U.S. report slams Kinder Morgan’s enviro transgressions: “Bad neighbour” allegations from the U.S.

“Bad neighbour” allegations from the U.S.

Bribing a ship captain, oil spills, and million-dollar fines among the transgressions highlighted by a U.S. report on Kinder Morgan.

Front cover of Sightline Institute’s “Facts about Kinder Morgan” report released Tuesday.

The Seattle-based think-tank Sightline Institute released a report Tuesday highlighting Kinder Morgan’s enviro-transgressions across the energy giant’s continent-wide network of pipelines and export terminals.

The company’s recent troubles on Burnaby Mountain in Canada were cited as a major reason for updating the second edition of this report. More than 100 people were arrested last month — including scientists, environmentalists, First Nations and other people young and old — for disobeying a court order designed to protect the company’s drillers on the mountain.

The story was not widely reported in U.S. press, the think tank lamented.

“It’s become the Keystone XL fight of Canada,” said the institute’s policy director Eric de Place in a tele-press conference to journalists on both sides of the border.

“I often despair that the 49th parallel ends up being quite a barrier [to news coverage from Canada].”

The Sightline Institute’s report — “The Facts about Kinder Morgan” — is described as a “careful, factual examination of Kinder Morgan’s track record.” It contains a laundry list of the company’s troubles with American federal investigators, million-dollar fines, oil and gas spills, and safety failures.

“For years, and in many locations, Kinder Morgan has engaged in behaviour that experts and regulators have called fraudulent, deceptive and irresponsible,” said De Place.

“Kinder Morgan’s plans have run into trouble, both in the Gulf Coast region, Louisana and Texas, as well as in British Columbia and many other places around North America,” he added.

Kinder Morgan protesters arrested after crossing an RCMP-zone protecting the company’s drillers last month on Burnaby Mountain. Photo by Mychaylo Prystupa.

The Texas head office of the company responded to the report, stating:

“The Sightline Institute has an agenda, and their report certainly takes sensational liberties,” wrote Kinder Morgan spokesperson Sara Loeffelholz from Houston.

“Kinder Morgan complies with all applicable rules and regulations, and we are committed to employing sustainable business practices and conducting ourselves in an ethical and responsible manner.”

“You will find that Kinder Morgan continues to perform better than its industry peers relative to environmental, health and safety measures,” she wrote Tuesday.

Ship Captain bribed

The $100-billion company is the “largest energy infrastructure company in America” according to its website. The company is well known for its pipelines – but it also operates several coal and fertilizer export terminals.

In one colourful example, Sightline highlights how Kinder Morgan plead guilty to bribing a Portland, Oregon ship captain to dump a 160 tonnes of potassium-chloride fertilizer in the Pacific Ocean in 2003. The U.S. Department of Justice fined the company $240,000.

“Kinder Morgan…is paying for its employees’ attempts to save money by illegally dumping materials at sea,” said a U.S. Attorney General in 2008.

The 2007 Burnaby oil spill that dramatically sprayed local homes and vehicles with oil was highlighted.

So too was the company’s gas pipeline explosion in California in 2004 that killed five workers. That incident resulted in six felony counts, states the report.

The Seattle think tank says the report is a reminder to Canadians that Kinder Morgan is a massive American corporation, and not just another pipeline company from Calgary.

The company’s Canadian division president, Ian Anderson (born and raised in Winnipeg) may not have a southern U.S. accent, but the CEO of the larger U.S. holding company certainly does.

The Missouri-born billionaire Rich Kinder — who has describes himself as an “old Texas oil man” — owns 24 per cent of the company, and earns $400 million annually in dividends making him one of the richest men in America. Kinder’s salary is otherwise one dollar per year.

The former Enron executive built the pipeline company over 17 years, by aggressively buying up oil and gas infrastructure. The company now controls 130,000 km of pipelines – enough to circle the Earth three times.

The U.S. report claims Kinder has been a major financier of the Republican Party, as well as Bush presidential campaigns. It quotes the CEO as having told Forbes Magazine:

“I think that for any of our lifetimes fossil fuels are going to be the primary source of energy in this world…. I’m a huge believer in the genius of mankind, and I think we’ll continue to find new ways to utilize, explore for and produce more and more fossil fuels,” Kinder was quoted.

