British Columbia

Trans Mountain pipeline: intervenors remain committed despite unlevel playing field

A lawyer representing intervenors at the National Energy Board hearing of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion will stick it out until the very end even though he says the process isn't conducted on a level playing field.

Chris Tollefson says it's important the NEB hear evidence from opponents of the pipeline expansion

Protesters set up camp to oppose the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion proposal. (CBC)

A lawyer representing two intervenors at the National Energy Board hearing of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion proposal in British Columbia says he will stick it out until the very end even though he says the process isn't conducted on a level playing field.

Economist Robyn Allan made the same accusation this week as she withdrew from the hearing, saying the review is rigged and the outcome is predetermined.

Chris Tollefson, the executive director of the Environmental Law Centre at the University of Victoria and legal counsel to the intervenors BC Nature and Nature Canada, says he shares some of Allan's concerns.

"We respect the decisions of those who have decided to leave, but our view is there are at least two compelling reasons to stay even if we feel the playing field is not level," he said.

If his clients leave, that means there will be fewer people to challenge the pipeline project, and the National Energy Board will just make its decision based on Trans Mountain's submissions, Tollefson said.

"There are very great flaws in the proponent's science," he told The Early Edition's Rick Cluff.

"It's very important when the board makes its decision that it knows the perspective of those that disagree with the proponent's science."

It's also critical that the legal record fully reflects the views of those who are challenging the project so the public and decision makers can turn to that information in the future, Tollefson said.

Kinder Morgan has proposed twinning its existing Trans Mountain pipeline in Burnaby to triple its output. The expansion would allow 890,000 barrels of oil per day to be transported from Alberta to Burnaby, and increase tanker traffic in Burrard Inlet.

The National Energy Board has stood by the review process, saying it regrets Allan's departure because she would have had a chance to influence the board's recommendations if she had stayed.

BC Nature and Nature Canada are expected to file evidence next week. The deadline to do so is May 27.

To hear the full interview with Chris Tollefson, listen to the audio labelled: Intervenor on why he's sticking with the NEB hearing of B.C. pipeline project

Corrections

  • An earlier version misidentified Chris Tollefson as an intervenor in the hearing process. In fact, he is the legal counsel for two intervenors.
    May 22, 2015 3:19 PM PT

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