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KMI cleared to start work at Burnaby tunnel site for Trans Mountain pipe project

Canada's energy regulator has cleared Kinder Morgan Inc.'s Canadian unit to begin construction at the entrance to a tunnel on its Westridge Marine Terminal site that would house its pipeline under Burnaby Mountain.

In a series of three decisions released Feb. 15, the National Energy Board gave Kinder Morgan Canada Ltd. the green light to start clearing and grading work at the site. The board, known as the NEB, said starting work on the tunnel would allow the company to avoid potential impacts on migratory birds that could use the area later in the spring.

The start of construction is subject to other applicable federal, provincial and municipal permits, the NEB said. The federal regulator has put a system in place to override the need for delayed permits from junior governments after Kinder Morgan complained that it was being stonewalled by the city of Burnaby, British Columbia. The provincial government has also vowed to work to stop the capacity expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline to 890,000 barrels per day from 300,000 bbl/d.

"The decision to build the 2.6-kilometer tunnel through Burnaby Mountain connecting Burnaby Terminal to Westridge Marine Terminal was based on feedback from local residents received through our engagement and as part of the regulatory process," Trans Mountain said in an email. "Tunnel construction will cause no disruption to the surface of Burnaby Mountain and will avoid construction through residential neighborhoods and city streets."

The board said it has given final approval to about 56% of the C$7.4 billion Trans Mountain expansion's route. The line has been approved by both the NEB and Canada's government, but the start of construction has been delayed by numerous hearings into the specific route of the line within the permitted right of way.

"While Trans Mountain now has the NEB's regulatory approvals to begin work at the Westridge portal for the Burnaby Mountain tunnel, construction is not yet authorized along the rest of the pipeline route," the NEB said in a statement. "Construction in those areas can begin once the necessary pre-construction conditions have been satisfied, and the applicable portions of the detailed route are approved."

In two of the rulings, the NEB approved the detailed route of the line where the Burnaby Mountain tunnel will be built. In the third, it lifted remaining pre-construction conditions to start construction on the Westridge site. The rulings are A90020, A90021 and A90023.