Well, that was easy.
I’ve just joined more than 500 other British Columbians applying to the National Energy Board to participate in hearings on the proposed Trans Mountain pipeline and oil tanker terminal expansion.
I picked “Intervenor” because the NEB eliminated the option for citizens to provide a simple oral statement, as part of efforts to speed up the approval process. Your only other option is to submit a letter of comment, which they claim to read and factor very carefully into their final decision.
No thanks. I want the power to cross-examine Kinder Morgan executives, on the public record. And enter evidence, and call witnesses, and make closing arguments. You don’t have to do any of those things as an Intervenor, or make much of a time commitment at all, but I like that an ordinary citizen can still apply for that status.
I was expecting it to be a giant hassle, but thankfully it only took a few minutes.
The most challenging part was explaining, in 500 words or less, how I am “directly affected” by the proposal. In an economic sense, I think every taxpayer, public service user, and gasoline buyer in British Columbia would be directly affected if Kinder Morgan got to export 890,000 barrels of oil sands crude every day for the next 30 years.
I also think there are long-term, cumulative impacts on climate that need to be addressed. But I know that will be outside the mandate of any review panel.
Then I took a look at the spill maps Kinder Morgan submitted as part of its application to the NEB, and I realized my stake in this project is not abstract, it’s deeply personal.
I’ve pasted my explanation to the federal government below, along with some resources if you’re thinking of applying. Please note that February 12th is the absolute last possible deadline. After that, the window to participate in this review slams shut.
Here’s what I said in my application:
As a resident of the Vancouver area, I have concerns about economic, ecological and public health risks in areas overlapping with Kinder Morgan’s spill models. The waterways and shorelines that would be affected in many accident scenarios are places where my family has lived, worked, played, and harvested food over four consecutive generations.
I seek reassurance from the proponent regarding safety and value implications for three properties. One is my grandmother’s house in North Burnaby, 1200 metres from the proponent’s existing pipeline and 3100 metres from Westridge Marine Terminal. In some simulations of spill events submitted by the proponent, plumes of airborne volatile compounds overlap with my grandmother’s address.
I have similar concerns regarding a second house owned by my parents, 1500 metres from the edge of Burrard Inlet in Vancouver. Given that I share responsibility for the care and safety of occupants at both addresses, I have questions about the spill models, warning systems and evacuation procedures for both neighbourhoods.
The third property is a waterfront cottage on Mayne Island, constructed by my late grandfather. He grew up in the community of Miner’s Bay in the 1920s, where I too spent countless hours as a child, fishing and exploring the beaches. I continue to stay roughly two weeks a year at the property, which is owned by my grandmother. It is important to me that current and future generations of our family experience this unique locale. Again, spill models submitted by Kinder Morgan show oil could hit the beach at Miner’s Bay within one day of a tanker accident in the Strait of Georgia.
Finally, I’m a hunter and angler with an interest in the long-term integrity of the Fraser watershed and Salish Sea. In terms of recreation, in the last six months I have gone swimming, held picnics or walked the dog at Indian Arm, Belcarra, Confederation Park, New Brighton, Crab Park, Stanley Park, English Bay, Kitsilano Beach, Spanish Banks, Willows Beach and Clover Point, all areas that could be rendered unusable by an oil spill.
It’s unclear why the project is needed in my community, or whether the risks my family and neighbours will face are offset by the potential rewards. On a larger scale, the economics have yet to convincingly demonstrate that this project is in the national interest, especially from the perspective of a resident of Vancouver.
If you want to join me and the other 500 folks who have applied so far, a few organizations have prepared resources to help you.
– The Dogwood Initiative has built a microsite called “Step Up” with background on the project, pipeline maps, spill maps, and a step-by-step guide to get you through the online signup.
– My grandma’s MP, Kennedy Stewart, has built a site called “Let BC Decide” with a detailed route map for Burnaby, plus real live human volunteers to help you or your family members through the process. You can phone them at 604-291-8863, drop into the constituency office at 4658 Hastings Street, or even send them a paper version and they’ll submit your application to the NEB online.
– If you need to calculate the straight-line distance of your property from the proposed pipeline and tanker facilities, I used this Google Maps widget and it worked okay for me.
– And finally, if you want to consult your friends and neighbours’ applications for inspiration, or just keep count of how many people are getting involved, the NEB posts them live right here.
There are 517 right now. Can we get to 1,000 by February 12th?