NEB hearings on Towerbirch pipeline to begin in spring

Energy regulator says it believes the project is "likely" to affect four species listed on Schedule 1 of the Species At Risk Act

The National Energy Board has approved a list of participants, commentators and intervenors who will take part in a 15-month hearing on the Nova Gas Transmission Line (NGTL) Towerbirch expansion project. 

At the end of the hearing, a three-member panel will make recommendations and decisions on whether the project should proceed and under what conditions.

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The need, economic feasibility, potential commercial impacts, appropriateness of the general route, as well as the potential impacts on aboriginal interests and landowners are among the 12 issues that will be considered at the hearing.

The NEB's report will be filed no later than March 22, 2017.

NGTL, a wholly-owned subsidiary of TransCanada Corp., is proposing to add a northbound expansion line to its existing Groundbirch Mainline Loop. 

The project will involve the construction of 87-kilometres of new gas pipeline and associated facilities. 

Open houses on the project were held in Groundbirch and Bonanza in August.

The NEB says it believes the project is "likely" to affect four species listed on Schedule 1 of the Species At Risk Act. These include: the Canada warbler, olive-sided flycatcher, yellow rail and the Western toad - all of which are listed as either "threatened" or of "special concern."

Among the intervenors are the Fort St. John Metis Society, Metis Nation of British Columbia, Saulteau First Nations and West Moberly First Nations.

Several energy companies have also applied and been granted intervenor status, including Cenovus Energy Inc., ConocoPhillips Canada, the Cutbank Ridge Partnership, Progress Energy Canada Ltd. and Talisman Energy Inc. 

The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers will also have a voice in the hearing as an intervenor. 

Arc Resources, BC Metis Federation, Black Swan Energy, Canbriam Energy Inc., Environment Canada and Health Canada are among the 13 commenters. 

Intervenors will submit written comments, ask questions in writing about evidence brought forward by other parties, submit and respond to motions and make final arguments. 

Commenters will be allowed to file one letter of comment. 

NGTL's project application was filed with the NEB in September. By January 15, it must file any additional written evidence to supplement its application which it will also be required to give to all intervenors.

The oral portion of the hearings will take place in the spring. 

Dawson Creek has been suggested as a possible location for the hearing, however, the date, location, venue and anticipated length of the oral hearing will be determined at a later date.

July 2016 is when intervenors and NGTL will present final argument, but this may also be combined with the oral portion of the hearing the NEB said.

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