‘Alarming’ New Study Finds Contaminants in Animals Downstream of Oilsands

A health study released today by the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation and the Mikisew Cree, in collaboration with researchers from the University of Manitoba, is the first of its kind to draw associations between environmental contaminants produced in the oilsands and declines in health in Fort Chipewyan, a native community about 300 kilometres north of Fort McMurray, Alberta.

The report, Environmental and Human Health Implications of Athabasca Oil Sands, finds health impacts for communities downstream of the Alberta oilsands are “positively associated” with industrial development and the consumption of traditional foods, including locally caught fish.

Dr. Stéphane McLachlan, lead environmental health researcher for the report, said the study’s results “as they relate to human health, are alarming and should function as a wakeup call to industry, government and communities alike.”

Findings include generally high concentrations of carcinogenic PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons), and heavy metals arsenic, mercury, cadmium and selenium in kidney and liver samples from moose, ducks, muskrats and beavers harvested by community members. A press release for the study says bitumen extraction and upgrading is a major emitter of all of these contaminants.

The Joint Oil Sands Monitoring Program has released data about the increases in these contaminants, but fails to address and monitor impacts to First Nations traditional foods,” said Mikisew Cree Chief Steve Courtoreille. “We are greatly alarmed and demand further research and studies are done to expand on the findings of this report.”

The First Nations worked in concert with University of Manitoba scientists, blending “western science and traditional ecological knowledge” to evaluate contaminant levels and potential community exposure, according to the press release.

“This is the first health study that has been conducted in close collaboration with community members of Fort Chipewyan,” McLachlan said in a recent interview.

“The results are grounded in the environment and health sciences, but also in the local traditional knowledge shared by community members. Unlike any of the other studies it has been actively shaped and controlled by both the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation and the Mikisew Cree First Nation from the outset.”

The report comes on the heels of the fifth annual ‘healing walk’ in the oilsands region, during which Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation said the report would “blow the socks off industry and government.”

Concerns over high rates of rare forms of bile duct, cervical and lung cancers have worried residents of Fort Chipewyan, a small community 300 kilometres downstream of the oilsands, for years.

A government report in March 2014 found elevated rates of the three forms of cancer in Fort Chip, but suggested overall cancer rates fall on par with cancer rates elsewhere in the province. The report’s author, Dr. James Tablot, chief medical officer for Alberta health, said there was little evidence environmental factors played a role in the elevated cancer rates.

The report was treated as largely inconclusive and confirmed the need for further, independent study.

An editorial in the Calgary Herald argued the report confirmed the need to “settle the matter once and for all” and called for an independent study.

“Only then will the nagging fear — whether founded or unfounded — that the Alberta government is too closely linked with the oilsands to provide objective data and conclusions, be put to rest.”

The community of Fort Chip has struggled for years to have a comprehensive, baseline health study conducted.

In March, Chief Adam suggested it was “time for a real study, that is peer reviewed and done in partnership with our communities.” He suggested the government report was conducted to “ease the public response to this and garner more support for approvals of more projects in the region.”

Today researchers and community leaders called for further investigation of contaminant concentrations, as well as community-based monitoring and improved risk communications from government and industry.

Tsleil-Waututh Nation Launches Legal Challenge of Kinder Morgan Pipeline and Tankers Project

Nation says unlawful conduct of National Energy Board, including one-sided cross-examination process, could derail pipeline review

NORTH VANCOUVER, B.C. and COAST SALISH TERRITORY; May 2, 2014 – Today, the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, the “People of the Inlet”, is launching a legal challenge of the National Energy Board’s (NEB) review of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline and tanker project. The Nation says that serious legal errors made by the federal Crown and NEB have led to a flawed and unlawful review process that puts Burrard Inlet and all peoples who live here at risk.

This is the first legal challenge by a First Nation against the new pipeline and tanker proposal, and it opens the project to significant delay and uncertainty.

