NEB clears Trans Mountain to begin pipeline tunnel work at Burnaby Mountain

The National Energy Board says work can begin on construction of the Trans Mountain pipeline's tunnel entrance at Burnaby Mountain — as long as the company has permits from three levels of government.

Pipeline work still requires permits from federal, provincial and municipal government

Pipes are seen at the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain facility in Edmonton, Alta. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

The National Energy Board says work can begin on construction of the Trans Mountain pipeline's tunnel entrance at Burnaby Mountain — as long as the company has permits from three levels of government.

The NEB issued three decisions Thursday afternoon that allow workers on the Kinder Morgan project to do clearing and grading on the oil and gas giant's Westridge Marine Terminal property.

In an emailed statement, Trans Mountain said it was pleased with the decision, which will allow it to begin construction before migratory birds return to the area in the spring.

"The decision to build the 2.6 km tunnel through Burnaby Mountain ... was based on feedback from local residents," the company said. "Tunnel construction will cause no disruption to the surface of Burnaby Mountain and will avoid construction through residential neighbourhoods and city streets."

Permitting process

Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan is strongly opposed to the the pipeline's expansion, but he said politics will not interfere with the permitting process if and when Trans Mountain files an application to begin work.

"I want to be clear that that is an independent process, one in which city staff will consider the application and issue permits — if they have, in fact, complied with all the requirements," Corrigan told CBC News.

The B.C. government has recently created some uncertainty around the future of the pipeline project, by proposing restrictions on any increase in diluted bitumen shipments while it conducts studies on the response to potential spills.

However, earlier this week, Premier John Horgan said, in an effort to lower the temperature around the issue, B.C. would not be imposing any restrictions on bitumen shipments while his proposed review — which hasn't yet started and has no end date — was underway.

The province has yet to respond to this latest decision from the NEB.

About 56 per cent of the proposed route for the expanded pipeline has been OK'd by the NEB to date.

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