In a January investor call, the company said the $5.4-billion Trans Mountain pipeline expansion in Canada was the biggest infrastructure project at Kinder Morgan.

“Bad neighbour” allegations from the U.S. deep south

The Sightline Institute also brought on to its media teleconference a Louisiana resident who recently won a class-action lawsuit against the company, over coal dust blowing on to local homes like hers.

“I was asked to come here today to speak to y’all about living beside one of Kinder Morgan’s coal plants,” said Linda Ramil with a southern drawl.

“The coal dust gets on everything… homes, boats. It sticks to everything, and it only comes out with pressure washers and elbow grease.”

“I don’t understand why this company isn’t a better neighbour than they are,” concluded Ramil.

Kinder Morgan pipeline construction. Company’s own photo for use by media.

Sightline also described investor analysts in the financial press who have said the company substantially under invests in pipeline maintenance. Kinder Morgan disputes this, saying:

“We spend hundreds of millions of dollars each year on integrity management and maintenance programs to operate our assets safely and to protect the public, our employees, contractors and the environment,” wrote its spokesperson Tuesday.

Americans in Washington state were also said to be worried about the 400-plus oil supertankers that would result from the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. The shores of the American San Juan islands, to the southeast of Vancouver Island, could face oil spill risks, De Place stated.

The Sightline report contains nearly 100 footnotes to various federal investigation reports and news media stories, to back up its assertions. The Vancouver Observer is quoted for its coverage of Burnaby Mayor’s comments opposing the company’s pipeline for example.

Letter from a petro-state

In the wake of the US Senate narrowly failing to pass the Keystone XL pipeline bill, we must return to the central question: is Canada becoming a petro-state?

Over a year ago, a colleague at the University of Waterloo, Thomas Homer-Dixon, penned a compelling opinion piece for the New York Times in which he addressed, from a Canadian perspective, the debate surrounding the future of the planned Keystone XL Pipeline. If built, this pipeline would transport unprocessed, environmentally toxic Alberta tar sands bitumen to refineries in the Gulf of Mexico, Illinois and Oklahoma. Given the fact that Keystone has recently just failed, again, to pass the House, it is worth returning to the question raised by Homer-Dixon: is Canada becoming a ‘petro-state’? For Homer-Dixon, a state could be defined as a petro-state if virtually all of its main features could be ever more narrowly geared to the development of this single sector: non-renewal energy.  This narrowing has deleterious implications for innovation, economy and democracy. Let us address each of these in turn.

If we understand basic research in science to be directly related to innovation insofar as many forms of technology and their application stem not from research in applied science per se but from basic research, then in Canada we have seen specifically a drastic diminution in a  substantive commitment to technical innovation. Two years ago, Stephen Harper’s Conservative government announced that it would only fund science with determinant applicability, which is to say, those forms of sciences that could be directly marketable. Moreover, it has actively muzzled government scientists and librarians, severely limiting what they can and cannot say in public. For Karl Popper, the “open society” was a society in which there existed a robust culture of “conjecture and refutation” which constituted the very condition for the possibility of scientific innovation. That is, scientific truth-claims are those claims that can stand the open test of evidence-based falsifiability by other scientists and the public at large.

In my own province of British Columbia, the government has announced a dramatic shift of priority away from liberal arts and science at the level of secondary education, despite evidence that employers prefer prospective employees with a general education, to training geared specifically to the oil and gas industries which it is actively promoting as the economic future of the province. It has just secured the green light within the legislature for the development of a number of new Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) projects. The closure of scientific discourse, as well as roll-backs to liberal arts education, of course, does not bode well for social innovation. Prospects are slim for envisioning new modes of living together – ever more important with increasingly levels of migration and societal diversity – insofar as robust and unrestricted discussion and debate is its necessary if not sufficient condition.

Economically, with the price of oil now at $67 a barrel and falling, the Canadian dollar has plummeted with little end in sight. The oil-producing province of Alberta, as well as the federal government, is beginning to worry about the prospect of a staggering diminution of tax revenue. This is surely only to worsen with OPEC’s recent decision that it would not scale back its oil production and would wait to see what the reaction of the markets would be.  Vulnerability to such fluctuations and contingencies of the market for its products has always been a hallmark of petro-states unless, of course, they can form a cartel, such as OPEC, to act in concert and have some chance of collectively determining the price of oil. Short of that, Canada will simply have to weather the stormy seas without a rudder.