“The Crown and NEB are running roughshod over our Aboriginal Title and Rights. The process to review Kinder Morgan’s proposed pipeline expansion and tanker project was designed without First Nations consultation or public participation. The timelines appear to have been designed to rush through approvals,” says Chief Maureen Thomas, Tsleil-Waututh Nation.

Legal materials to be filed in the Federal Court of Appeal today will demonstrate that, among other things, the NEB lacked legal authority to start its review process because of the federal government’s failure to first consult Tsleil-Waututh on key decisions about the environmental assessment and regulatory review of the project. A backgrounder on the details of the appeal may be found at: www.twnation.ca/Newsroom.aspx

“Our laws establish a sacred trust, a responsibility to care for our lands, air and waters. The federal government has forced us to go to court to defend ourselves and our territory. We will fight this unilateral and one-sided review process, and this project with all legal means,” says Rueben George, Sacred Trust Initiative, Project Manager Public Engagement, Tsleil-Waututh Nation.

The one-sided review would see Tsleil-Waututh elders cross-examined by pipeline company lawyers, but company experts and representatives would not need to testify under oath themselves.

“This challenge goes to the heart of the Crown’s assertion that it can make unilateral decisions about our territories,” continues Chief Maureen Thomas. “Our nation has self government authority to review and make decisions that affect our territory according to our own Law. Canada’s own environmental assessment laws confirm this jurisdiction, and the government’s failure to consult and cooperate with us as Governments has landed them in court. We are enforcing our own laws. We are enforcing Canadian environmental law.”

If approved, Kinder Morgan’s proposal would see the transport of tar sands oil expanded from its present level of approximately 300,000 barrels per day to 890,000 barrels per day. With an almost seven-fold increase in oil tankers moving through Burrard Inlet and the Salish Sea, an increase in groundings, accidents, incidents, leaks and oil spills would be inevitable.

A serious oil spill would devastate an already-stressed marine environment and risks collapses in the remaining salmon stocks and further contamination of shellfish beds, wiping out Indigenous fishing and harvesting rights.

About Tsleil-Waututh Nation

Tsleil-Waututh Nation is a progressive and vibrant Coast Salish community of approximately 500 members. The Nation is located along the shores of Burrard Inlet in North Vancouver, B.C., Canada, across the Inlet from the Burnaby terminus of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline.

The Nation’s Sacred Trust Initiative is mandated to oppose and stop the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline project. For more information visit www.twnsacredtrust.ca and follow the Sacred Trust Initiative on Twitter: @TWNSacredTrust.

Media Contact: Sarah Thomas
Tsleil-Waututh Nation

Media Legal Backgrounder (PDF file 402KB)

TWN – NEB – Legal Backgrounder

Judge approves Tsleil-Waututh challenge of Kinder Morgan pipeline review

VANCOUVER – A Federal Court judge will let a British Columbia First Nation challenge the review process into the expansion of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain oil pipeline.

The Tsleil-Waututh Nation says if the challenge were successful, it could force the National Energy Board to restart its review process.

Tsleil-Waututh Chief Maureen Thomas says government and the NEB have entered into an unlawful process that doesn’t respect the band’s rights and title.

Thomas says the First Nation will use all legal means necessary to defend itself against what it calls the energy board’s one-sided review process for the expanded pipeline.

The band claimed in court that the process can’t go ahead because it hasn’t been consulted about key decisions, including about the environmental assessment.

If the expansion were approved, the twinned pipeline would carry about 890,000 barrels of bitumen to Metro Vancouver’s Burrard Inlet for transport by oil tankers.

© Copyright (c)

Burnaby forces delay in National Energy Board review of Kinder Morgan pipeline proposal

Burnaby’s refusal to co-operate with Kinder Morgan has forced a seven-month delay in a National Energy Board review of the company’s proposed expansion of its Trans Mountain pipeline through B.C.

The NEB announced Tuesday it has deferred the deadline for the final report to cabinet until Jan. 25, 2016, while Kinder Morgan completes necessary studies.

