Landowners, representing more than 95 per cent of land parcels along the right-of-way for the Trans Mountain Expansion Project, have consented to the detailed route of the pipeline project.   

The pipeline construction project encompasses 2,820 parcels of land in British Columbia and Alberta, including 1,916 that are privately held and 904 Crown parcels.

In November 2017, the National Energy Board launched a series of hearings involving 120 land parcels where landowners filed a statement of objection to the proposed final route across their land.

Even when route hearings are scheduled, however, Trans Mountain and landowners continue to try to resolve outstanding issues — often with support from neutral mediators provided through the Board’s Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) process. The ADR process is voluntary and non-binding, and it is often successful, leading to the removal of objections and cancellation of a scheduled route hearing.

In Valemount and Clearwater, for example, 20 landowners filed formal objections to the route. In late February and early March 2018, Trans Mountain was able to settle eight objections prior to the commencement of hearings and 10 more were settled voluntarily during the hearings. In total, only two objections were addressed through NEB Detailed Route Hearings.

Mediated agreements have also been reached with six landowners in Burnaby and 17 (out of a total of 29 who objected) in Alberta.

“The vast majority of the landowners along our right-of-way did not put in statements of objection,” explained Carey Johannesson, Project Advisor for TMEP. “From a long-term perspective, our priority is to have a good relationship with the landowner. To achieve that, a voluntary agreement is always the best option.

“The ADR process brings the parties together to talk in a neutral environment. The Board freely offers that service to landowners or to companies such as Trans Mountain. In this Project, we’ve been seeing the value of their skills. They’ve been able to bring the parties together.”

The NEB’s hearing schedule includes stops in Clearwater and Burnaby in March and Merritt and Kamloops in April-May before wrapping up in June 2018 in Chilliwack.

“The Board is very careful to ensure that landowners’ rights are protected and their interests looked after,” Johannesson said.

He noted that landowner objections encompass a variety of concerns — such as concern about the timing of construction, the amount of workspace required for construction or temporary loss of access to a business.

“Generally, what we’re finding is the primary issues that concern people are workspace and timing of construction,” he said. “There are also discussions about environmental impact — but usually it’s tied to lands we are requiring for construction.

“We are trying to reduce as much as we reasonably can the amount of space required for construction. If we can do it, we will, but we must ensure we don’t create an unsafe work situation. We also must ensure we install pipe safely, in a location that will protect the pipe long-term.”

Johannesson noted that route hearings don’t deal with the issue of landowner compensation. Compensation can be dealt with either through a voluntary agreement with the landowner or moved to an arbitration process through Natural Resources Canada. Outside of the Detailed Route Hearing process, Trans Mountain is still working towards compensation agreements with some landowners who did not raise a formal objection to the route, he added.