Next week’s ministerial panel roundtable at TRU on Trans Mountain pipeline expansion appears to be open to public comments and questions, though that’s still not entirely clear.
The three-member review panel was appointed in June with the role of reviewing and restoring confidence in federal environmental and regulatory processes.
More specifically, the panel is looking at some of the gaps in National Energy Board hearings, gathering concerns such as those related to First Nations as well as increased coastal tanker traffic, views that could be relevant to the government’s decision.
With that decision expected by the end of the year, the government is hurrying the panel process and not allowing for adequate public participation in roundtables, said Kai Nagata, communications director with the Dogwood Institute, a group opposed to the project.
Four town hall meetings, which allow for direct input by the general public, are included in the panel’s tour of B.C. Roundtables, however, are held on an invitational basis with participation by stakeholders, those directly affected by the project — local governments, NGOs, business and First Nations.
“If you’re a resident of Kamloops, it’s sort of tough luck,” Nagata said, acknowledging that the pipeline expansion hasn’t generated in the Interior anywhere near the degree of opposition seen on the Coast.
In response to a query from NewsKamloops.com, the Ministry of Natural Resources has outlined its public participation rules for the two-day roundtables:
- Meetings of the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project (TMX) Ministerial Panel are open to the public and media alike.
- Formal registration is not required. The panel is asking the public to send an email to their dedicated e-mail account (firstname.lastname@example.org) indicating the meeting they wish to attend in order to assist with advance planning.
- Speaking times will be shared to allow an equal voice for all those present at meetings and to hear from as many people as possible. Generally, presenters will be asked to limit their comments to three to five minutes.
“While these sessions are for the panel to hear from those potentially affected by the TMX project, all sessions are open,” the ministry stated. "While invited groups will have the opportunity to speak first, other groups or individuals in attendance will then be invited to make comments to the panel."
The roundtables begin at 9 a.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, July 19-20, and run through the day in the Irving K. Barber Centre.
Nagata, who applied as an intervenor in the NEB hearings but was rejected, said the panel rules for input are ambiguous for a reason.
“The idea of the panel review is to hear from the public, but they’re balancing it with expediency so that they can be finished by the end of the year.”
Nagata said when he directly discussed the pipeline review process with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, he was assured that the process would be completely redone in view of a lack of public confidence in the NEB panel hearings. Instead, there are constraints on broad public input at the roundtables, which should be a concern to supporters of the Trans Mountain expansion as well as to those opposed, he said.