The agency wants more information about a preferred new Burnaby Mountain route, but Burnaby council has been steadfast in its opposition. The city has not allowed engineers and other specialists hired by Trans Mountain on to city property.

“There’s a number of different studies that we would need in order to assess the application,” said Sarah Kiley, the board’s communications officer. “What we’re looking at is a new route that would go through the mountain.”

The company told the board that the route through the mountain, which is home to Simon Fraser University and a vast park, is preferable because of the lower construction cost.

No one from Trans Mountain responded to a request for comment, but the company told the board that it has attempted for more than a year to work with Burnaby to collect the required information.

“Despite these extensive efforts, the City of Burnaby has refused to meet with Trans Mountain on these matters and has stated that it will not provide Trans Mountain with access or permits,” the company said in documents filed with the board.

If Burnaby continues to be unco-operative, Trans Mountain said, it will apply to the regulatory board for an order granting access.

“Trans Mountain has indicated that it does require access to City of Burnaby land,” Kiley said. “If the city refuses access, Trans Mountain can request an order from the National Energy Board to gain access to those lands.”

The company reiterated that its preference is to work collaboratively.

Burnaby council is officially opposed to the $5.4-billion expansion that would nearly triple the current pipeline’s capacity, from 300,000 barrels a day to almost 900,000.

Like the Northern Gateway pipeline proposed by Enbridge, the Trans Mountain project faces some staunch opposition.

Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan was not available for comment Tuesday, but in documents filed to the board, the city said that “the ‘engagement’ that Trans Mountain is requesting appears in some cases to constitute support or pre-approval by Burnaby.”

In other cases it’s akin to city staff helping the company to meet its obligations to the National Energy Board, it said.

It appears unlikely Burnaby will offer its co-operation without an order from the regulator.

“Burnaby takes the position that now the hearing process is underway for the project, communications with Trans Mountain should take place transparently on the hearing record,” the city wrote to the board earlier this month.

“Burnaby is open to engagement with Trans Mountain through the NEB process … .”

Trans Mountain now has until Dec. 1 to submit the required studies to the board. Interveners will then have until Feb. 3 to review and respond to that information.

Oral hearings expected to begin next January now are scheduled to begin in July 2015. The rest of the assessment will continue as planned and hearings to gather aboriginal oral evidence are expected to start as scheduled at the end of August.

Under the original schedule, the board’s report was due July 2, 2015.

Kennedy Stewart, the New Democrat MP for Burnaby-Douglas, notes the new deadline for a final decision is after the next federal election in October 2015.

“Up until this point the NEB has allowed Kinder Morgan to play fast and loose with this process,” Stewart said in a news release.

“My constituents have known for months the company had at least three pipeline routes in play through Burnaby and it looked like the NEB was going to let them get away with not specifying whose homes and properties would be affected.”

© Copyright (c) The Province

National Energy Board Calls on Trans Mountain to File Additional Studies on Pipeline Expansion through Burnaby Mountain

CALGARY, 15 July 2014 /CNW/ – The National Energy Board (NEB or the Board) has directed Trans Mountain ULC (Trans Mountain) to file additional information on the feasibility of routing a four km portion of the proposed Trans Mountain Expansion Project through Burnaby Mountain. The company recently advised the NEB that this corridor is now the preferred option, a change from the original pipeline corridor filed with the project application in December 2013.

On 3 June 2014, the NEB issued an Information Request to Trans Mountain asking for clarity on its preferred pipeline corridor. In its 10 June response, the company indicated that its preferred route for its delivery lines to the Westridge Marine Terminal would run through Burnaby Mountain. Trans Mountain also stated that additional studies were needed and that these studies should be completed by 1 December 2014.

