Trans Mountain construction work can go ahead as National Energy Board re-validates permits

CALGARY – The National Energy Board has cleared the way for construction to resume on portions of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project by re-validating all the orders and decisions it enjoyed before its permits were overturned last year.

The NEB, Canada’s pipeline regulator, announced late Friday that “decisions and orders issued prior to the Federal Court of Appeal decision will remain valid,” meaning that 73 per cent of the detailed pipeline route has been approved and 64 of 98 pre-construction conditions for the project have been fully satisfied.

Among those previously issued and now still-valid orders are clearances for Trans Mountain Corp. to begin construction on “portions of the pipeline route,” on temporary infrastructure sites along the route and at the Westridge Marine Terminal in Burnaby, British Columbia.

The NEB did not say when full construction would begin on the 590,000 barrels per day pipeline project to twin an existing line between Alberta and metro Vancouver.

Construction was halted in late August 2018 after the Appeals Court ruled that Ottawa hadn’t properly consulted with affected First Nations along the route or studied the impact of the project on marine wildlife.

Since that time, Ottawa has undertaken an additional study of the impact of the expanded pipeline and tanker traffic on marine wildlife and undertook additional consultations with affected First Nations. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the re-approval of the project last month.

Trans Mountain, the federal Crown corporation working to build on the West Coast-bound pipeline, didn’t have an updated schedule on Friday afternoon. “We are reviewing the details (of the NEB release) and will have more information to share regarding the processes and construction schedule in the coming weeks,” the company said in a release.

Still, the announcement from the NEB is a major win for Trans Mountain. The company specifically asked on June 18 for all previous orders to be re-instated and for the project to “be brought back to the same state of construction readiness that it was prior to the Federal Court of Appeal decision.”

We need this pipeline developed and we need construction to start in a timely fashion

Explorers and Producers Association of Canada president Tristan Goodman

Industry officials said the NEB announcement is an important milestone for the project.

“I think this is a positive step moving in the direction of getting an incredibly important piece of infrastructure for this entire nation built,” Explorers and Producers Association of Canada president Tristan Goodman said in an interview.

“We need this pipeline developed and we need construction to start in a timely fashion,” said Goodman, whose organization represents mid-sized oil and gas companies.

The industry sees the project as key to reducing its dependence on the U.S. market for exports by opening up Asian markets for Canadian crude supplies.

In recent months, trains loaded with pipes for the project have been delivering steel for the project and a third of all the pipes needed for construction have now been delivered to various storage yards in B.C. and Alberta.

While work resumes on the line, the project has been challenged once again on the grounds the federal government’s consultation with First Nations along the route was insufficient.

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