Despite widespread opposition from the city and residents, work on the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion has been given the green light to start work at Burnaby Mountain in B.C.
The National Energy Board (NEB) said in a release on Thursday that it has issued three decisions which collectively give Trans Mountain the go-ahead to start construction on the mountain tunnel’s entrance. That approval is subject to other applicable federal, provincial or municipal permits, it said.
“The decisions enable Trans Mountain to begin clearing and grading work now at the entrance of the Burnaby Mountain tunnel, or portal, on its Westridge Marine Terminal property to avoid potential impacts on migratory birds that could use that area later in the spring,” the NEB said in a release.
Two of the decisions were around the pipeline’s route. It also granted relief from all the remaining pre-construction conditions that were preventing the start of the tunnel’s construction.
The City of Burnaby has been outspoken about the expansion, which would tunnel under the mountain. Ahead of NEB hearings in January, Burnaby was one of several cities arguing the pipeline expansion would damage sensitive ecosystems, public parks and have adverse effects on homeowners.
The British Columbia government announced in late January that it would restrict the amount of diluted bitumen that could be transported by rail or pipeline until the province has a better understanding of spill mitigation plans.
That’s a decision that sparked the Government of Alberta to take action, suspending energy talks and putting a ban on importing wine from the neighbouring province.
Alberta Premier Notley also launched a task force and an online forum this week for Canadians to contact B.C. politicians and express their support of the pipeline expansion project.
The federal government, as well as municipal governments in Alberta, have voiced their support of Notley’s response to the restriction.
The NEB said Thursday that while work can begin at the Westridge portal of the Burnaby Mountain tunnel, work hasn’t yet been authorized along the rest of the expansion route.
Nearly 56 per cent of the pipeline’s route has been approved to date, the NEB said.
In an emailed statement, Trans Mountain said it was pleased with the NEB’s decision.
“The decision to build the 2.6-kilometre tunnel through Burnaby Mountain connecting Burnaby Terminal to Westridge Marine Terminal was based on feedback from local residents received through our engagement and as part of the regulatory process,” Trans Mountain said.
It said the tunnel won’t cause any disruption to the surface of the mountain, adding construction won’t go through residential neighbourhoods or city streets.
Greenpeace Canada criticized the expansion approval, saying Kinder Morgan president Ian Anderson was in for a “Kinder surprise.”
“The National Energy Board can hand out as many rubber stamp permits as the Trudeau government wants it to — at the end of the day, there’s more than one way to stop a pipeline, and we will exhaust all of them to ensure this pipeline is never built,” Mike Hudema, climate and energy campaigner said in an emailed statement.