Under the National Energy Board Act, the Board has 15 months to complete its review of the Project. However, according to subsection 52(5) of the Act, if the Board requires an applicant to provide more information about a pipeline application, with the Chair’s approval, “…the period that is taken by the applicant to comply with the requirement is not included in the calculation of the time limit.” As such, the Board has implemented an excluded period from the calculation of the time limit to begin on 11 July 2014 and end on 3 February 2015.

Once Trans Mountain has filed the required studies, both the NEB and the nearly 400 registered Intervenors will have time to review the evidence and submit Information Requests to the company. Trans Mountain will be required to respond to the Information Requests by 3 February 2015, which will end the excluded period.

The NEB’s assessment of the sections of the application not affected by the change in corridor will continue as originally scheduled. However, the oral argument portion of the hearing will be rescheduled. A revised hearing schedule is available on the Board’s website.

Trans Mountain submitted its application to the Board on 16 December 2013. The project would expand the existing Trans Mountain pipeline system in Alberta and British Columbia and include approximately 990 km of new pipeline, new and modified facilities, such as pump stations and tanks, and the reactivation of 193 km of existing pipeline between Edmonton and Burnaby, BC. There would also be an expansion of the Westridge Marine Terminal. The application can be found on the NEB website at

The National Energy Board is an independent federal regulator of several parts of Canada’s energy industry with the safety of Canadians and protection of the environment as its top priority. Its purpose is to regulate pipelines, energy development and trade in the Canadian public interest. For more information on the NEB and its mandate, please visit www.neb-one.gc.ca.

SOURCE National Energy Board

Decision on Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Oil Pipeline Delayed Until After Next Federal Election

Canada’s National Energy Board (NEB) announced today that it is stopping the clock on the review of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain oil pipeline expansion due to the company’s new proposed corridor through Burnaby, B.C.— which will push a decision on the project back to after the 2015 federal election.

The board will take a seven-month timeout from its 15-month timeline between July 11, 2014, and Februrary 3, 2015, to allow Kinder Morgan time to file studies for its new corridor through Burnaby Mountain, according to a letter to intervenors sent today.

That pushes the board’s deadline to file its report on the project with cabinet back seven months from July 2, 2015, to Jan. 25, 2016.

“The significant thing is that this decision now won’t be made until after the next federal election. It’ll be up to the next Prime Minister to make that call,” says Karen Campbell, staff lawyer with Ecojustice.

“From a campaign perspective, it certainly gives some wind in the sails of those who want to make sure this isn’t a fait accompli before the next election,” she says.

But Campbell also cautioned that there are still a lot of shortcomings in the process that the energy board has not addressed.

That’s a concern echoed by Gregory McDade, legal counsel for the City of Burnaby.

“There are so many other incomplete items that need work,” McDade says. “We’ve been pushing all along for a proper public hearing with cross-examination and evidence and the NEB said they couldn’t do that because of the tight timeline. Now that we have the time, why aren’t we doing a proper public hearing?”

McDade says that without cross-examination, the energy board’s review is not legitimate. He noted how Kinder Morgan failed to answer many of the questions put to them through the “information request” process, which he described as a “colossal joke.”

“Stalling it seven months doesn’t help at all if you’re not going to properly examine the evidence,” he said. “It just puts the decision off.”

Chris Tollefson, executive director of the Environmental Law Centre at the University of Victoria, says this ruling is just a small step toward fixing the problem and that the entire process needs to be put on hold until Kinder Morgan’s application is complete.

As of right now, the rest of the hearings are scheduled to move forward more or less as per the previous schedule.

“The board has now recognized that this process was not working and that the timelines were unrealistic,” Tollefson says. “What we would call upon the board now to do is to revisit its decision to eliminate cross-examination from this process.”

Any which way, the Conservatives will be in the limelight over their support for heavy oil projects on B.C.’s coast in the 2015 election, according to Kai Nagata, energy and democracy director at Dogwood Initiative, a B.C. democracy group.

“It’ll be a live issue for sure,” Nagata says. “The way Kinder Morgan is going, the more time the NEB gives them to alienate landowners and First Nations, the more likely they are to remind people of Enbridge.”

