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Canada No less controversial, Trans Mountain continues on with expansion project

22:30  08 december  2019
22:30  08 december  2019 Source:   vancouversun.com

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a close up of a hillside next to a highway: An aerial view of construction progress on the terminal and tank farm on Burnaby Mountain for Trans Mountain's pipeline expansion as of November, 2019. An aerial view of construction progress on the terminal and tank farm on Burnaby Mountain for Trans Mountain's pipeline expansion as of November, 2019.

Construction crews remain busy driving piles for new facilities at Trans Mountain’s Westridge marine terminal on Burrard Inlet and clearing land at the Burnaby Mountain terminus of its pipeline, but industry leaders remain apprehensive about the expansion project.

“Everyone is guarded about what does this mean,” said Chris Gardner, president of the Independent Contractors and Business Association about last week’s announcement that construction on the $7.4 billion project had officially restarted.

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“Are we stopping and starting and stopping and starting,” Gardner said. “There has been so much uncertainty, there is definitely a degree of skepticism about some of these announcements and activity we see.”

Last Tuesday’s announcement near Edmonton by Trans Mountain CEO, accompanied by new Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Reagan and Alberta Energy Minister Sonya Savage, marked the restart of putting new pipe in the ground for the twinned pipeline.

That touched off what Anderson said would be a 22-month timeline to have the twinned facility, nearly tripling its capacity to 890,000 barrels of oil per day, in service by late 2022, although the overall project is not any less contentious among its opponents.

 Workers survey around pipe to start of right-of-way construction for the Trans Mountain Expansion Project, in Acheson, Alta., Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2019.© Jason Franson Workers survey around pipe to start of right-of-way construction for the Trans Mountain Expansion Project, in Acheson, Alta., Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2019.

However, in Burnaby, about 100 trucks per day are moving in and out of Trans Mountain’s terminal site, said project spokeswoman Ali Hounsel, as crews continue with clearing and stripping ground for expansion of its tank facilities and new water treatment system.

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“It’s a busy, busy construction site,” Hounsel said. “Things are happening,” and have been happening since August following the federal government’s re-approval of the project in June.

At last count, Hounsel said Trans Mountain and its prime contractors have hired 2,200 workers for the project.

At Trans Mountain’s Westridge Marine terminal, Hounsel said two barges are on site and have driven 25 of the 160 piles that will support expansion of the foreshore facilities for three new docks for loading ships.

“We’re also working through the regulatory process, particularly on the land side,” Hounsel said.

The project’s initial federal approval in 2018 was scrapped by the Federal Court of Appeal over inadequate consultation with First Nations delaying construction by about a year.

Hounsel said that with a new approval in June, Trans Mountain has had to re-file plans for all landowners to also be re-approved and deal with any outstanding complaints.

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As far as putting new pipe in the ground is concerned, while Anderson promised that would begin “before Christmas,” it will be later into 2020 before that work starts in earnest in B.C.

The actual pipeline construction has been broken up into seven separate segments, referred to as spreads in industry jargon. The first two of those are in Alberta, the rest are in B.C. with Spread 7, the final section, running through the Lower Mainland.

Gardner said the contractor on that section, the Kiewit Ledcor Trans Mountain Expansion Partnership, hasn’t mobilized a workforce for the work yet.

“We want to see the pipeline built and hopefully now it will go ahead,” Gardner said, “but we’re not seeing that much on-the-ground activity in British Columbia.”

Gardner said there has been enough uncertainty over the project, “there is a degree of skepticism about some of these announcements and activities we see.”

The Federal Court of Appeal, in a decision in September, ruled that six First Nations could file new legal challenges of the Trans Mountain project on the question of whether the federal government has fulfilled its obligation to consult with First Nations.

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Judy Wilson, secretary treasurer for the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs and Chief of the Neskonlith First Nation in B.C.’s interior, said she will “continue doing what we need to do” to uphold the collective rights of First Nations people.

Trans Mountain has signed 57 impact benefit agreements with First Nations along the pipeline’s route, but Wilson said those agreements should only be in effect on federal First Nations reserve lands, not territorial lands outside of reserves.

Wilson argued that Aboriginal title to territorial land still rests with the First Nations families associated with those areas, not Band Councils, and government hasn’t received their consent, under the principles of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Plus cities such as Vancouver, Burnaby and Victoria remain opposed to the project, so “it is a wider issue.”

“They can do all the photo ops they want, but there are substantive issues that haven’t been dealt with,” Wilson said.

Hounsel said the agreements that Trans Mountain has with First Nations are for the project’s right of way and “demonstrate the breadth” of support for it. She added that the agreements aren’t closed, the company is in continuing discussions with First Nations.

“We’ll continue to build with the appropriate permits and approvals in place,” Hounsel said. “If there are challenges, it doesn’t negate the approvals we have until such time as they are upheld in court.”

depenner@postmedia.com

twitter.com/derrickpenner

Ottawa's consultation with Indigenous groups on pipeline was meaningful: Lawyer .
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