2,000 Apply to speak at Kinder Morgan Pipeline Hearing

By Roy L Hales

The deadline for applications to speak at the National Energy Board’s hearing on the proposed Kinder Morgan (Trans-Mountain) Pipeline expansion proposal is over. Around 2,000 applicants came forward. Several Lower Mainland communities, the governments of BC, Alberta and Washington, as well as 40 First Nations (4 of which came from Washington state) have applied.

If the project is approved:

  • the amount of Alberta crude being shipped across BC to the Lower Mainland will increase from 300,000 to 890 barrels a day. The number of tankers passing through Burrard Inlet could increase to more than 400 a year.
  • Kinder Morgan claims they will pay $2.1 billion in Federal,  $1.7 billion in provincial and $500 million in municipal taxes over the next 20 years. The project would also employ 4,500 people during construction and funnel $400 million into the communities that provide accommodation, food and recreation for its workers.
  • an oil spill could disrupt Vancouver’s $2 billion-a-year shipping business, which employs 30,000 people, devastate the province’s 1.2 billion a year fishing industry and tarnish the image of BC’s tourist industry.

When the Trans-Mountain Pipeline was built, 61 years ago, the province’s First Nations were not even consulted. Now the fate of Kinder Morgan’s project may be determined by its ability to satisfy Aboriginal Treaty Rights.

The existing pipeline crosses 15 reservations and even more First Nation’s traditional territories.

Proposed Trans Mountain Expansion Project Configuration Map - taken from NEB Website
Proposed Trans Mountain Expansion Project Configuration Map – taken from NEB Website

In a candid email to Premier Christy Clark, last summer, Kinder Morgan Canada President Ian Anderson admitted that ”increasingly, our operations are affected by the many and complicated issues surrounding Aboriginal rights and title…. I believe we will be successful in coming to agreement with many parties doe our expansion but despite our best efforts it is not possible we will not have agreements with all those affected.”

“The biggest concern we have is the increased tanker traffic in Burrard Inlet,” said Chief Maureen Thomas of the Tsleil-Waututh First Nation, whose band lives just across the water from the Westridge Marine Terminal where tankers are loaded. “The people have told us we have to stop this project. It is a risk too great.”

“Over the last 100 years, our most sacred site, the Salish Sea, has been deeply impacted by our pollution-based economy,” said Swinomish Chairman Brian Cladoosby, from Washington State. “Every kind of pollution ends up in the Salish Sea. We have decided no more and we are stepping forward. It is up to this generation and future generations to restore and protect the precious waters of the Salish Sea.”

“Today we are taking a stand to honour our ancient connection to the Salish Sea. The threat of oil spills and industrial pollution continue to threaten our way of life,” said Chief Ian Campbell of the Squamish Nation. “We stand in unity with all who care about the health of the Salish Sea and defend it for future generations.”

While Kinder Morgan’s efforts to maintain the integrity of the Trans-Mountain Pipeline have been impressive, there have been at least seven major incidents since they acquired it in 2005. These have all been on land, what if the next involves a tanker?

A study done by the city of Vancouver concluded that while the likelihood of a major tanker spill is declining, “there is no way to eliminate the risk of a spill.”

Kinder Morgan claims that, if more up to date equipment were utilized, it may be possible to clean up 2/3 of the oil from a major spill in the Gulf Islands in four days.

Dr. Gerald Graham, head of Victoria-based Worldocean Consulting, questioned some of the assumptions underlying Kinder Morgan’s figures and told reporters,  ”even if they’re right and get two-thirds of the oil recovered, I’m worried about the other one third. One third of 104,000 barrels, that’s a heck of lot of oil.”

Last October the Raincoast Conservation Foundation and the Georgia Strait Alliance dropped more than 1,000 plywood “drift cards” along the tanker route from Burrard Inlet out through the Salish Sea. More than a third have been recovered and, as might be expected, many were found in the Gulf Islands and San Juan Islands. The online Salish Sea Spill map shows display cards found on both sides of the strait of Juan de Fuca, some drifted up the West coast to Long Beach, card S-25 was recovered from close to the Northern tip of Vancouver Island and R-26 reached Haida Gwaii. (The site also hosts an online petition against the proposed pipeline, which you can accessing by clicking on their “take action” tab)

Designed by Erika Rathje for the Dogwood Initiative
Designed by Erika Rathje for the Dogwood Initiative

A recent poll taken by Justason Market Intelligence, showed that nearly two-thirds of British Columbians (64%) opposed a proposal to transport crude oil through B.C.’s northern inside coastal waters. 50% strongly oppose the proposal; 12% strongly support it.

“When British Columbians actually get the facts about oil tanker and pipeline proposals, their opposition is overwhelming,” said Will Horter, executive director of Dogwood Initiative – one of four groups that commissioned the poll. “Other polls in the past few months have only talked about pipelines with no mention of the crude oil supertankers that would inevitably come with them.”

“These polling results bring home why the Enbridge tanker and pipeline proposal is going nowhere fast – despite the JRP recommendation,” said Jessica Clogg of the West Coast Environmental Law Association. “Residents of B.C. continue to withhold ‘social license’ for the project, while multiple First Nations lawsuits threaten to derail it and the government of B.C. formally opposed the Enbridge project.”

A group calling itself Burnaby Residents Opposing Kinder Morgan Expansion has started a facebook page

The City of North Vancouver has expressed concerns about the threat an expansion of Westridge Marine Terminal poses to its beaches and Belcarra, does not want the “the increased noise and light pollution …”

“The proposal to massively expand the amount of oil shipped through Burrard Inlet from Kinder Morgan represents all risk and no benefit for Vancouver,” said Mayor Gregor Robertson.

(Image at top of Page: Romantic Oil Tanker – rabiem22, courtesy creative commons attrition 2.0)

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