Media Statement, May 8th 2014
Andrew Weaver calls on government to protect credibility of its 5 conditions for Heavy Oil Pipelines
For immediate release
Victoria, B.C. – Andrew Weaver, MLA for Oak Bay – Gordon Head and Deputy Leader of the B.C. Green Party, calls on the B.C. government to explain its silence on the National Energy Board’s Kinder Morgan – Trans Mountain pipeline hearing process, as local governments and other intervenors raise strong concerns about a defective process.
The government missed an important opportunity to weigh in on a key motion, that called on the National Energy Board to introduce oral cross-examination into the hearing process.
Oral cross-examination played a critical role in the Joint Review Panel hearings on the proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline. The cross-examination period lasted more than 90 days with the Province itself requesting over 8 hours of that time. It was essential in assessing the extent to which the project met the B.C. Government’s 5 conditions, and helped uncover serious gaps in Enbridge’s evidence ultimately leading the province to conclude that it could not support the project at that time.
However, oral cross-examination has been replaced in the current Trans Mountain hearing process, with only two opportunities to submit written questions. First Nations groups, cities including Victoria, Vancouver and Burnaby, and many other intervenors have raised significant concerns about the ability to adequately assess Trans Mountain’s evidence. This concern is amplified by the short timeline that gives intervenors little more than one month to read the 15,000 page application and submit their first round of questions.
This precedent-setting change comes along with a federally legislated timeline that shortens the length of the Kinder Morgan hearing process and all future hearings. However, the need to ensure fairness must remain paramount and at least one intervenor–Elizabeth May, Member of Parliament for Saanich-Gulf Islands and Leader of the Green Party of Canada–is considering legal action over the removal of oral cross-examination.
“The final argument that the government prepared at the conclusion of the Joint Review Panel hearings on the proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline was a substantial and articulate document that relied heavily on oral cross-examination to make the case for why the Province was unable to support that proposal at this time. The fact that the government has remained silent on the absence of oral cross-examination in the Trans Mountain hearings, raises significant concerns, and is putting the credibility of its 5 conditions at risk.” said Andrew Weaver.
Mat Wright – Press Secretary Andrew Weaver MLA
The Hansard transcript of the Question Period interaction is reproduced below.
A. Weaver: On April 14 Robyn Allan, one of 400 interveners in the Kinder Morgan hearings, submitted a motion asking the National Energy Board to introduce oral cross-examination into the process.
I joined many other interveners in writing a letter of support for Robyn Allan’s motion, as I felt this was the best way to formally express the importance of such cross-examination.
Madame Speaker, the government had ten days to submit their own letter of support, but they didn’t. A letter from the province would have had a profound influence on the NEB. Yesterday the NEB ruled on Robyn Allan’s motion and a similar motion tabled by MP Elizabeth May, dismissing their requests for oral cross-examination.
My question is to the Minister of Environment: given the government’s own comments that oral cross-examination of Enbridge was an essential part of determining whether or not the project met their five conditions, why did the government not take this opportunity to stand up for British Columbians and formally request oral cross-examination in the NEB hearing process?
Hon. M. Polak: I thank the member for his question and thank you for alerting me to his interest in the matter.
With respect to the National Energy Board hearings, I know the member is aware that they are a body that designs its own standard for how those hearings occur that we as a province do not influence.
Nevertheless, to the member’s question, the oral cross-examination, direct cross-examination, is not the only way in which one can put forward a case. In fact, there are still opportunities for participants to ask questions of Kinder Morgan and present their own information and perspectives to the panel. Interveners have the option to file detailed written information requests that Kinder Morgan is obliged to respond to — and in fact, in writing.
Also, interveners have the ability to address the review panel in person and to make their arguments and file written evidence.
With that knowledge, Madame Speaker, we determined that the opportunities were still sufficient for us to provide as strong an argument for our five conditions around Kinder Morgan as we did in the northern gateway hearings.
A. Weaver: Thank you to the minister, through you, Madame Speaker, for the response.
Oral cross-examination was essential to assessing the extent to which the project met the government’s five conditions. It uncovered serious gaps in Enbridge’s evidence and led the province to conclude that it could not support the project.
For the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion project, oral cross-examination has been removed by the NEB. On April 23, I submitted an open letter to the Premier asking her to consider formally calling on the National Energy Board to introduce oral cross-examination. Two days ago I received a response that stated the following: “The province will use every forum available to ensure that the five conditions are met.”
I respect that response. However, my question to the minister is this: does the government believe that two written requests are sufficient to assess the meeting of the proposal with its five conditions? And if not, what other forums is the government using to ensure that it will receive sufficient information to assess its five conditions?
Hon. M. Polak: Again, I thank the member for the question. He will no doubt be aware that the province has not only committed to participating in the process, but we’ve actually been making our preparations to participate for months now as we approach the deadlines for submission.
For us, we still believe that with respect to our ability as interveners to request information in writing from Kinder Morgan…. We believe that we can do that in a detailed way that will provide us the information to evaluate. We also believe that we can provide to the panel, in person, an effective argument on behalf of our five conditions.
But it’s also important to note that the passage through the NEB process successfully is only one condition for us as a province. If we are not provided with sufficient evidence — not just commitments, but sufficient evidence — from the hearings, we certainly will maintain a position that upholds our five conditions.
We have seen that at the end of the northern gateway hearings when we concluded with a submission that, in fact, presented a lack of support from British Columbia. We will take the same approach here, entering neutral if we’re not provided with sufficient evidence, we will take the same approach.