Summary of Recommendation - Trans Mountain Expansion Project

Trans Mountain Expansion Project

The National Energy Board (NEB or Board) finds that the Trans Mountain Expansion Project (Project) is in Canada’s public interest and recommends that Governor in Council (GIC) approve the Project, subject to 157 conditions. Should GIC approve the Project, it would direct the Board to issue a new Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN) and amended CPCNs. The associated regulatory instruments (Instruments) issued by the Board would only come into effect if GIC approves the Project.

The Project

The Project proposes to expand the existing Trans Mountain pipeline system between Edmonton, AB and Burnaby, B.C., nearly tripling the capacity to ship oil from 300,000 barrels per day (bpd) to 890,000 bpd.

Almost 90 per cent of the pipeline route for the Project parallels existing disturbance, including the right-of-way for Trans Mountain’s existing pipeline. This is appropriate, as it reduces the requirements for new right-of-way disturbance, minimizes the potential impacts of construction, and reduces effects on nearby residents and communities.

The Project includes approximately 987 km of new pipeline, new and modified facilities, such as pump stations and tanks, and the reactivation of 193 km of existing pipeline. The Westridge Marine Terminal (WMT) would also be expanded. Oil would be loaded onto tankers at the WMT for Washington State, California and Asia.

A full description of the Project is provided in Chapter 1 of the National Energy Board Report (Report).

Environmental Assessment

The Board completed a full and comprehensive environmental assessment. The Board’s 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 is of the view that overall, with the implementation of Trans Mountain’s environmental protection procedures and mitigation and the Board’s recommended conditions, the Project would not likely cause significant adverse environmental effects. While the Board recommends there be no findings of significant adverse environmental effects pursuant to the CEAA 2012, the Board found significant effects related to increases in marine shipping assessed under the NEB Act. These are described in Chapter 14 of the Report.

While marine shipping is not part of the Project, and is not regulated by the NEB, the Board, as part of its overall public interest determination, considered the potential environmental effects and socio-economic effects of increased marine shipping activities. This included the potential effects of accidents or malfunctions.

Benefits of the Project

In considering whether the Project is in the public interest, the Board concluded there would be a number of important benefits for Canada. These benefits would be considerable and include:

  • increased access to diverse markets for Canadian oil;
  • thousands of construction jobs and hundreds of long-term jobs directly related to the Project across Canada;
  • the development of capacity of local and Indigenous individuals, communities and businesses;
  • considerable benefit from direct spending on pipeline materials in Canada; and
  • considerable government revenues from the Project.

Indigenous Interests

The Board considered the concerns expressed by Indigenous groups, how the Project and related tanker traffic could impact Indigenous interests, and the appropriate means of mitigating such impacts. The Board’s process is designed to be thorough and accessible to Indigenous groups so that they may make their concerns known to the Board and have those concerns considered and addressed.

Should the Project proceed, Trans Mountain would be required to continue its consultation with potentially affected Indigenous groups throughout the life of the Project. As part of the Board’s conditions, Trans Mountain would report to the Board on its consultation with Indigenous groups during construction and through the first five years of operations. Consultation would include the development of a number of plans related to, among other things, environmental protection and emergency response programs.

Commitments and conditions

Trans Mountain has formally committed to specific mitigation measures and should GIC approve the Project, the Board would attach 157 conditions to the CPCNs and Instruments that cover a wide range of matters, including:

  • emergency preparedness and response
  • protection of the environment
  • consultation with those affected, including Indigenous communities
  • socio-economic matters
  • safety, and integrity of the pipeline
  • commercial support for the Project prior to construction
  • financial responsibility

Residual Burdens of Project-related marine shipping

Even with Trans Mountain’s commitments and the Board’s conditions, some impacts or residual burdens would remain, and were fully considered and weighed by the Board in coming to its recommendation. The full description of how the Board balanced the benefits and burdens can be found in Chapter 2 of the Report.

In regard to residual burdens from Project-related marine vessels, the Board kept in mind that Project-related vessels would follow a route that currently has high levels of vessel traffic, and that, even if the Project does not proceed, the level of traffic is predicted to increase in the future. While the effects from Project-related marine vessels would be a small fraction of the total cumulative effects, the Board found that the operation of Project-related marine vessels would further contribute to cumulative effects that are already jeopardizing the recovery of the Southern resident killer whale. Therefore, the Board finds that the operation of Project-related marine vessels would likely result in significant adverse effects to the Southern resident killer whale, and on Indigenous cultural use associated with the Southern resident killer whale.

Furthermore, the current and predicted future vessel traffic, even if the Project does not proceed, would contribute to an increase in Canadian greenhouse gas emissions. While the Board recognizes that emissions from Project-related marine vessels would be a small percentage relative to Canadian greenhouse gas emissions, given that there are no regulatory reporting thresholds or specific requirements for marine greenhouse gas emissions in Canada, the Board finds the greenhouse gas emissions from Project-related marine vessels would likely be significant.

The Board also took into consideration the likelihood and potential consequence of a large spill from the Project or from a Project-related tanker. The Board finds that both of these events would be of very low probability given all of the mitigation and safety measures being implemented, but nonetheless, would have a significant effect in the event of a large spill. This factored into the Board’s assessment of burdens.

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

The Board weighed the totality of the benefits and residual burdens to come to its public interest recommendation under the NEB Act. In making its recommendation, the Board focussed on the overall Canadian public interest. On the whole, taking into account all of the evidence in the hearing, considering all relevant factors, and given that there are considerable benefits nationally, regionally and to some degree locally, the Board found that the benefits of the Project would outweigh the residual burdens. Accordingly, the Board concludes that the Project is in the Canadian public interest.

Lifecycle Regulation

Should the GIC approve the Project, it is important to keep in mind that approval of the Project, through the issuance of the CPCNs and Instruments, is just one phase in the Board’s lifecycle regulation. Throughout the lifecycle of the Project, the NEB would hold Trans Mountain 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 Government of Canada announced in January 2016 an interim approach for reviewing major natural resource projects.

Additional information regarding the Interim Measures for Pipeline Reviews can be found at:

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