Kinder Morgan’s proposed expansion would ship 590,000 barrels of oilsands bitumen to Burnaby each day, where it would be loaded onto 400 oil tankers each year.

— With files from Carol Linnitt

Nation to move forward with legal challenge that could derail NEB’s pipeline review

COAST SALISH TERRITORY, July 11, 2014 – Yesterday, the Federal Court of Appeal granted permission to Tsleil-Waututh Nation, the “People of the Inlet,” to proceed with its legal challenge of the National Energy Board’s (NEB) review of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline and tanker expansion project. If successful, the legal challenge could require the NEB to restart its review of the project. That would result in significant delay and create further uncertainty.

“Our Nation is pleased that the Federal Court of Appeal has seen the merit of our legal challenge and has agreed to hear us,” says Chief Maureen Thomas, Tsleil-Waututh Nation. “The Crown and the NEB have entered into an unlawful process, one that does not respect Aboriginal Rights and Title. We are still at the beginning of a long fight, but we are deeply committed to protecting our territory. We will use all legal means necessary to defend it against NEB’s unilateral and one-sided review process and Kinder Morgan’s project.”

On May 2, 2014, the Nation filed legal materials with the Federal Court of Appeal which asserted that serious legal errors made by the federal Crown and NEB have led to a flawed and unlawful review process that puts Burrard Inlet and all peoples who live there at risk. The legal challenge is the first by a First Nation against Kinder Morgan’s new pipeline and tanker proposal.

Legal materials filed demonstrate that, among other things, the NEB lacked legal authority to start its review process because of the federal government’s failure to first consult Tsleil-Waututh about key decisions for the environmental assessment and regulatory review of the project.

“We are the People of the Inlet, and we are one with the land and water. It’s part of our spirit. We have a sacred trust, a responsibility to care for our lands, air, and waters. We will move forward with this legal challenge and fight the NEB’s unlawful process. We do this to defend our territory and to protect it for everyone who calls this region home,” says Rueben George, Sacred Trust Initiative, Project Manager Public Engagement, Tsleil-Waututh Nation.

If approved, Kinder Morgan’s proposal would see the transport of tar sands oil expanded from its present level of approximately 300,000 barrels per day to 890,000 barrels per day. With an almost seven-fold increase in oil tankers moving through Burrard Inlet and the Salish Sea, an increase in groundings, accidents, incidents, leaks and oil spills would be inevitable.

A serious oil spill would devastate an already-stressed marine environment and risks collapses in the remaining salmon stocks and further contamination of shellfish beds, wiping out Indigenous fishing and harvesting rights.

About Tsleil-Waututh Nation
Tsleil-Waututh Nation is a progressive and vibrant Coast Salish community of approximately 500 members. The Nation is located along the shores of Burrard Inlet in North Vancouver, B.C., Canada, across the Inlet from the Burnaby terminus of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline.

The Nation’s Sacred Trust Initiative is mandated to oppose and stop the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline project. For more information visit www.twnsacredtrust.ca and follow the Sacred Trust Initiative on Twitter: @TWNSacredTrust.

SOURCE Tsleil-Waututh Nation

Department of Justice: Cross-Examination is Vital in Kinder Morgan Hearing Otherwise evidence should be given “little weight”

City of Burnaby
Office of the Mayor
Derek R. Corrigan

For Immediate Release

July 10, 2014

Department of Justice Agrees with Burnaby – Cross-Examination is Vital in Kinder Morgan Hearing Otherwise evidence should be given “little weight.”

Canada’s Department of Justice has told the Board evaluating Kinder Morgan’s pipeline application that evidence given without cross-examination should be rejected.

The DOJ letter comes in response to an application by Forest Ethics and others relating to the denial of freedom of expression by the NEB. In that application, the DOJ legal counsel seeks an order from the NEB allowing it to cross-examine the witnesses, or otherwise reject the evidence. The DOJ submission recognizes that cross-examination “serves a vital role” and without it “the Board will be reviewing only untested evidence” that should be given “little weight.”

