Kinder Morgan applies for oil pipeline expansion despite widespread opposition

Image from the Wilderness Committee.
Image from the Wilderness Committee.

Vancouver – Environmental groups are reiterating concerns over Kinder Morgan’s proposed Trans Mountain tar sands pipeline, after the company filed its formal application with the National Energy Board (NEB) to expand its capacity.

The proposed pipeline from Edmonton to Burnaby has been met with increasing opposition from First Nations, environmentalists and community leaders along the route, whose concerns range from the threat of an oil spill to the impact of tar sands exports on global climate change.

“The message we‘ve been hearing from communities along the pipeline and tanker route is that this project is not wanted,” said Gwen Barlee,  policy director for the Wilderness Committee. “First Nations, municipal leaders and even businesses have acknowledged the serious risks associated with the proposal, which would drastically increase tar sands exports from BC’s coast.”

In its application, the company repeatedly refers to the proposed project as a “twinning” of the existing Trans Mountain pipeline, which has been in operation since the 1950s. However, large portions of the proposed route differ substantially from the existing one, and the proposal still requires the construction of a completely new pipeline meant for export rather than domestic use.

“Despite the 15,000 pages Kinder Morgan filed with the NEB, this project’s fate is ultimately a political decision in the hands of Ottawa and Christy Clark,” said Will Horter, executive director for BC’s Dogwood Initiative. “This proposal would bring unacceptable risk to the sensitive waters and coastal economy around Vancouver and the Gulf Islands and is not in the best interest of British Columbians and Canadians.”

If approved, the proposed project would nearly triple Kinder Morgan’s pipeline capacity and increase oil tankers departing Westridge terminal in Burrard Inlet from five to up to 34 per month, totaling 408 per year.

“The risks that this pipeline and the associated tankers pose to the Salish Sea are just not worth taking,” said the Wilderness Committee’s Vancouver Island campaigner Torrance Coste. “Whether it’s in the form of a catastrophic spill, or through its contribution to carbon emissions and climate change, this project will have serious negative impacts in the region.”

Now that the project has entered the official application phase, a public hearing process will follow in the coming year. Unfortunately, because of new rules around environmental assessments in Canada, members of the public must complete an application in order to participate.

The right to participate will only be granted to those who are considered to be “directly affected,” or who are deemed to possess “relevant information or expertise.”