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Canada still vetting expansion to Trans Mountain oil pipeline

British Columbia in early August said it was considering legal action in order to challenge the project.

By Daniel J. Graeber
Canada still vetting expansion to Trans Mountain oil pipeline
Canadian energy regulator said it would still vet public concerns about expanding the Trans Mountain oil pipeline even though the project is already approved. File photo by Heinz Ruckemann/UPI. | License Photo

Sept. 1 (UPI) -- Even with full approval granted, Canada's government said it would still vet public concerns about the expansions to the west-bound Trans Mountain oil pipeline.

The National Energy Board said it scheduled "detailed route hearings" for the expansion of the Kinder Morgan pipeline through Alberta this fall.

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NEB Chairman Peter Watson said public vetting was an important component of its oversight role.

"It focuses on the specific concerns of landowners or affected persons directly impacted by the proposed route," he said in a statement. "By listening to their concerns, the NEB can ensure that the pipeline is placed in the best possible location."

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The NEB approved of Kinder Morgan's plans to triple the capacity of the network to around 890,000 barrels of oil per day in November. It's part of a national plan to tap into markets outside North America and the NEB said earlier this week it was satisfied with the environmental plans outlined by the company to expand a port in British Columbia to handle the new volumes.

Canada is the fourth largest producer of oil and natural gas liquid in the world. The NEB said export capacity is constricted, however, because pipeline capacity hasn't kept pace with production.

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Canada relies on the United States almost exclusively as an oil export destination and the government in Ottawa has worked to expand its trade reach to Asia. Less than 1 percent of its oil is exported now outside of North America.

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Western Canadian leaders have expressed concerns about the expansion and the increase in tanker traffic. In early August, British Columbian Environment and Climate Change Strategy Minister George Heyman and Attorney General David Eby said they secured legal counsel to challenge Kinder Morgan's project.

"Our government made it clear that a seven-fold increase in heavy oil tankers in the Vancouver harbour is not in British Columbia's best interests," Heyman said in a statement. "We will use all available tools to protect our coastal waters and our province's future."

Route hearings are scheduled in British Columbia next year.

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