CALGARY, Alberta, Aug 31 (Reuters) - Canada’s National Energy Board (NEB) will hold a series of public hearings beginning this year to determine the route for Kinder Morgan Inc’s Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, the regulator said on Thursday.
While the expansion is federally approved, the NEB could force Kinder Morgan to tweak its route or impose further conditions, NEB chief environment officer Rob Steedman said in an interview.
When asked if the hearings would result in delays for Trans Mountain, Steedman said: “Some areas, there may be either negotiations or regulatory restrictions specified. We just don’t know until we do each one individually.”
Kinder Morgan Canada Ltd, the local division of Houston’s Kinder Morgan Inc, has said it plans to start construction in September but that most major work will not happen this year.
The Trans Mountain expansion would nearly triple the capacity of the existing pipeline from Canada’s oil heartland of Alberta to the west coast and significantly increase crude tanker traffic.
Canadian crude producers, whose landlocked product trades at a discount to the West Texas Intermediate benchmark, say they need more pipeline capacity to fetch better prices, but efforts to attain that have come under fierce opposition from environmental and aboriginal groups.
The NEB announced the route hearings after Kinder Morgan’s planned path received 452 statements of opposition.
The route hearings, some of which are scheduled for next year, could last weeks, although they do not have firm dates for conclusion, or for when the NEB needs to render decisions, according to the regulator. (Reporting by Ethan Lou; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)