Kinder Morgan pipeline hearings postponed after consultant's evidence struck from record
Consultant who prepared evidence in favour of project has been appointed to the National Energy Board
A National Energy Board panel has postponed hearings that were supposed to begin next week into Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, because a consultant who prepared evidence in favour of the project will soon work for the regulator.
Kinder Morgan Canada, the company behind the project, filed evidence with the board in late 2013 that was prepared by Steven Kelly, a consultant with IHS Global Canada at the time. The report supported the project's economic benefits.
In July, federal Natural Resources Minister Greg Rickford announced Kelly had been appointed to a seven-year term on the National Energy Board starting Oct. 13.
As a result, the hearing panel has decided to strike Kelly's evidence from the record and has directed Kinder Morgan to list any other evidence he prepared.
"Our panel looked at this and felt that it needed to take action on its own to sort of proactively deal with this situation," said NEB spokesperson Tara O'Donovan.
Concerned with appearance of impartiality
"The panel was certainly concerned with public confidence and the impartiality of its decision making. So, the dual role of Mr. Kelly as both ... someone who prepared evidence as well as a future board member, we realize that would cause some concerns."
The board's three-member panel wrote a letter Friday to the company and intervenors, outlining these concerns. The panel has directed Kinder Morgan to list any other evidence Kelly prepared and wants to know whether that material will be replaced.
The hearing panel is postponing oral arguments that had been scheduled for Calgary on Monday and Burnaby, B.C., next month.
Trans Mountain spokesperson Lizette Parsons Brown said the company will comment once it has had a chance to review the panel's notification.
Vancouver deputy city manager Sadhu Johnston welcomed the decision to strike Kelly's evidence from the record.
"His expert report serves as one of the key justifications for building a pipeline and then he gets appointed to the NEB. It would really seem like a major conflict for us," he said.
Kinder Morgan plans to almost triple the capacity of a pipeline that runs from near Edmonton to a marine terminal in the Vancouver area, enabling shipments of Alberta crude to Asia.
With files from Jane Armstrong