Companies, such as Trans Mountain, require permission before they can build or expand pipelines and facilities. As Trans Mountain is a pipeline that crosses provincial boundaries, Trans Mountain must seek permission from the National Energy Board (NEB) — the federal regulator for pipelines — for its proposed expansion plans.
Before the NEB makes a decision on an application for a major project, a hearing is usually held. This will allow Trans Mountain and other people or groups, a chance to provide information on the proposed project and to provide input in support of or opposition to the project. To participate in the hearing, you must submit an application to the NEB and be granted permission to participate based on their outlined criteria. For more details about who can participate click here. The NEB will then make a recommendation about the proposed expansion to the federal cabinet stating whether the project should move ahead and if the proposal meets the regulatory requirements.
Trans Mountain will be advancing two applications to the National Energy Board for the Trans Mountain Expansion Project:
1. Toll Application
On June 29, 2012 Trans Mountain filed a Toll Application for National Energy Board approval of the toll, or fee, structure that would be implemented on the proposed Project. This Toll Application addresses commercial matters pertaining to the tolls that would be charged to the shippers.
Matters that deal with the facilities required for the proposed Project, including environmental and socio-economic assessment, Aboriginal engagement, public consultation and engineering, are not part of the Toll Application. The National Energy Board decision regarding the Toll Application will in no way impact whether the National Energy Board would authorize Trans Mountain to proceed with the proposed Project. This determination will occur as a result of in the second application, as described in detail below.
2. Facilities Application
Trans Mountain will apply for a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity under Section 52 of the National Energy Board Act, authorizing Trans Mountain to build and operate the necessary facilities for the proposed Project. The Facilities Application will include details of the pipeline route and facilities, and an assessment of the environmental, socio-economic, and engineering components of the proposed Expansion Project. Feedback and input from landowners, Aboriginal Peoples, governmental agencies and stakeholders is important in helping the project team determine topics and areas of interest to address in the Application. The information also enables the project team to assess the potential benefits and effects of the project, and develop mitigation measures to reduce environmental and socio-economic effects. Taking the information from the Application and comments from interested groups and individuals, the NEB will consider whether the proposed Project is in the public interest.
Trans Mountain is planning to file the Facilities Application with the NEB in late 2013. Trans Mountain has allowed a significant amount of time before filing the Facilities Application so that it can undertake extensive Aboriginal engagement, landowner discussions and stakeholder consultation activities as well as detailed environmental, socio-economic assessment and engineering activities.
3. Following the Application
National Energy Board Process
After Trans Mountain files its Facilities Application to the NEB, the NEB will hold its own public engagement process including a hearing on the application before it makes a decision on the proposed project. The hearing will allow people or groups who have been granted permission to participate by the NEB (information about who can participate can be found here) a chance to raise issues, present evidence, test evidence, and provide their input in support of or in opposition to the proposal. Trans Mountain will also have the opportunity to offer information about its proposal.
In making a recommendation to the federal cabinet whether the proposed Trans Mountain Expansion project should proceed, the NEB reviews the project’s economic, technical and financial feasibility, and its environmental and socio-economic impact.
Some of the topics that will be included within the Application and discussed in NEB hearings on the Applications include:
- the design and safety of the project
- environmental and land matters
- socio-economic matters
- impact of the project on potentially-affected Aboriginal interests
- impact of the project on landowners and other potentially-affected stakeholders
- financial responsibility of the applicant
- economic feasibility of the project
- any public interest that may be affected
Public Participation in a National Energy Board Hearing
There are three ways that individuals or groups can participate in a hearing, some of which require the NEB's approval:
- Filing a letter of comment: a written statement about the writer’s views
- Asking to make an oral statement: presenting views in-person at a public hearing – anyone wishing to make an oral statement must notify the NEB in advance for approval to participate (more details)
- Applying for intervenor status: An individual or group granted intervenor status by the NEB may file written evidence, receive all filings submitted by the company, comment on evidence filed and make a final argument
The NEB may go out to communities potentially impacted by the proposed project to conduct public information sessions. These informal meetings are held before an oral hearing and provide people with information on how to participate during the hearing as well as information on the NEB hearing and regulatory process. According to the NEB, such information sessions are not the time for people to voice their opinion on a project; rather it is a chance to get information on the NEB hearing process.
For more information about the National Energy Board’s process and the different ways to participate, please see the following guide: The Public Hearing Process: Your Guide to Understanding NEB Hearings.
4. Following an NEB Decision
If the NEB makes a recommendation to approve the proposed Trans Mountain Expansion Project and if the federal cabinet gives the final go-ahead, the NEB’s involvement with the project and engagement with the public will continue.
With all such pipeline projects, the NEB takes a life cycle approach to regulation. This means that the NEB doesn’t just make a decision and move on to the next application. For the most part, the NEB is involved in projects from start to finish – from the application process to the construction phase to the long-term operations and ultimately to the abandonment of a pipeline.
With any project approval, the NEB sets forth conditions that must be followed by the company. The NEB follows up with inspections to ensure the company is meeting the conditions and to ensure that the project is constructed and continues to operate in a safe manner for the benefit of Canadians.
If inspectors find that the company is not meeting the conditions, the NEB can take action to enforce these conditions. This may include talking to the company, issuing a written request to correct the problem, or, in certain circumstances, ordering the company to stop construction or operation.