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City in the dark on pipeline application

NEB has reopened participation process after changes from TransCanada

Councillor John Aker takes a look at the proposed route of TransCanada's new natural gas pipeline back in 2014. The scopes of the project have changed since then, including a recent change that calls for increased capacity on the line.

Councillor John Aker takes a look at the proposed route of TransCanada’s new natural gas pipeline back in 2014. The scopes of the project have changed since then, including a recent change that calls for increased capacity on the line.

By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express

The city will have to wait a little longer to hear how involved it will be with the decision making process for the Eastern Mainline pipeline.

More than a year ago, city staffers filed an application to participate with the National Energy Board (NEB), the group responsible for reviewing and eventually giving the green light to TransCanada to construct and operate its pipeline.

At the time, The Oshawa Express was told final decisions on the role of the 300-plus applicants would be made later in 2015. However, word never came, and the city does not know why.

“We’re not the only ones,” says Paul Ralph, the city’s commissioner of development services.

The Central Lake Ontario Conservation Authority (CLOCA) also filed an application to participate as the proposed pipeline could run through environmentally sensitive lands under its jurisdiction, including the Oshawa Creek and Farewell Creek watersheds.

The delay in the decision making is a result of changes filed by TransCanada in December, which call for increased capacity for commercial parties along the 245-km natural gas pipeline, and according to Sarah Kiley, a spokesperson with the NEB, it caused them to reopen the participation process.

Closed in March 2015, the process reopened on March 30, 2016 and will close again on April 20. Kiley says the purpose of this is to allow anyone who may be affected by the recent amendments to come forward.

“If you feel that you are affected by these changes or that you have important information to share with us that relates to these changes, then this is the opportunity for the public, or for the community or for anyone who feels that they have something to contribute,” she says.

Those who have already filed applications do not need to file another, she says.

No timeline was offered for when a final decision would be made after all applications have been received, with Kiley saying it could be a couple weeks or it could be a couple of months.

“We still have to review this very massive application and make sure that there aren’t gaping holes that need to be addressed,” she says. “It’s a very rigorous and thorough testing and we want to make sure we get this right.”

The city’s and CLOCA’ s eventual level of involvement will come down to a decision made by a three-member panel at the NEB, who will pick the intervenors and the commenters.

For commenters, these participants are allowed to file a letter with the NEB stating their issues and thoughts on the process. Intervenors play more of an involved role.

“It’s a little bit more of a commitment,” Kiley says.

Intervenors receive all documents shared during the hearing process and are allowed to attend hearings, ask questions and present their own evidence and information regarding the final pipeline.

The Eastern Mainline pipeline was not the only project reopened for applications as the NEB is currently accepting applications to participate, once again, for the massive Energy East pipeline.

This pipeline could eventually carry 1.1 million barrels of oil a day from Alberta through Saskatechwan, on to Quebec and eventually to New Brunswick to be shipped overseas.

It has drawn scorn from environmentalists who claim it will increase Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions and praise from proponents who claim it will be a big support for Alberta’s oil sands.