Route and construction changes have ended the second British Columbia (BC) native rights dispute that threatened to delay the C$12.6 billion ($10 billion) Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion (TMX).

Trans Mountain Pipeline

Semá:th (Sumas) First Nation dropped years-long opposition after TMX re-engineered the project leg across tribal territory near the U.S. border in the Fraser Valley at Abbotsford, 50 miles east of Vancouver.

The alterations shift the route of the pipeline and use a low-impact construction technique, direct pipe installation, to avoid disturbing an outdoor native temple named Lightning Rock.

The site is believed to be a burial ground for victims of a 1782 smallpox plague that killed up to 90% of seven villages on 20,000 acres. A 600-acre reserve is home to about 350 remaining Semá:th.

Direct pipe installation would avoid digging a trench in the most sensitive area by burrowing under the ground with a micro-tunnel machine akin to mechanical moles used to build subways.

Added expenses of the Semá:th agreement have not been disclosed. But in detailed route hearings, TMX told the Canada Energy Regulator (CER) that construction delays would inflate project costs by hundreds of millions of dollars and erode pipeline earnings.

The CER continues to review the first TMX route alteration to settle a BC native rights dispute, a C$20 million ($16 million) bypass demanded by the Coldwater Indian Band 119 miles east of Vancouver near Merritt.

The Coldwater change, made last fall, was unopposed after TMX eased fears among ranch families. CER has scheduled its route alteration review to end May 31, in time for approval for TMX to hit an August construction start target.

Insurers Concerned

Meanwhile, Trans Mountain Pipeline won approval Thursday to keep the names of its insurance providers confidential following small but noisy protest rallies in BC that aimed to prevent the service.

CER made the ruling after reviewing evidence that the demonstrations at downtown Vancouver office towers shrank the number of insurance firms willing to cover Trans Mountain.

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The firm said the fuss threatened to hike premiums for mandatory insurance of C$500 million ($400 million) on its existing 300,000 b/d pipeline. The requirement kicks in for the 590,000 b/d expansion of Trans Mountain when it starts operating.

Trans Mountain is not the first Canadian pipeline that has obtained permission to keep names of its insurance providers out of compulsory annual financial health reports filed on the public regulatory record, noted CER.

“The information requested to be kept confidential is only one element,” added CER. “The limit of liability, amount of coverage, the insurance broker issuing the certificate, the policy dates for coverage, and the type of coverage are all information that is still available to the public.”

Of 30 letters sent to CER in response to Trans Mountain’s request, 17 opposed outnumbered 13 in favor. But the support letters for the pipeline included business organizations with large membership rosters.