Yet the negative feed-back loop with respect to innovation is unmistakable. There will be even less money invested in the liberal arts at the secondary level and the increasing proportion of dollars spent on narrow training for this faltering industry will fall on hard, dry ground.  In short, it will be increasingly difficult to break this vicious circle by social investment in ‘green’ industries such as wind-farming, electric cars and solar-energy production, to name but three.

While lack of innovation and economic vulnerability are serious, they are not quite as serious as the drastic rollback of Canadian democratic institutions as a result of the country’s metamorphosis into a petro-state. The reason for this is that it is at the level of democratic institutions that changes can be initiated. The Harper government won its long sought-after majority in 2011 on a promise to transform Canada such that it would be unrecognizable. This is one of the few promises that it has kept. On a power base of a paltry 40 percent of the electorate, it has centralized power in a Westminster system that already over-archingly favours the executive branch of government.

The Conservatives have introduced into Ottawa unheard-of levels of secrecy and control. They have stifled debate, to an unprecedented level, occasionally proroguing Parliament in order to do so, on some of the crucial questions facing Canadians. Government ministers typically send their parliamentary secretaries to the House of Commons who, often in a way that seems to express a limitless contempt for the democratic process, typically avoid answering the questions that are put to them. At the international level, the government in league with the governments of Australia and New Zealand, sought to keep the issue of global climate change off the agenda at the most recent G20 meeting in Brisbane, with the deeply disingenuous argument that the purpose of the meetings were to focus on “economic issues,” as if climate change could somehow be extricated from the economy as a simple “externality.”

More specifically, though, the government has used this increasingly controlling and secretive style of governing to push through an agenda extremely favourable to the development of the tar sands which lies at the very geographical core of its support, namely Alberta. In 2012 it introduced a massive omnibus budget bill that contained provisions that effectively gutted the protection of waterways. These rivers, creeks and lakes and oceans are especially important economically and spiritually for the many First Nations whose land remains unceded and who therefore must be consulted but typically are not, particularly when it comes to the development of oil and gas. It remains to be seen what the long-term implications are of a recent Supreme Court decision regarding the Chilcoltin First Nation that in a historic move granted a First Nation in the interior of British Columbia the title to a tract of 1500 acre land. This means that any development of that land would have to involve serious and thorough consultation with the Chilcoltin Band.  

The tendency of the government to ride roughshod over the concerns of First Nations leads to flashpoints of conflict and crisis. Indeed, it was the passage of the Omnibus Bill, as well as the baleful conditions of a tiny First Nations community in Northern Ontario called Attawapiskat in 2012 that led to the indigenous social movement, fronted predominantly by young educated women, called ‘Idle No More’ that took the country by storm with the kind of flash mobs, protests and conferences that garnered it truly international attention. 

Earlier this year, it led to the standoff in New Brunswick at the Elsipogtog Nation that was opposed to fracking in and around its community. This led to the government sending in an RCMP contingent including snipers, to enforce an injunction filed by Texas based SWN Corporation for explorative activity, to deal with peaceful protestors, many of the them grandmothers, mothers and children concerned about to the degradation of their potable water. The sight of snipers just metres away from this vulnerable community was horrifying to many at home as well as abroad. The coercive measures of the police were met with increased agitation and this led to elders being pepper sprayed, police cars set ablaze and over 40 arrests.

