Facing a tight, 22-week deadline  from the Trudeau government, the National Energy Board (NEB) has kicked off a new round of hearings on the intensely controversial Trans Mountain pipeline expansion and given stakeholders an October 3 deadline—less than a week—to file comments or register to appear at the hearing.
“The NEB will carry out its reconsideration related to the Trans Mountain Expansion Project as directed by the Order in Council, and in a fair, efficient, and accessible manner,” said CEO Peter Watson. “I am confident in the NEB’s ability to complete a thorough examination of the matters directed by the government within the required timeline.”
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“October 3 is less than a week away. It’s ludicrous, high-handed and unachievable,” shot back  Chief Judy Wilson of the Neskonlith Indian Band which asserts land title over more than 500 kilometres of the 980-kilometre pipeline route. “There has been no significant change in structure to their process. It looks to me like another ill-fated process. I don’t think the NEB has really understood the issue of consent.”
“I’m frustrated. I haven’t heard from any federal representatives from Canada whatsoever,” said Chief Lee Spahan of the Coldwater Indian Band. “We won a court case and still can’t get them to the table. They’re giving people less than a week to comment and register? Why would they give such a short timeline?”
Former Kinder Morgan Canada CEO Ian Anderson, who now heads the Crown corporation Ottawa formed after Ottawa bought out the project in a single, massive, C$4.5-billion fossil subsidy, called the regulator’s timeline “reasonable and fair,” CBC reports.
“Sure, it’s possible,” Anderson said. “If things go according to the timeline that’s been now started with the NEB and they have a recommendation by the middle of February and the government takes a few months for additional consultation, an order-in-council could be as early as next summer.”
After that, a 30-month construction schedule would put the pipeline in operation in 2022, about two years behind Kinder Morgan’s most recent schedule.
With the NEB suggesting that key issues like marine shipping have been “thoroughly canvassed”, and “may not require additional evidence”, Greenpeace Canada climate and energy campaigner Mike Hudema said the process looks to be biased in favour of the pipeline.
“The federal government really finds itself in quite the conflict of interest, because I don’t think anybody can have faith in a process when the government is asking for permission and is the body granting that permission,” he told CBC. “It really feels like the deck is being stacked in favour of the oil industry and that the result has already been predetermined.”
National Observer notes that the NEB’s three-member review panel will be chaired by Lyne Mercier, who was “forced to recuse herself  from the doomed 2016 review of the Energy East pipeline project following a private meeting with an industry representative.” The proposed review process “would allow participants to file and challenge relevant evidence and submit final arguments on the project, as well as letters from the public.”