Pipeline company urges rejection of many seeking intervener status in jurisdictional hearings

Those seeking to participate include District of Kitimat and Haisla Nation

The company that’s building the pipeline to supply natural gas to the LNG Canada plant at Kitimat is urging the National Energy Board to reject many if not all of the multiple requests for standing as the federal agency considers whether the pipeline should come under federal jurisdiction.

Coastal GasLink (CGL), a subsidiary of TransCanada, says the board should only consider requests from those who “demonstrate a specific and detailed interest rather than a ‘general public interest’” in whether the pipeline should come under federal jurisdiction.

The jurisdictional issue was first raised in the summer by Smithers resident Michael Sawyer who asked the board to hold hearings, claiming that because the Coastal GasLink would connect to an existing federally-regulated TransCanada pipeline system called NOVA Gas Transmission Ltd. (NGTL), it should then come under federal jurisdiction and require a review.

The Nov. 5 filing by CGL follows an October decision by the board, after considering Sawyer’s application, to hold hearings to consider the question of jurisdiction.

It then invited submissions from those who wanted intervener status when the hearings are eventually held.

The 670-kilometre long pipeline project from the northeastern B.C. gas fields to Kitimat already has provincial environmental approval but Sawyer has also stated the hearings that lead to the approval were inadequate.

The prospect of a federal review has brought on concerns in the region about the status of the pipeline project, including a letter from northwest municipalities expressing their disappointment at Sawyer’s actions.

While Coastal GasLink did not submit a list of those seeking intervener status who it felt should be rejected, it’s asking the board to rule on intervener status by focusing on the issue of the Coastal GasLink line connecting to the NGTL.

“Even if a party has a direct interest in the project [it] does not demonstrate that they have a direct interest in the outcome of this jurisdictional hearing,” Coastal GasLink stated in its filing.

“In Coastal GasLink’s view, very few (if any) parties beyond Coastal GasLink and NGTL will be able to meet this threshold.”

Those requesting intervener status include the majority of municipalities along the pipeline route, First Nations who have economic benefits agreements with Coastal GasLink, companies who will benefit from the project, environmental groups and individuals.

The request list includes the District of Kitimat, the Haisla Nation, the City of Terrace, the Kitselas First Nation and the Douglas Channel Watch environmental group, as well as prominent environmental groups such as Sierra Club BC.

Coastal GasLink did, however, single out Sawyer himself who has asked for intervener status, saying it should not be granted automatically.

“Not surprisingly, Mr. Sawyer cited no authority to support this proposition,” CGL indicated of Sawyer’s request.

“Any party seeking to participate in the hearing should be required to demonstrate standing regardless of whether they were the party that originally raised the jurisdictional issue with the board,” CGL continued.

The National Energy Board will now consider CGL’s response to the intervener requests as well as the requests themselves. There’s no timeline as to when the board will decide its next step.

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