More recently, on Burnaby Mountain, just a few kilometres east of Vancouver, it led to a standoff between police and protestors, very much reminiscent of the ultimately successful struggles to defend the old-growth forests against logging companies around Sulfur Passage in Clayoquot Sounds in the early 1990s.  The police were enforcing an injunction-line granted by the courts to the energy giant Kinder Morgan, started by a former Enron executive, to complete its survey work as part of its application to the National Energy Board to expand its capacity to move tar sands bitumen by a factor of three from Alberta to the Pacific Ocean and to markets in Asia. The injunction was granted on the authority of the National Energy Board and marked the first time in history that the authority of a board appointed by the Federal Government has been permitted to take precedence over municipal by-laws. Yet the legitimacy of this board has been widely questioned. For example, in submitting his resignation from it two weeks ago, Marc Eliesen, the former head of BC Hydro, claimed that it was “industry-captured,” “fraudulent” and a “farce.”
In this case, the by-laws establish the particular area on Burnaby Mountain to be “conservation lands” and therefore off-limits to development. This sets a chilling precedent though one that is currently being appealed on constitutional grounds: that an executive-appointed board – one whose very legitimacy has been so contested – can simply over-ride democratically elected bodies. As it turns out, the injunction was recently dropped as, in Kinder Morgan’s attempt to extend its duration by 11 days, it came to light that the injunction zone was based on inaccurate GPS coordinates. This inspires precious little confidence in an oil company which in 2007 spilled something like 1500 barrels in the very community in which they now want to triple their distribution capacity. The more than 100 citizens who had crossed the line of injunction to protest Kinder Morgan’s presence have now had the civil contempt charges directed at them dropped. This is a battle won in an ongoing war for citizens and First nations within this country to be able to collectively determine their fates.  

A key consequence of the transformation of the Canadian state, which was once a model of a pluralistic, multicultural, federal democracy, into a state that is in the process of restructuring itself around a specific sector of the economy – a sector that will have disturbing and disrupting future consequences not just for Canadians but for every creature on this planet – means that genuinely democratic action is likely to take an extra-parliamentary form. And this action will continue to be led by a ever more confident, articulate and determined First Nations leadership and a new generation of uncompromising young environmentalists who see their own futures hanging in the balance.  Indeed, growing numbers of Canadians are seeing themselves displaced and disenfranchised by a state that has historically done the same to aboriginal peoples. Democracy in Canada  will be able to renew itself only by virtue of massive civil disobedience and by way of a profound reevaluation of the legacy of colonialism that constitutes the history of the country.


It doesn’t matter: ever since the debate over the Keystone XL pipeline exploded three and half years ago, that’s been the argument from the project’s liberal supporters.

Sure, the oil that Keystone would carry from the Alberta tar sands is three to four times more greenhouse-gas-intensive than conventional crude. But that’s not on Keystone XL, we’re told. Why? Because if TransCanada isn’t able to build Keystone to the south, then another pipeline will be built to the west or east. Or that dirty oil will be transported by rail.

But make no mistake, we’ve long been assured, all that carbon buried beneath Alberta’s boreal forest will be mined no matter what the president decides.

Up until quite recently, the tar sands boom did seem pretty unstoppable. The industry regularly projected that production would soon double, then triple, and foreign investors raced to build massive new mines. But these days, panic is in the air in formerly swaggering Calgary.

In less than a year, Shell, Statoil and the French company Total have all shelved major new tar sands projects. And a rather large question mark is suddenly hanging over one of the world’s largest – and dirtiest – carbon deposits.

This radically changes the calculation confronting Barack Obama. His decision is no longer about one pipeline. It’s about whether the U.S. government will throw a lifeline to a climate-destabilizing industrial project that’s under a confluence of pressures that add up to a very real crisis.

Here are the four main reasons that the tar sands are in deep trouble:

In mid-November, oil prices dipped to levels not seen since 2010. Ahead of the recent G20 summit, Vladimir Putin spoke of preparing for further “catastrophic” drops. This matters nowhere more than in the tar sands, where the semisolid bitumen is hugely expensive to extract; the sector really started booming when it looked like $100 a barrel was the new normal. Prices may well rebound, but the dip has been a vivid reminder of the inherent risk in betting big on such a high-cost extraction method.

Supporters of Keystone frequently claim that if the oil doesn’t go south through the United States, it will simply be piped west through British Columbia to get it onto tankers. They might want to pay closer attention to what’s going on west of the Rockies.

Since November 20, more than 60 people have been arrested outside Vancouver as they attempt to block the expansion of a tar sands pipeline owned by Kinder Morgan.

Further north, Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline, another would-be tar sands escape route, is even more widely rejected. Indeed, opposition to increased tanker traffic along their beloved coastline has united British Columbians.

So what about east? Well, on November 21, the premiers of Ontario and Quebec signed a joint agreement that erected a series of obstacles to TransCanada’s proposed Energy East pipeline, which, if completed, would carry tar sands oil to the East Coast. The move came in response to strong opposition to the project in both provinces.

