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LNG Canada Pipeline Conduit Faces More Scrutiny; NEB to Consider Jurisdictional Claims

A hearing has been granted to an 11th-hour attempt to delay or kill liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports from the Pacific coast of British Columbia (BC) by requiring a new federal review on top of current provincial construction and environmental approvals.

The National Energy Board (NEB) decided Monday to consider a jurisdictional claim by conservationist Mike Sawyer that TransCanada Corp. needs more than BC permits to build the Coastal GasLink supply pipeline for LNG Canada, which was given the green light to proceed earlier this month by the partnership led by Shell Canada Ltd.

Sawyer pressed the NEB to act on his jurisdictional claim after LNG Canada said it would move forward with the Kitimat terminal, triggering construction of TransCanada’s C$6.2 billion ($5 billion) Coastal GasLink as a 670-kilometer (420-mile) conduit for the gas.

As a move liable to trigger a feud over Canada’s constitutional division of powers, the NEB decision included invitations to all Canadian provincial and federal attorneys general to participate in reviewing Sawyer’s complaint.

Sawyer’s arsenal includes a 2017 ruling by the Canadian Federal Court of Appeal. The verdict directed the NEB to allow him to make a case for requiring federal approval of a parallel, provincially approved LNG supply line that TransCanada also had a contract to build across BC for another export terminal.

TransCanada shelved the parallel gas conduit last year after the proposed customer, Pacific NorthWest LNG, scrapped plans for an export terminal at Prince Rupert, north of the Kitimat location.

In reopening the jurisdictional tangle for Coastal GasLink, the NEB said, “there is a prima facie case that the project may form part of a federal undertaking” because it appears to be integrated with the rest of TransCanada’s pipeline network.

However, the NEB also invited all concerned to consider an issue with potential to stop Sawyer cold about whether he has legal standing or sufficiently direct interest to challenge the pipeline project and the regulatory regime that has prevailed so far.

Coastal GasLink and LNG Canada have been operating with approvals by the BC Oil and Gas Commission and BC Environmental Assessment Office. A new, duplicate federal review has potential to add years to the regulatory approval process.

Sawyer, a building materials entrepreneur in the northern BC forest products and mining center of Smithers, is no lone crusader. West Coast Environmental Law, a Vancouver group with an international roster of donors, has supported his LNG resistance campaign.

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