The Department of Justice submission called for cross-examination, which its submission claimed is “termed ‘the greatest legal engine ever invented for the discovery of truth.’” The DOJ stated that without cross-examination, evidence would not have “adequate testing.” The letter echoes calls by the City of Burnaby for an oral hearing that includes cross examination on all evidence before the NEB – calls that have to date been ignored by the National Energy Board.

“It would be hypocritical of the federal government to claim it must be allowed to cross examine evidence on intervenor motions, but the NEB be allowed to accept Kinder Morgan’s evidence without any cross-examination” noted Burnaby’s legal counsel Greg McDade.

“The DOJ sees through the smoke-and-mirrors show of Kinder Morgan. And so do the people of Burnaby. When will the National Energy Board?” asked Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan. “Without cross-examination, Trans Mountain’s misinformation and half-truths must be rejected.”

Kinder Morgan failed to answer 62% of Burnaby’s 1,780 questions during the first round of Information Requests, compelling Burnaby to file 450 pages of motions seeking proper answers. For example, when asked what area of Burnaby would be at risk from a tank boil over, Kinder Morgan replied that it will prevent boil over events. When asked about where there have been corrosion pipeline leaks, Kinder Morgan stated the question is not relevant. When asked about permanent jobs in Burnaby, Kinder Morgan replied with preliminary estimates for the entire province.

“All of these responses appear designed to rob the public of necessary information, and would not stand up to cross-examination,” stated Mayor Corrigan. “Kinder Morgan is protected from a rigorous process, while the people of Burnaby are kept in the dark about the risks they face.”

The June 27 DOJ letter was written in response to a motion from numerous intervenors calling for a declaration that limits on public participation under the National Energy Board Act are unconstitutional.


For further information, contact:
Office of the Mayor
604 294 7340

Burnaby council: Did the dog eat Kinder Morgan’s homework?

It was abundantly clear Monday night that Burnaby city council is not satisfied with Kinder Morgan’s response to their 1,700 questions.

At the last meeting, council spent more than an hour criticizing the energy company’s reply to a 300-page information request from the city. The request was submitted as part of the National Energy Board process that’s examining Kinder Morgan’s pipeline expansion plans.

Council claims that more than 62 per cent of their questions were not answered properly or not answered at all, and that 14 per cent were only partially answered.

Coun. Nick Volkow compared Kinder Morgan’s “wholly inadequate” responses to the infamous “my dog ate my homework” gradeschool excuse and likened the company’s attitude to that of another Houston-based corporation mired in controversy.

“I’ve been around long enough to remember Enron,” said Volkow. “Two of the principles got out just in time, and their names were Rich Kinder and Bill Morgan.

“There was a culture within Enron that I think has been transposed into the company we’re dealing with now. (There’s) an absolute arrogant belief that they’re dealing with a bunch of rubes up here, and that what they were able to get away with down in Houston, they’re going to be able to get away with it here.”

Among council’s biggest concerns was Kinder Morgan’s apparent conditions for municipalities requesting to see their emergency response plan, as brought up by Coun. Dan Johnston.

“Vancouver was told specifically that that plan is not available,” he said. “They could sign a confidentiality agreement and look at it, but once they look at it, they couldn’t comment or do anything with it.”

Mayor Derek Corrigan highlighted the issue further, noting that not only would they have to keep quiet about the plan, but that they would have to agree to accept the plan before ever laying eyes on it.

“I’m astounded by the answers and the logic behind the answers, arguing that their emergency response plan is proprietary,” said Corrigan. “How can the National Energy Board, who are supposed to be intelligent people, put up with answers like that?

“It appears that we’re just being dismissed, and that is astounding.”

Greg McDade, the city’s legal counsel, called the ongoing review process “highly irregular,” noting that the question period for Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline allowed intervenors to cross examine the responses.