Some members of the “it doesn’t matter” camp point out that tar sands oil is getting out anyway through the existing infrastructure. This completely misses the point that Keystone XL has always been linked to plans to greatly expand the amount of heavy oil being extracted.

And the capacity to transport that oil isn’t there. When Statoil nixed its mine (reportedly worth $2 billion), it cited “limited pipeline access” among its reasons.

Adding more uncertainty is the fact that all these projects impact land to which First Nations people have title and treaty rights – rights that have been repeatedly upheld by Canada’s Supreme Court.

Most recently, in June, the high court ruled unanimously that development couldn’t happen on the lands of the Tsilhqot’in First Nation in BC without seeking their consent. The pipeline companies do not have First Nations consent. On the contrary, dozens of indigenous communities have vigorously asserted their opposition.

Canadian courts are already jammed with pipeline challenges, including nearly a dozen targeting Northern Gateway alone.

Yes, the targets in the U.S.-China deal are wholly inadequate, and so are the sums pledged to developing countries for climate financing.

But there can be no doubt that climate change has landed back on the world stage in a way not seen since the failed Copenhagen summit in 2009.

That’s another strike against unchecked tar sands expansion, because those mines are the main reason behind Canada’s status as the world’s foremost climate criminal, with emissions nearly 30 per cent higher than they should be under the Kyoto Protocol.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper got away with laughing off his country’s international commitments when other governments were doing the same. But now that the United States, China and the European Union are at least making a show of taking the climate crisis seriously, Canada’s defiance is looking distinctly rogue.

It is in this rapidly changing context that Obama must make his final determination on Keystone.

A jittery market is looking to him for a signal – not just about this one project, but about the much larger and consequential one at the mouth of that pipe. Are the tar sands a long-term business prospect, a safe haven in which to sink hundreds of billions of dollars for decades to come? Or was the whole idea of flaying a huge, beautiful swath of this continent to exploit an energy source that is guaranteed to help cook the planet merely a brief folly, a bad dream from which we all must awake? All eyes are on the president. Yes or no?

Either way, Keystone matters.

This column was first published in The Nation on November 25. thenation.com

thischangeseverything.org | @NaomiAKlein

$70 Cost per barrel of oil on world markets.

$84.99 Break-even cost per barrel of oil for new tar sands projects in 2014 (9.1 per cent higher than 2013).

21% Profit margins for tar sands producers in 2005.

8.5% Profit margins for tar sands producers in 2011.

$28 billion to $17 billion Drop in capital spending on tar sands projects between 2012 and 2013.

$3.50 Break-even cost per barrel for transportation of bitumen via pipeline.

$15.30 to $22.70 What it actually costs producers to ship a barrel of bitumen by rail.

2015 Year tar sands production is expected to exceed existing pipeline capacity.

2% Tar sands production’s contribution to Canada’s GDP.

Expansion plans on hold

Shell’s new 100,000-barrels-per-day Pierre River mine project.
Total’s $11 billion 160,000-barrels-per-day Joslyn North mine project.
Statoil’s 44,000-barrels-per-day expansion of its Corner project.

Enough with pipelines. Refine it

Oil prices are down, but they will be back up, as always. Meanwhile, new supply comes on stream from existing construction. So the great Canadian issue remains new oil pipelines from Alberta. For supporters, these long-term projects will generate untold billions of dollars every year, including tax revenue to pay for all the health and education and other good things. For opponents, the pipelines will facilitate the very destruction of the planet through carbon release, or at a minimum foul our streams and oceans.


GLOBE EDITORIAL Wanted: Honest talk about moving oil
DWIGHT NEWMAN Provinces have no right to pipeline ‘conditions’
GARY MASON On pipelines, politicians are just listening to the people

Video: Alberta Premier Jim Prentice pushes Energy East pipeline in Ontario, Quebec

Video: Enbridge’s restructuring plan explained
This is surely of national consequence. So it is passing strange that the debate is being led by premiers and even mayors. After all, the Constitution gives Ottawa exclusive jurisdiction in this area, including the Northern Gateway, Kinder Morgan and Energy East pipelines. And the government with the power stands mute.

