Pipeline challenger passes first hurdle

Smithers resident wants federal review of natural gas pipeline

Smithers resident Michael Sawyer has convinced the National Energy Board (NEB) it might have jurisdiction to review the planned natural gas pipeline that would feed the massive LNG Canada plant at Kitimat.

Although TransCanada’s Coastal GasLink’s 670-kilometre pipeline to run from northeastern B.C. to Kitimat has been given provincial environmental approval, Sawyer argued that it requires a federal review because it would eventually join the existing Nova Gas Transmission Ltd. (NGTL) system, also owned by TransCanada, that’s already under federal jurisdiction.

In his application to the board first submitted in the summer, Sawyer noted that aside from common ownership and operational connections between Coastal GasLink and NGTL there was also an expressed expectation the two would be connected in the future.

“The board finds that the evidence asserted by Mr. Sawyer is sufficient to establish an arguable case that the project will be connected to the NGTL system and that the project’s purpose is to move gas ….. for subsequent export to international markets through the LNG Canada terminal,” the board noted in an Oct. 22 decision.

The NEB said it will now hold a process to “fully consider” the matter and has invited both Sawyer and Coastal GasLink to make further submissions.

The decision “is not a determination (nor does it suggest a leaning by the board one way or the other) that the project is under federal jurisdiction and regulated by the NEB,” the board cautioned.

“Once the board’s further process is held, and if the board determines the project is federally and NEB-regulated, the question of where the project is in the present and future public convenience and necessity the matter would be addressed in a subsequent proceeding,” the board added.

The further submissions invited by both Sawyer and Coastal GasLink would address the factual and legal basis for Sawyer’s standing. The NEB has already accepted Coastal GasLink’s standing in any future proceedings.

Sawyer used previous federal court cases to underpin his application for a federal review of the pipeline.

Responding to Sawyer’s application Coastal GasLink noted he had waited until the eve of LNG Canada’s final investment decision to lodge the appeal, even though he had four years to challenge the provincial environmental permits.

“Challenging the provincial permits indirectly through a jurisdictional application to the NEB years after B.C. issued them is an abuse of process that should not be condoned by the NEB,” Coastal GasLink stated, calling Sawyer’s application “vexatious litigation”.

Independent of his NEB filings Sawyer is on record criticizing natural gas development as being more harmful in its production cycle than burning coal.

Sawyer has until Oct. 29 to submit subsequent submissions and Coastal GasLink until Nov. 5 to reply.

There’s no timeline as to when the NEB will make further decisions.

Sawyer’s initial application caused a backlash in Kitimat and Terrace among LNG Canada supporters.

It also resulted in a letter being sent to Sawyer signed by 17 mayors of municipalities in the north expressing disappointment at his application.

“The development of [LNG Canada] would create billions of dollars in taxes for all levels of government which will support programs that are important to all of us, such as education, healthcare, infrastructure, and funding for environmental sustainability initiatives,” the mayors wrote.

Coastal GasLinkkitimat kitamaatlng canadamichael sawyerTransCanada

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