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City of Vancouver says Kinder Morgan skirting questions about Trans Mountain

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VANCOUVER - Kinder Morgan has failed to answer many of the questions put to the company about its proposed Trans Mountain pipeline through the regulatory review process, charge a chorus of critics that includes the province of British Columbia and the city of Vancouver.

The city submitted 394 written questions as part of the National Energy Board's regulatory review process but said the Texas-based company did not respond to 40 per cent of them, covering everything from emergency management plans to compensation in the event of an oil spill.

"We submitted almost 400 questions and only about 248 of them were answered," said Sadhu Johnston, deputy city manager. The rest "were quite inadequate in the way they were answered, with either no answer or only partial answers."

"As interveners we are trying to assess the proposed project and are finding it quite difficult to get information on the project.

"That does make it hard for us to fully evaluate the proposal and to prepare our experts and our expert testimony to ask the right questions and formulate an opinion."

Both the city and the province submitted requests to the energy board Friday asking the regulator to compel Kinder Morgan to respond to the outstanding requests.

The B.C. Environment Ministry issued a statement saying they had submitted more than 70 information requests to the company through the board, dealing with maritime and land-based spill response, prevention and recovery systems.

"In a number of cases, Kinder Morgan’s responses to the information requests do not provide sufficient information," the statement said. "That makes it difficult for the province to evaluate whether the Trans Mountain expansion project will include world-leading marine and land oil spill systems."

As part of the board review of the pipeline that would link the Alberta oil sands to Port Metro Vancouver, the company had to respond to more than 10,000 questions submitted by hundreds of groups and individuals granted intervener status by the board.

Under new rules for the regulatory review, there is a strict timeline and the board decided not to allow direct oral questioning of company officials. All questions must be submitted in writing ahead of hearings set to begin in early 2015.

It's a very restrictive process, Johnston said.

"It's really become quite undemocratic, the way the NEB is running the process," he said.

The city said the responses it did receive made it clear that the company will not cover the first responder costs incurred by Vancouver in the event of disaster and it said the responses from Kinder Morgan raise questions on the economic feasibility of the project.

B.C. Green MLA Andrew Weaver has also complained about the responses provided by the company to his 500 questions.

He filed a motion with the energy board Thursday asking for full and adequate responses and a revised review timetable to incorporate "new and reasonable" deadlines for information requests and evidence.

"Many of the answers I received are simply unacceptable," Weaver, a Nobel Prize-winning climate scientist, said in a statement.

Kinder Morgan declined a request for an interview.

Scott Stoness, vice-president of regulatory and finance for the company, said in an emailed statement that Trans Mountain believes it provided robust responses to questions "that were within the scope of the regulatory review."

Some of the information is market sensitive or would be a security risk to release, he wrote.

"It is normal in regulatory processes that there are debates about whether questions are appropriate and/or in scope," Stoness wrote.

"We understand some interveners may not be satisfied with the answers we provided. That is why the NEB process allows for interveners to make motions on the responses we submitted," he wrote.

They will have another opportunity to question the company and to submit their own evidence later this year, he said.

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