Yes, the National Energy Board is holding hearings, but that process is getting minimal respect from opponents on three grounds.

First, that it is an alleged rubber stamp. I don’t believe that, though. The technical and route environment and aboriginal investigations are thorough.

The second, correct observation is that the process is not considering the supposedly most important matter of all, namely the carbon consequences of extracting oil from what opponents call the “tar sands.” But the NEB does not have jurisdiction here – the matter of carbon emissions is a wriggling monster squarely in the lap of Ottawa, and Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government doesn’t want to acknowledge it.

Finally, that for some opponents, the only legitimate answer is “no.” Minds are made up, and closed. Indeed, if you truly believe that planetary ecological collapse is imminent, it is your duty to lie down in front of the bulldozers.

But most people are neither oil men nor hard enviros. They understand that much of our prosperity and many of our social services are paid for by petroleum production. They also want a sustainable environment. It’s a matter of balance.

This majority in the middle cries out for leadership. The leadership of those opposing these projects is strong and skillful. You might think that the oil industry would be leading the pro-pipeline charge, but Big Oil – the major U.S. companies – quite like the current situation. Canadian oil has no Canadian pipes to get it to the ocean, and so we have to sell it south at a significant discount.

For neutral leadership then, that really leaves governments, academics (who are all over the place) and the news media, which as a whole is more interested in writing about protests than in deep analysis.

Local governments bend to local protests, but this is a national issue. Where is Ottawa? Scared and silent, with an election on its way. Mr. Harper has not spent one ounce of political capital on this file. If things remain that way, my guess is that Gateway and Kinder are toast in our time, and Energy East is a gamble.

BROKE Against Big Oil

BROKE Against Big Oil

A member of BROKE is being sued for $5.6 million dollars (yes, $5.6 million) by Kinder Morgan for organizing to stop the Texas based oil giant from cutting trees and drilling on Burnaby Mountain – land protected by City of Burnaby by-laws as a conservation area. Help fight the law suit by donating to our legal defense fund. We must raise $20,000 to fight Kinder Morgan’s civil suit now. Kinder Morgan’s civl suit is a SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation) suit and we will be seeking damages against the oil giant. Donate to BROKE Against Big Oil. You can SLAPP Back! Thank you. Go to Fight SLAPP suits

Robyn Allan: Kinder Morgan Inc

On November 26, 2014 Kinder Morgan Inc., a company traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol KMI took 100% control of all the Canadian assets previously owned by Kinder Morgan Energy Partners LP—a Master Limited Partnership traded on the NYSE under the ticker symbol KMP. As part of the terms of the $76 billion purchase, KMI has delisted KMP.

KMI is now the 100% owner of Trans Mountain Pipeline ULC (the company applying to the Board for approval of Trans Mountain’s expansion), Trans Mountain Pipeline LP (the Trans Mountain pipeline assets) and Kinder Morgan Cochin ULC—the owner operator of the Cochin pipeline importing condensate for use as diluent to facilitate the export of bitumen. Cochin is also regulated by the NEB. Kinder Morgan Cochin owns 99.99% of the partnership units in Trans Mountain Pipeline LP.

Kinder Morgan should have applied for leave from the Board under section 74 of the NEB Act, but failed to do so. Kinder Morgan was in violation of the NEB Act when it undertook exploratory drilling on Burnaby Mountain.

The NEB should compel Kinder Morgan to immediately file an application for leave to transfer the ownership of Trans Mountain and Cochin including an examination of all the issues related to the public interest affected by this deal. This application should be conducted under a public review process and all work cease on the Part III Hearing until such a review is undertaken.

There are a number of public interest concerns related to the KMI acquisition. The $76 billion deal included cross-guarantees of debt which puts new interlocking commitments in place between the Kinder Morgan entities and substantially increases the energy giant’s exposure. The credit rating agencies have determined the creditworthiness of KMI is below that granted KMP before the deal took place. The Board has no knowledge as to how those cross guarantees might affect regulated assets, today or into the future.

The KMI deal appreciates the value of all the assets acquired by KMI and thus, has potential implications for toll rates charged on the existing system, the expanded system, as well as Trans Mountain’s and Cochin’s tax obligations. We already know Trans Mountain’s cash tax obligations are almost non-existent, but it is important to know how the KMI transaction may lead to an even lessened corporate tax contribution to the Canadian treasury now, and if the Trans Mountain expansion is approved.

