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article imageFormer BC Hydro head pulls out of pipeline hearings

By Ken Hanly     Nov 3, 2014 in Business
Victoria - Marc Eliesen, who was formerly head of British Columbia Hydro, pulled out of federal government hearings on a proposed Kinder Morgan pipeline that would run parallel to its existing pipeline linking Alberta and Vancouver, BC.
Kinder Morgan has headquarters in Houston, Texas and is the fourth largest energy company in North America. In 2013 Kinder Morgan filed an application before the Canadian National Energy Board(NEB) to build a second pipeline parallel to the Trans Mountain line it already owns. This new pipeline would boost the amount of oil the company could ship to Vancouver to 850,000 barrels from 300,000 barrels per day. Cost of construction is estimated at $5.4 billion. The new line would allow much larger volumes of tar sands oil to be shipped to the US and Asia.
In a letter sent to the National Energy Board Eliesen claimed that the federal hearing process on the project was "a farce". Among other failings Eliesen noted that oral cross examination of testimony had been removed entirely.
Eliesen said: "Unfortunately, I have come to the conclusion that the board, through its decisions, is engaged in a public deception. Continued involvement with this process is a waste of time and effort, and represents a disservice to the public interest because it endorses a fraudulent process."
The provincial New Democratic Party environment critic Spencer Chandra-Hebert suggested that the province should not participate in the federal process: "I think the province should pull out of the Kinder Morgan process, and instead run our own environmental assessment process, where we can hold Kinder Morgan accountable and not let them get away without answering tough questions about their ability to respond to oil spills."
Kinder Morgan has been found to have violated safety standards on a number of occasions by the US Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration(PHMSA) in the US. A list of violations can be found here.
In his testimony Marc Eliesen described the National Energy Board as "a truly industry captured regulator." Eliesen should know. Not only was he former CEO of BC Hydro but he was deputy minister of energy in both the provinces of Manitoba and Ontario and he also was once on the board of the oil giant Suncor. He spent 40 years in the industry. It is not his first foray into criticism of pipeline projects since during earlier hearings on the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipelines he suggested that the company's energy forecasts were based on "bogus economics". Eliesen testified:β€œIt is my contention that Enbridge has submitted marketing propaganda masquerading as economic analysis because of the one-sided, self-serving private benefit picture the proponent has presented. Therefore the public benefit test is not being met and therefore the project is not in the public interest,”
As to the present Kinder Morgan hearings Eliesen claimed that the hearings are "dismissive of intervenors" and "showed a lack of respect" for participants. In an interview with the Vancouver Observer Eliesen said: "In my view the NEB hearing process is a rigged game. In the past, there was a more objective evaluation of projects that would come forward...but it's reached a stage where the NEB is not interested in the public interest, and more interested in facilitating the infrastructure for the oil and gas industry."
The city councils of both Vancouver and nearby Burnaby oppose the Kinder Morgan proposal because it would increase oil tanker traffic in the Burrard Inlet six-fold. The NEB spokesperson Sarah Kiley defended the hearings claiming they would not be biased: "We have a long history of conducting hearings that are rigorous, thorough and fair and the Trans Mountain Expansion project is no exception. As an expert and independent tribunal, it is up to the NEB to gather the information and evidence necessary to make an informed decision," Kiley claimed that the NEB had removed oral cross-examinations in past projects. Eliesen claimed any claim that omitting oral cross-examination was standard procedure was simply false: "For them to suggest they've done this in the past is totally misleading and erroneous. We've never had in the history of the NEB a public hearing process in which there was no oral cross examination...You have a situation here where all intervenors have done due diligence and have put in a heck of a lot of work and time and cost...and you submit all these questions. And you have proponents refusing to answer questions, who appeal to the NEB. That's what makes this whole thing a farce."
There is not just hostility in city councils and at the hearings but on the ground as protesters have blocked survey work in a conservation area in Metro Vancouver. Lawyers for the company are seeking an injunction to stop the protests.
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