Despite Kinder ruling, NEB wants pipeline emergency response plans made public

The National Energy Board wants companies in Canada to make their emergency response plans public for existing pipelines, even though it has ruled Kinder Morgan can keep its plans secret from British Columbians.

“Our chairman is not very happy. Canadians deserve to have that information,” said Darin Barter, a spokesperson for the NEB.

“There’s a public will for that information, and industry needs to find a way to make it public.”

Companies are not required to disclose their emergency response plans under Canadian law. Barter said the board is not calling for a legislative change, but for a commitment from industry to be more transparent.

He said chairman Peter Watson sent a letter on Feb. 5 about the issue to the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association. A spokesman for the association said it received the letter and will be discussing how to meet the NEB’s expectations.

But during a conference call on Feb. 20 Kinder Morgan maintained it is not required to release further details of its emergency response plan after the NEB agreed that sensitive security details could be at risk.

Details of the company’s spill response plan in Washington State have been publicly posted online.

The decision to keep the plans secret in B.C. has prompted the provincial government to call for more transparency around Kinder Morgan’’s ability to respond to a potential oil spill. The proposed $5.4-billion Trans Mountain expansion would twin the pipeline and triple the capacity for Alberta oil intended for Asian markets.

Ian Anderson, President of Kinder Morgan Canada, addressed the issue on Friday.

““National security and public safety reasons made it prudent to keep aspects of the plan confidential and private,”” he said.

But Green MLA Andrew Weaver thinks the company should fully disclose the details of its plans. Especially, he said, considering that Washington State–where sections of the Trans Mountain pipeline cross into–already has a much more detailed plan than B.C.

““I do not understand what the security element is,”” he said, “If it’s okay for the US to have the full version, I don’t know why B.C. can’t have it?””

Still, Michel Juneau-Katsuya, a former senior intelligence officer with the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), said security is a concern.

Information about valve locations and access points could fall into the hands of environmental extremists, who could potentially use it for sabotage, he said. He believes the The NEB was right to keep aspects of the emergency plan a secret.

Acts of sabotage have occurred in the past, said Mr. Juneau-Katsua, citing incidents like the 2008 bombings that targeted gas pipelines near Dawson Creek, B.C.

“If someone lost their life because an extremist wanted to demonstrate against a pipeline–that would be absolutely unacceptable,”” he said.

Linda Pilkey-Jarvis, who works with the Washington State Department of Ecology, said that state officials discussed the security concerns associated with publicly available plans, but ultimately ruled on the side of transparency.

“Pipeline advocates hold us up as an example that others should follow,”” she said, “”but industry gets uncomfortable with the level of information we make available.””

Mr. Juneau-Katsuya, who believes pipelines do pose security concerns, was shocked to hear that Washington State makes their plans public.

““I’’m very surprised,”” he said, ““They might actually expose themselves as a target.””

The NEB will make a decision next January about whether the Trans Mountain pipeline should be approved. The federal government will then make a final decision approximately three months after.

With a report from The Canadian Press

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