“Here, the National Energy Board has told us there will be no such opportunity, and in fact, this is the only way the public can ask questions,” he said. “There are two conclusions we can draw from this: This application is simply not ready. It’s not complete.

“The second conclusion is, they’re really contemptuous of the process. They don’t expect there to be any hard questions because all the hard questions are going to be deferred until after approval.”

McDade noted there will be one more round of information requests in the coming months, though Corrigan continued to state how unimpressed he has been with Kinder Morgan’s answers to date.

“Their nonchalant approach to serious questions across the board – from municipalities, not-for-profits, citizens, even the provincial government – either they don’t really care about winning this application, which seems unlikely, or they’re absolutely satisfied in whatever they do that they will win this application. How else could you describe this pitiful effort to respond to what were very serious, very important questions being asked by our staff and many other people across British Columbia in regard to this proposal?”


© Burnaby Now

Burnaby fire department wants Kinder Morgan to fight its own fires

The NOW’s Jennifer Moreau toured Kinder Morgan’s tank farm on Burnaby Mountain to see the fire safety equipment first-hand, but is the company prepared to fight a major fire?

Burnaby’s deputy fire chief doesn’t think so and says the company is contravening the city’s bylaw on fire safety. Both sides allege the other is being uncooperative, and in the middle of it all are 1.6 million barrels of crude, close to homes and schools.

On the tank far

It’s an overcast July day on the grassy slopes of Burnaby Mountain, and the smell of crude picks up with the breeze. The site is covered in tall grass, wiry dandelions and 13 massive storage tanks that hold oil brought from Alberta through Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline.

The company’s Rob Hadden, Craig Telford and PR rep Lisa Clement have invited the NOW to see the facility’s fire safety equipment.

Fire detection and equipment

The first line of defence is detection, the men explain, and there are “fire eyes” and wires on the tanks that act as sensors, should the oil ignite. The sensors trigger alarms monitored 24/7 in Burnaby and Edmonton, and there are systems attached to the tanks that spray foam to suppress fires.

“You can’t use water on a petroleum fire,” Hadden says. “All you do using water is spread the fire out.”

Kinder Morgan also has one foam trailer (and another one on the way) that can be deployed in the event of an emergency. The newest piece of equipment is a shiny red fire-water pump from Texas.

Thankfully, the company has never had to use the equipment in a real scenario.

“We’ve been here for 60 years now, and we haven’t had a tank fire,” Hadden says. “They do happen, … but we’ve never had one.”

Backup needed

Kinder Morgan has trained staff to operate the equipment, and Hadden estimates they have 20 people who can be called on in the event of a fire.

“Reality is, in the middle of the night, we are manned here, but we have one guy. He’s going to call 911,” Hadden says. “Initially, that manpower on site will be our guy, the security guard, and the fire department. … That’s why we want to have a relationship with the fire department, so they are not getting here and seeing (the new equipment) for the first time.”

Hadden says they’ve invited the fire department to see the new equipment, since they will be called on for the actual firefighting, but they haven’t received any committal response.

“We’re struggling with Burnaby right now,” Hadden says. “It would be nice if they were more co-operative. … Regardless, there are still 13 tanks on this hill with a lot of oil. We have to respond effectively with the fire department.”

Hadden even expressed concern that the fire department may not show up if Kinder Morgan calls with an emergency.

“I don’t know what their status is if we were to call 911,” he says.

Deteriorating ties

Burnaby’s deputy fire chief Chris Bowcock is the tank farm’s most outspoken critic when it comes to fire safety, and he has a background working in the oil industry with tank farms. Bowcock says Kinder Morgan’s ability to respond to fires has decreased over the years, and the company expects the fire department to make up for it.

“We don’t believe they have any firefighting capabilities,” he told the NOW. “They have equipment, but they don’t have anyone to operate it.”

According to Bowcock, the deal with other local oil facilities – like Chevron, Suncor and Shell – is the facility will fight its own fire, while the department protects the surrounding community and helps supply water.

