| VANCOUVER, April 2
VANCOUVER, April 2 Canada's energy regulator
said on Wednesday it would hold hearings on Kinder Morgan Energy
Partners LP's proposed expansion of the Trans Mountain
oil pipeline from Edmonton to Vancouver, with its review
expected to wrap up in mid-2015.
The National Energy Board (NEB) said it identified 12 issues
for discussion during the hearings, including the environmental
effects of the project, its impact on aboriginal interests and
contingency planning for accidents, among other things.
Kinder Morgan filed an application in December to nearly
triple the capacity of its 715-mile (1,150-km) Trans Mountain
line, which is the only pipeline running from Alberta's vast oil
sands to British Columbia's coast.
The C$5.4 billion ($4.89 billion) project involves twinning
the existing pipeline where possible and would boost capacity to
890,000 barrels per day (BPD) from 300,000 BPD.
The proposed expansion has strong support from oil
producers, who are eager to get their product to Canada's
Pacific coast for export to international markets, potentially
alleviating steep price discounts on oil sands crude.
But the increased capacity would add to tanker ship traffic
along the Pacific Northwest, fueling backlash from environmental
groups over the potential for marine oil spills.
The public hearings on the Trans Mountain expansion will
start in January 2015, with the NEB set to hear traditional
aboriginal evidence in August and September of this year.
The regulator will hear from environmental and nature
conservation groups, municipalities, community organizations and
private citizens affected by the proposed expansion, along with
energy producers and business groups that back the pipeline.
"The groups and individuals who have been granted standing
to participate in the hearings really cover a very broad range
of interests," said NEB spokeswoman Sarah Kiley.
"That broad range of information and evidence that will be
placed before the board is very helpful in coming to a
recommendation or decision."
But Sierra Club BC, an environmental advocacy group,
criticized the regulator for denying or downgrading the
participation of 920 of the 2,118 people or groups applying to
speak at the review.
"This is a rigged process, deliberately designed to silence
the legitimate voices of British Columbians on an issue that has
profound implications for our province," said Sierra Club BC
campaigns director Caitlyn Vernon in a statement.
Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain expansion is just one of
numerous new pipeline projects being planned to help transport
booming crude production from Alberta's oil sands, where output
is expected to more than double by 2025.
The NEB has already recommended approval of Enbridge Inc's
controversial Northern Gateway pipeline, provided the
company complies with some 200 conditions. That line would run
from Alberta to the port of Kitimat in northern British
In the coming months, U.S. President Barack Obama is
expected to rule on TransCanada Corp's Keystone XL
pipeline, which would send Canadian oil to the U.S. Gulf Coast.
TransCanada is also developing the Energy East line, which would
bring Western Canadian oil to Eastern Canadian refineries.
($1 = 1.1038 Canadian Dollars)
(Reporting by Julie Gordon; Editing by Richard Chang)