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Complex to comment on Trans Mountain pipeline

A pipeline meeting was held Monday in Maple Ridge. - Phil Melnychuk/The News
A pipeline meeting was held Monday in Maple Ridge.
— image credit: Phil Melnychuk/The News

One way to give your two cents worth on the Kinder Morgan-Trans Mountain plan to twin its oil pipeline and triple its capacity and boost the number of tankers in Burrard Inlet, is to sign in to the National Energy Board website using your online banking password.

While it sounds odd, it’s a secure way of logging in.

“It’s not a massive conspiracy, but it is creepy,” Seth Biggs, with ForestEthics Advocacy Association, told a meeting in Maple Ridge Monday.

Most people, though, will just create an account so they can log in and give their name, address and e-mail, for publication on the NEB website, as part of the process of commenting on the review of the pipeline twinning plan.

The process differs now compared to that which took place over the Northern Gateway hearings for the pipeline from Edmonton to Prince Rupert. That took three years and drew 1,159 people who spoke against the project.

“Unfortunately, the entire process changed when the government passed Bill C-45,” Biggs said. “It made sure that the process we had with the joint panel review never happened again in this country.”

Now, people have to show they’re directly affected or have unique expertise in or order to comment online to the NEB, and there’s no opportunity for the public to give verbal comments.

Kinder Morgan’s $5.4-billion project would nearly triple the capacity of the existing Trans Mountain pipeline to 890,000 barrels per day. That would mean a seven-fold increase in shipments through Burrard Inlet, to about 400 oil tankers a year.

Westridge Marine Terminal in Burnaby would also be expanded.

The twinned line would follow the existing right of way most of the way, but in Metro Vancouver would be routed away from heavily built-up areas.

The company filed its application with the NEB in December and Kinder Morgan Canada president Ian Anderson said then that the company has “engaged extensively” with landowners, aboriginal groups and communities along the entire route.

“Our engagement efforts will continue beyond this filing leading up to the NEB hearing as we consider further input that is critical to our planning on this project.”

The company says on its website that the existing pipeline has been shipping oil products to the coast for 60 years, providing about 90 per cent of the gasoline to the south coast and B.C. Interior.

The deadline for applying to comment is Feb. 12.

The cabinet now has the final say on the project, rather than the NEB.

Maple Ridge resident James Rowley said the pipeline itself will create few long-term jobs.

“So when I look at the jobs question, I think of people going to Alberta to work in the tar sands and maybe some people building some pipelines. But I don’t see other jobs.”

Biggs said the City of Burnaby estimated only 60 jobs will result, and therefore opposes the pipeline expansion.

Metro Vancouver, the previous week, also voted to seek intervenor status on the project, while Langley township council unanimously did the same on Monday.

Biggs said Kinder Morgan predicts 50 long-term jobs will result from the pipeline, in addition to creating more work in the oil sands in Fort McMurray, Alta.

“The pipeline itself will create very few long-term jobs.” Instead, the jobs will be created at the refineries when the bitumen is processed in California, where the ships will be bound.

“We’re exporting raw bitumen and we’re exporting the jobs along with it.”

Former NDP candidate Elizabeth Rosenau wanted to know who would pay for a cleanup if there was a pipeline spill.

Biggs said Kinder Morgan would be responsible for the clean up. But all the oil spill technology is focused on surface-based oil removal, while diluted bitumen – a gooey substance – will sink to bottom of a river or ocean.

However Kinder Morgan said after doing a 10-day test that diluted bitumen behaves like any other crude oil and floats and could be skimmed up from the surface.

Abbotsford resident Lynn Perrin said it cost $5 million to clean up a spill in Abbotsford.

A total of 210,000 litres of crude oil was released following an oil spill in that city in 2005, with some of the oil entering Kilgard Creek.

Another leak happened at the Kinder Morgan oil tank storage facility in Abbotsford Jan. 12, 2012, when 90,000 litres spilled.

Kinder Morgen said at the time that he spill was completely contained in a system designed to hold 110 per cent of the capacity of the affected tank.

However, an NEB investigation of that incident found that proper procedures weren’t followed that day by Trans Mountain Pipeline ULC, which is owned by Kinder Morgan, resulting in a four-hour delay from the time the alarm first sounded to when the spill was discovered.

The NEB determined that an operator – based at a control centre in Edmonton – did not deal properly with three alarms that came from one of the Abbotsford tanks.

The pipeline also ruptured in Burnaby in 2007 after it was damaged by construction crews.

Biggs added if the project is approved and larger ships are required, dredging the seabed in the Second Narrows Bridge area could be required.

“I’m speechless, all this talk,” said Maple Ridge resident Beryl Eales. “What about civil disobedience?”

“We’re getting closer and closer to a time in this province when that serious question will have to be answered,” Biggs replied.

The B.C. pipeline crosses the Fraser River west of Pitt Meadows.

Maple Ridge MP Randy Kamp said the NEB is an independent agency and encouraged people to apply to comment.

“Our government is confident that the review process of the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion project will be objective, thorough and fair. “

But “it’s important that it be carefully reviewed to understand the environmental impacts,” Kamp said.

 

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