried Sawyer’s application timing, saying he’s been aware for at least four years of the issues he raised in his application.

The company also said Sawyer is wrong in his contention that while its planned pipeline comes under provincial jurisdiction, it would be connected to the existing TransCanada-owned NOVA Gas Transmission Ltd. pipeline system that’s federally-regulated, meaning it should then properly also come under federal regulation.

“There is no current proposal to physically connect the [Coastal GasLink] project to a federal work and undertaking, and if the project were to connect to the NGTL System in the future, the two systems would serve different functions,” stated Coastal GasLink.

The TransCanada subsidiary also challenged Sawyer’s position that the public interest would be served by a federal review, arguing that “…. the pipeline has already been subject to extensive regulatory review by provincial authorities ….”

Coastal GasLink focused on previous public statements made by Sawyer that provincial authorities failed to consider the cumulative impacts of natural gas development.

“These are not questions of jurisdiction, or of who regulates the pipeline,” it stated.

“The timing and true purpose of the application demonstrates that Mr. Sawyer has not come to the [NEB] with clean hands. He has waited for four years until the eve of a potential final investment decision for the LNG Canada project as a tactic to frustrate upstream natural gas production.”

“Entertaining the application would condone Mr. Sawyer’s actions and encourage similar bad behaviour in the future. Rewarding strategic litigation launched for an ulterior purpose is not in the public interest,” Coastal GasLink continued.

Sawyer has until Sept. 7 to reply to Coastal GasLink’s comments.

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