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Summary of Recommendation - NGTL Towerbirch Expansion Project

Summary of Recommendation [PDF 52 KB]

NGTL Towerbirch Expansion Project

The National Energy Board (Board) finds that NOVA Gas Transmission Ltd.’s (NGTL) Towerbirch Expansion Project (Project) is in the Canadian public interest. The Board recommends that the Governor in Council (GIC) approve the Project and direct the Board to issue a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (Certificate), subject to the 24 conditions set out in the Board’s GH-003-2015 Report (Report). Should the GIC make such a direction, the Board will also issue Orders XG-N081-025-2016 and TG-008-2016 in respect of the Project.

The Project

NGTL applied for a Certificate to construct and operate approximately 87 km of new gas pipeline and associated facilities in northwest Alberta and northeast British Columbia, consisting of the Tower Lake Section (approx. 32 km of NPS 30 pipe (TLS)) and the Groundbirch Mainline Loop (approx. 55 km of NPS 36 pipe (GBML Loop)). Approximately 82 per cent of the Project will parallel existing right-of-way (RoW) or existing disturbances and 89 per cent will be located on private land. Paralleling existing disturbances reduces the Project footprint and minimizes fragmentation of the landscape, which in turn minimizes the environmental and socio economic effects of the Project, and impact on Aboriginal traditional land and resource use.

The total estimated capital cost of the Project is $439 million (2017 $ CAD). NGTL’s planned in-service date for the pipeline components of the Project is 1 November 2017. The in-service date for the Dawson Creek East Receipt Meter Station is 1 July 2017. The Groundbirch East Receipt Expansion and the Tower Lake Receipt Meter Station have an anticipated in-service date of 1 November 2017. The Dawson Creek North No. 2 Receipt Meter Station and the Dawson Creek North Receipt Meter Station are expected to be in-service 1 April 2018 and 1 September 2018, respectively.

A full description of NGTL’s application and the Project is provided in Chapter 2 of the Report.

Environmental Assessment

The Board completed a full and comprehensive environmental assessment of the Project which is provided in Chapter 9 of the Report. This environmental assessment fulfils the requirements of both the National Energy Board Act (NEB Act) and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 (CEAA 2012).

The Board notes that the clearing and construction activities for the Project are scheduled within the nesting period for migratory birds and have the potential to overlap with restricted activity periods (RAP) put in place to protect watercourses and Species at Risk Act-listed species. The Board directs NGTL to schedule construction activities outside of environmentally sensitive periods to the extent possible, as well as recommends specific conditions to address breeding bird surveys and a regeneration plan for old growth forest bird habitat.

The Board concluded in its environmental assessment that with the implementation of NGTL’s environmental protection procedures and mitigation and the Board’s recommended conditions, the Project is not likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects

Balancing the benefits and residual burdens to reach its public interest recommendation

The Board weighed the benefits (e.g. additional Canadian gas supply to meet market demand and offset production declines in the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin) and the burdens (e.g. the extent of development in the region) to come to its public interest recommendation under the NEB Act. On the whole, taking into account all of the evidence in the hearing and considering all relevant factors, the Board found that the benefits of the Project outweigh the residual burdens. Accordingly, the Board concluded that the Project is in the Canadian public interest.

Aboriginal Interests

The Board learned about the concerns of potentially affected Aboriginal groups in a number of ways, including through NGTL’s submissions about its direct engagement with them and through the participation of Aboriginal groups in the Board’s hearing process. The Board’s hearing process was designed to encourage and support Aboriginal participation and included the gathering of oral traditional evidence.

The Board has considered and addressed in the Report the concerns expressed by Aboriginal groups, how the Project could impact Aboriginal interests and the appropriate means of mitigating such impacts.

Should the Project proceed, NGTL would be required to continue engaging with potentially affected Aboriginal groups throughout the life of the Project. As part of the Board’s conditions, NGTL would also be required to:

  • submit a plan to address Outstanding Traditional Land Use Investigations;
  • submit a plan describing participation of Aboriginal groups in monitoring Project construction and post-construction activities;
  • notify Aboriginal groups of Project-related filings in which they have expressed an interest; and,
  • report, once construction is complete, on the participation and outcomes of Aboriginal groups in monitoring, including lessons learned to be applied to the post-construction monitoring agreements.

Commitments and Conditions

NGTL has formally committed to specific mitigation measures. Should GIC accept the Board’s recommendation to approve the Project, the Board would attach 24 conditions to the Certificate. These conditions cover a wide range of matters, including:

  • protection of the environment, including the protection and regeneration of old growth forest bird habitat;
  • socio-economic matters; and
  • socio-economic matters;
  • safety and integrity of the Project.

Some conditions govern the pre-construction and construction of the Project, and others pertain to the operation of the Project.

Lifecycle Regulation

Approval of the Project is just one phase in the Board’s lifecycle regulation. The Project will become part of the existing NGTL System which is subject to the Board’s comprehensive and ongoing regulatory oversight. The Board would monitor all conditions and commitments made by NGTL during the hearing, and would hold NGTL accountable for meeting its regulatory requirements in order to keep its pipelines and facilities safe and secure, and protect people, property and the environment.

What’s next?

As required by the NEB Act, the Board has submitted its recommendation to the Minister of Natural Resources Canada. The GIC will make a decision on whether it approves the Project.

Should the GIC accept the Board’s recommendation, it will direct the Board to issue a Certificate for the Project. Upon issuance of the Certificate, related regulatory decisions (Board Orders) pertaining to certain exemptions and to tolling methodology for the Project will also be issued.

The Board notes that in January 2016, the Government of Canada announced an interim strategy for reviewing major natural resource projects. Additional information regarding the Interim Measures for Pipeline Reviews can be found on the Major Projects Management Office website (https://mpmo.gc.ca/measures/254).

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