Pipelines – Detailed Route Hearings
The background of this proceeding is set out in this newsletter in Trans Mountain Pipeline ULC Detailed Route Hearing MH-010-2020 – Chilliwack School District, District Parent Advisory Council, and City of Chilliwack.
Detailed Route Hearing MH-011-2020
In September 2019, Ms. Christine Bloom filed SOOs opposing the proposed detailed route and methods and timing of construction on the lands at issue in this detailed route hearing (the “Lands”). The City of Chilliwack (“Chilliwack”) filed SOOs seeking to resume its 2017/2018 detailed route hearing. The WaterWealth Project (“WaterWealth”) participated as an intervener. An SOO from an Indigenous group was submitted and withdrawn.
On 31 January 2020, the CER issued a Procedural Direction explaining that there are a number of instances where the geographical focus of one detailed route hearing overlaps with that of one or more other hearings. This Detailed Route Hearing MH-011-2020 related to Tract 2352 only, which is in Segment 6.3 (the “Lands”). All other tracts of land in Segments 6.2, 6.3, and 6.4 were the subject of other detailed route hearings. These five hearings are referred to collectively as the “Chilliwack-Area Hearings.”
Overview of the Proposed Route on the Lands
The following figure depicts Trans Mountain’s proposed detailed route (in red), as well as alternate routes proposed by WaterWealth (supported by Ms. Bloom) (in green) and Chilliwack (in dark blue):
Is Trans Mountain’s Proposed Detailed Route for the TMEP Pipeline the Best Possible Detailed Route?
The CER noted that Trans Mountain’s proposed route is parallel to and within the existing TMPL RoW for the entire route crossing the Lands. The proposed TMEP will be placed further away from Ms. Bloom’s home than where the existing TMPL is presently located.
The CER was of the view that Ms. Bloom’s concerns about disruptions to Chilliwack residents, and emergency response in the event of a spill, are general in nature and not specific to the Lands and were therefore not within the scope of this hearing. These general matters were considered in the earlier Certificate Hearings. While the CER agreed that human health, in general, is beyond the scope of this detailed route hearing, it found that Ms. Bloom’s particular health concerns were within scope. However, Ms. Bloom did not provide an explanation of how the proposed route, or a leak or spill, may aggravate her health conditions or impact her, above and beyond the potential impacts on human health that were considered and addressed in the Certificate Hearings.
With regard to the Sardis-Vedder Aquifer, the CER noted that the Chilliwack Realignment hearing considered in detail the risk that the Approved Corridor (and thus of Trans Mountain’s proposed route) posed to the Aquifer and Chilliwack’s water wells. Relatively little new evidence was submitted in this Detailed Route Hearing MH-011-2020 concerning that risk. The Realignment Report concluded that the risk to Chilliwack’s wells is minimal, but not zero. The CER agreed. It rejected the suggestion that Trans Mountain install a trench liner, finding that it would likely introduce pipeline integrity challenges and that the TMEP leak detection system made a trench liner unnecessary.
The CER found that Trans Mountain applied its routing criteria appropriately. It found that Trans Mountain had the onus of proving on a balance of probabilities that its proposed route is the best possible detailed route and that its proposed methods and timing of construction are the most appropriate. The CER examined alternate routes and found that they were inferior to Trans Mountain’s proposed route. It found that Trans Mountain’s proposed route is the best possible detailed route.
Are Trans Mountain’s Proposed Methods of Constructing the Pipeline the Most Appropriate?
The CER noted that Trans Mountain proposed to construct the TMEP within the existing TMPL RoW for the entirety of the route crossing on the Lands, using a conventional open-trench construction methodology. The CER found that, on a balance of probabilities, Trans Mountain’s proposed methods of constructing the pipeline on the Lands are most appropriate in the circumstances.
The CER accepted that Trans Mountain’s commitment to using a Heavily Restricted Footprint on the Lands appropriately minimized the impacts. A Heavily Restricted Footprint, where construction is completed with a shored trench or stove pipe technique, uses a small and vertically cut trench. As described by Trans Mountain, the pipeline is constructed within the trench, and all welding and coating activities take place within the shored excavation. This technique allows for minimal use of temporary workspace to the greatest extent possible. The only space affected is required for the width of the shored trench, for lowering equipment to place the pipe within the trench, and for access. Typically, the excavated material is trucked out and back into the temporary workspace instead of being stored on site. In making its finding, the CER placed significant weight on these mitigation measures.
Is Trans Mountain’s Proposed Timing of Constructing the TMEP Pipeline the Most Appropriate?
The CER noted that Trans Mountain intends to commence construction activities on the Lands in Q3 of 2021, subject to regulatory approval. It further noted that Trans Mountain is making efforts to expedite the construction schedule in the area to minimize impacts on residents and has committed to keeping Ms. Bloom apprised of Trans Mountain’s construction plans. Ms. Bloom did not make submissions on this issue and Chilliwack’s concerns related to issues outside of the Lands. The CER was of the view that Trans Mountain’s proposed timing of constructing the pipeline across the Lands is the most appropriate.
The CER decided that Trans Mountain’s proposed route is the best possible detailed route on the Lands, and the proposed methods and timing of constructing the pipeline are the most appropriate, subject to the commitments made by Trans Mountain and ongoing compliance with the Certificate OC-065 conditions.