It could still take years for the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion to line up the permits, land purchases, and route approvals that will allow its proponents to complete construction of the intensely controversial project.
“Experts say the timeline for the pipeline’s completion could be pushed back by as much two years, with over 1,000 permits unresolved, no determined basic route, and as many as 25 hearings yet to be conducted,” the Star Vancouver reports, citing analysis by Canadian environmental law organizations that was due to be released Monday.
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“Canada bought a project under a regulatory review process. The idea that construction can start in full immediately is just not the reality on the ground,” said staff lawyer Eugene Kung at West Coast Environmental Law.
“Roadblocks include the 157 [federal] conditions that need to be satisfied to obtain permits, community hearings to approve a safe route, and handling roughly 40 pre-construction conditions still under review—a dozen of which apply to the Burnaby terminal, which is slated for construction within a week,” the Star Vancouver states.
The groups’ immediate concern is that the federal government might bypass the regulatory process and impose a route. Chilliwack resident Ian Stephen said the existing route “cuts through the city’s lone supply of drinking water, enters two of the region’s most significant salmon habitats, and moves across an elementary school while creeping as close as eight metres to homes,” the news report notes.
“Prime Minister Trudeau has repeatedly said he wouldn’t have approved the pipeline if it wasn’t safe, and that communities grant permission ,” he said. “It will be interesting to see if our own government opposes community efforts to move the pipeline to a safer route, or imposes a route that has not been deemed safe.”
The Chilliwack route hearings are scheduled to run into October, and the Star Vancouver lists several other significant delays—including two proposed route changes put forward by the Stk’emlupsemc te Secwepemc of the Secwepemc Nation, an ongoing hearing on a stretch of old piping in Burnaby, and the Coldwater Indian Band request for an alternative route that would steer clear of a drinking water aquifer—a case in which the community is accusing Kinder Morgan of tampering with the evidence it submitted to the National Energy Board. Then there’s the matter of the 14 legal challenges the project still faces before the Federal Court of Appeal.
Meanwhile, B.C. Supreme Court judge Kenneth Affleck has handed down guilty verdicts in the first nine cases of protesters trying to blockade the Kinder Morgan construction site on Burnaby Mountain. They’re due to be sentenced June 28. Affleck said he was convinced that “the accused disobeyed a court order in a public way, with intent, knowledge, or recklessness that the act will tend to depreciate the authority of the court,” National Observer reports . The B.C. Prosecution Service recommended fines of up to $3,000, or 150 hours of community service.
Opposition to the project continued to build in Washington State, where Indigenous protesters vowed  the pipeline will never be built.