Second panel struck to review Trans Mountain pipeline

New panel will complement, not replace, NEB panel's final recommendations

Former Tsawwassen chief Kim Baird among the panelists who will review Trans Mountain pipeline project 
An apparent distrust of the National Energy Board panel in charge of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion has prompted the federal Liberal government to strike a second parallel three-person panel as a counter balance.

The new panel was announced Tuesday May 17, just three days before the NEB is scheduled to make its recommendations on the $7 billion twinning of the Trans Mountain pipeline by Kinder Morgan Inc. (NYSE:KMI).

The new panel includes former Tsawwassen First Nation chief Kim Baird, former Yukon premier Tony Penikett, and Annette Trimbee, a former deputy minister for the Government of Alberta.

The panel is not meant to replace the NEB panel and its recommendations, but to complement them, according to a government news release.

As promised in the federal election campaign, the Liberal government is working on reforming both the NEB and Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency’s review processes.

The new panel is intended as an ad hoc measure until those reforms are fully in place, Jonathan Wilkinson, Liberal MP for North Vancouver, told Business in Vancouver.

“In the interim, there are a number of principles by which we will be looking to ensure that projects already going forward are going to be guided by those (principles),” he said.

Those principles include ensuring that both First Nations and communities along the pipeline corridor have been adequately consulted.

Wilkinson added that the panel will also be tasked with ensuring that upstream greenhouse gases emissions are properly weighed as part of environmental considerations.

“The panel is not going to come back with a formal recommendation about whether the process should go ahead,” Wilkinson said. “It’s going to come back and tell the minister that this is what we heard from communities and these are the specific concerns that need to be addressed.”

The panel begins its consultation in June and will make its findings and recommendations to Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr by November 1.

Stewart Muir, executive director for Resource Works, said he thinks the panel’s composition strikes a good balance, and that the panel is the Liberal government’s way of putting its own stamp on things, while getting projects across the finish line.

“This is a government that is showing its form of pragmatism in getting to decisions,” Muir said. “They’re doing it their way.

“It is potentially a definitional statement of how they’re going to tweak the processes and allow investment to occur.”

nbennett@biv.com