Kinder Morgan used to have a fire truck but got rid of it (along with associated personnel) and didn’t notify the fire department of the changes, Bowcock says.

“Currently, the fire department believes Kinder Morgan is in contravention of the fire bylaw on several points,” Bowcock says.

Furthermore, Kinder Morgan has refused to provide a comprehensive version of the emergency response plan for the current tank farm, Bowcock adds.

“When I insisted, they gave us an emergency response plan for the entire pipeline with all the references for the tank farm removed,” Bowcock says. “Also, when I asked specifically for the details on the storage tanks and written protocols for how they plan the fire protection for the storage tanks, I was told by Kinder Morgan that they have none.”

Meanwhile, Chevron, Shell, Suncor have provided emergency response protocols, Bowcock adds.

Hadden conceded that there is no plan specifically for the tank farm, but the company is working on one. It’s in draft form, and Kinder Morgan is hoping for input from the fire department.

Firefighting capability?

According to Bowcock, on May 30, the fire department met with Kinder Morgan, and the company disclosed they had no ability to provide any personnel for hands-on fire protection.

Bowcock says that was the first time the company admitted to having no capability to fight fires.

Bowcock says Kinder Morgan could call backup personnel from other parts of Canada and the U.S., but that would mean letting the fire burn until they arrive, something that concerns him given the toxic fumes that would result.

Hadden explains that refineries are considered more hazardous because their products are more flammable. However, Bowcock says the industrial standards for fire protection treat petroleum with the same degree of hazard rating for refined products.

“In fact, crude petroleums have some event potential that are extremely catastrophic that don’t exist for refined products,” he says.

Tank farm expansion concerns

Kinder Morgan wants to more than triple the storage capacity on Burnaby Mountain, as part of its proposed pipeline expansion. The company would add 14 new tanks, and replace one old one, bringing the total to 26 and the volume to roughly 5.6 million barrels.

The fire department has already raised several safety concerns via a request for information through the city, as part of the National Energy Board hearing process, but the company’s response was inadequate, according to the mayor Derek Corrigan.

“The responses received to date from Kinder Morgan have been evasive and do not adequately address fire staff (and more broadly city staff) concerns that potential risks and impacts of a fire event at Burnaby Mountain terminal can be appropriately responded to by the company,” the mayor said in a media release.

Company response

Kinder Morgan’s Ali Hounsell has stated the company will provide “more detailed emergency response plans for the expansion” in the future, but that doesn’t sit well with Bowcock.

“They have no ability to respond in any way to any fire, so how is a future risk assessment and detailed response plan going to change that at all?” he asks.

Why no cooperation?

When asked why the fire department hasn’t met recently with Kinder Morgan, Bowcock says it’s because the company wants the firefighters to take over responsibility for handling onsite fires.

“They’ve asked us to get involved, and they want us to take on the entire protection within the facility, and absolve them of the fire fighting responsibility within the facility, and we’re not agreeing to do that,” Bowcock says.

Is the fire department playing politics?

It’s no secret the city is against the pipeline expansion, and the mayor has said he will stand in front of a bulldozer to stop it. On the political front, not much happens in Burnaby without the mayor’s approval or knowledge, but Bowcock says there’s been no political interference from the city.

“The mayor has never asked us to take a position one way or the other,” Bowcock says. “The fire department’s core mission is to be advocates for fire safety, prevention and response within the city, regardless of political parties or interests.”

Where do we go from here?

The fire department wants Kinder Morgan to fight its own fires.

In the event of an emergency, the department would still respond but expects to work under the direction of Kinder Morgan’s staff, especially because local firefighters haven’t been trained to deal with crude.

Hadden disagrees with the fire department’s assertion they can’t fight fires and reiterates that their staff are trained to operate the equipment. “We’ve also put the invitation out to Burnaby (firefighters) that we are providing training courses to our own folks, and we’d like to invite them as well,” he says.

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