A decision to participate in National Energy Board (NEB) hearings on the Kinder Morgan oil pipeline drew applause Monday afternoon, when Langley Township council voted to seek intervenor status.
The reaction came from a small group of local residents on hand for the vote, who have been lobbying the Township to participate.
The decision came just days before the deadline for intervenor applications, noon on Feb. 12.
Intervenors, if accepted by the NEB, can file written evidence and ask the applicant questions about the proposal to twin the pipeline that carries Alberta oil through Langley to local and foreign refineries.
The Metro Vancouver regional district, which represents Lower Mainland municipalities, is also applying for intervenor status.
Councillor Kim Richter, who has been pressing Township council to participate for weeks, also wanted to hold a “public input opportunity” to get feedback from residents about the pipeline to help prepare the Township presentation.
“Let’s go back and touch base with the public to make sure we’ve caught everything,” Richter said.
Mayor Jack Froese said that would raise “unfair expectations” among residents when the Township has no direct power over the pipeline.
The Richter proposal was defeated 6-3.
A staff report to council puts the price of participating in the NEB hearings at up to $100,000.
It estimates it will cost between $60,000 and $80,000 to prepare documents, send representatives to the hearings and report on the results, plus another $10,000 to $20,000 to hire legal counsel and expert witnesses, if needed.
About 10 to 20 per cent could be trimmed from that amount by sharing work with other Lower Mainland municipalities, the report suggests.
Councillor Bev Dornan hopes that is possible.
“Cost are an issue,” Dornan said.
The $5.4-billion Kinder Morgan project would nearly triple the capacity of the existing Trans Mountain pipeline to 890,000 barrels per day.
That would mean a seven-fold increase in shipments through Burrard Inlet to about 400 oil tankers a year.
The second pipeline would largely follow the right-of-way for the existing one in much of the Fraser Valley, but in Langley it will be be routed away from the original pipeline, which goes through heavily built-up areas in Walnut Grove.
Kinder Morgan wants to route it along the CN railway right-of-way, but the exact route between the existing route and the rail line has not yet been settled on. Several possible routes are still being investigated.
If the company wins approval from the NEB, construction would take place over 2016 and 2017.
An Insights West online poll released last month found 48 per cent of B.C. residents support the Trans Mountain pipeline twinning, 43 per cent oppose it and 11 per cent are undecided.
— with files from Jeff Nagel