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A ship receives its load of oil from the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain expansion project’s Westridge loading dock in Burnaby, B.C. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press) Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline expansion has a new Indigenous-led oversight committee, backed by the federal government, to monitor the controversial project’s construction which is slated to begin in September .

The Indigenous Advisory and Monitoring Committee includes 13 Indigenous members, representing bands from Alberta to the B.C. coast, and six federal representatives including the National Energy Board, Indigenous leaders announced today.

"We wanted to have this committee in place so that we would not be left outside the gate looking in," said committee member and Chief Ernie Crey of the Cheam First Nation in B.C.’s Fraser Valley.

"It will begin its work and it needs to start straight away."

It should not be seen as a stamp of approval for the project, said Crey.

The Trans Mountain expansion, which was approved by the Trudeau government last November , would nearly triple the existing capacity on Kinder Morgan’s 1,150-kilometre pipeline that runs from the Edmonton area to Burnaby, B.C., to 890,000 barrels a day and increase tanker traffic on the B.C. coast.

Ottawa has pledged $64.7-million over five years to support the work of the committee. Uncertain fate of pipeline

The election of an NDP government in B.C. — which opposes the project — and several court challenges have put the fate of the $7.4-billion pipeline in question, though the company said last week construction would still start in September.

Despite those uncertainties, Crey said Indigenous communities have not wanted to wait to seek their seat at the table.

"We had to plan what it is that we want to do, with a clear idea in mind that it’s likely to be constructed."

In a release, the National Energy Board said it looks forward to working with Indigenous communities "to advance our shared goals of environmental protection and safety."

Kinder Morgan was not immediately available to comment.

With files from CBC News

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