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?”

@jacobzinn

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