When significant purchases such as this are made they are often accompanied by changes in partnership agreements, shareholder agreements, operating agreements, etc. that can have serious implications for liability, insurance, and access to funds, particularly in the even of a spill. The NEB has been kept in the dark by Kinder Morgan regarding important liability and related oil spill issues.

The Board is required to respond to the Notice of Motion. Kinder Morgan has ten days after the motion was filed to prepare a response. I have 5 days to prepare a reply and then the Board can rule. Other Intervenors in the process can register their concerns and comments with the Board and support my motion if they so desire.

There are also actions that can be taken outside the Hearing process for those that have not been granted standing. The NEB Chair, Peter Watson, should be called upon to account for why, when the NEB was formally made aware on November 24, 2014 that the ownership of Trans Mountain ULC and Kinder Morgan Cochin ULC would be changing hands on November 26, 2014, that his office took no action to protect the Canadian public interest by holding Kinder Morgan to account.

There are a lot of unanswered questions that the NEB—directly through the Hearing Process, and indirectly through NEB Chair Peter Watson—need to address. It is important they do so.

Burnaby Mountain arrests show B.C. needs its own environmental review process

The people arrested this week on Burnaby Mountain have shown what happens when a project review disrespects local governments, local people and First Nations.

They have shown that when the serious and heartfelt concerns of communities are disregarded, when people who care are shut out of the process, the only recourse left is to protest.

Charges laid this week were dropped after Kinder Morgan admitted the GPS co-ordinates it submitted in its injunction were inaccurate. In the days before, more than 100 people were arrested, including SFU professors, an 84-year-old retired librarian and Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs.

These are honourable people. They are people with serious concerns about a project with provincewide impact, which could affect the health, safety and sustainability of their communities. And their voices are not being heard through the official review process.

That process — the National Energy Board’s review of Kinder Morgan’s proposed pipeline expansion — is deeply flawed. Whether or not you agree with the expansion of this pipeline, it is clear that we need to give our 30 days’ notice and withdraw from the Joint Review process. We need to strengthen our made-in-B.C. environmental assessment process and use this instead.

The proposed pipeline would ship diluted bitumen — not conventional crude — through protected parkland to be loaded on supertankers in the Lower Mainland. It would result in an expected nine-fold increase in tanker traffic off B.C.’s South Coast, and so far no spill cleanup plan is in place.

The impact of this project on the province — and particularly on areas through which the pipeline runs — will be enormous. It will also be long-lasting and nearly impossible to reverse.

Because of the scope and impact of the project, people in this province had a right to expect that the review process would be equally broad in its scope, and that their voices would be heard. But what they got instead is a process that shows that Stephen Harper’s government is not interested in hearing what British Columbians think.

The NEB review of this project has been extraordinarily undemocratic. Out of 2,000 questions submitted and not answered by Trans Mountain, the review allowed 95 per cent to be rejected, and compelled the company to answer only 5 per cent. The provincial government submitted questions too, and the review refused to answer 80 of those questions.

The board running the review has even refused oral cross examination of Trans Mountain’s submission, and are seemingly content to review the untested evidence provided by the company.

It’s no wonder that people have concluded that this review is not in the business of collecting evidence, but rather driving ahead Kinder Morgan’s project, regardless of the opposition it hears (or refuses to hear). This, after all, is what the NEB did when it encountered massive opposition in this province to the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline project.

Unfortunately, Premier Christy Clark gave away control of B.C.’s future when she signed the Equivalency Agreement, which handed the Harper government control of the review process and the final decision on projects like the Trans Mountain pipeline and the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline.

But even the B.C. Liberals, who have shown a limited interest in protecting our air, land and water, must see that it is time to withdraw from this agreement and instead use a process through which the concerns of British Columbians will be heard.

It is past time that our provincial leaders reject the idea of simply accepting the verdict of environmental reviews that ignore the interests of British Columbians, and instead use our made-in-B.C. environmental assessment process — a process which is already in place and provided for under B.C. law.

Spencer Chandra Herbert is the B.C. New Democrat spokesperson for the environment.

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