Kinder Morgan defends spill plan secrecy

Kinder Morgan Canada will provide details of its emergency response plans directly to governments and first responders, but on the condition the information be kept private, said company president Ian Anderson.

The National Energy Board (NEB) ruled that the company is not required to make the emergency plan for its Trans Mountain pipeline public as part of the review process for its expansion proposal.

The company has been roundly criticized by opponents of the project, including the City of Burnaby, for not releasing the plans already.

Anderson said in a conference call with media recently that the information will be provided outside the NEB process to those parties needing it. Those parties will also be consulted in the process to update the plan to reflect an expanded system.

“Clearly, our interest would be in dealing with municipalities and first responders to provide them the information they need in order to undertake their due diligence and their response capabilities as necessary,” Anderson said.

“And therefore they would have be, one, an affected community by our operations, two, they would have to agree to keep those plans private within their city or municipality and not post them publicly for the same reasons that we’re not posting those details publicly.”

Anderson was speaking in a conference call to announce the company has filed responses to the latest round of information requests from intervenors, 5,600 in all.

“This round, the requests that we got, we believe were more relevant than the first round and we made a lot of effort to provide complete responses to intervenors as appropriate,” he said. “Having said that, there will be some information requests that were not within the scope of the hearing and we have said as much in our responses.”

The latest round of questions brings the total of questions asked to over 16,000. If necessary, intervenors have an opportunity to appeal to the NEB to request that the company be more responsive to their inquiries, Anderson noted.

“I think what parties will find is that the responses this round are very full and very complete.”

Anderson noted that Kinder Morgan’s emergency response plans for Washington state were released publicly by that state’s department of ecology.

“That has caused a bit of confusion,” he said.

“I think I want to reinforce we in no way want to have this perceived lack of transparency around our emergency response plans as any indication of us wanting to hide anything or keep anything a secret.”

There are “very real security concerns” in making the plans public, particularly the locations of critical valves and access points.

The broader issue is a need for industry and the regulator in Canada to define “who should get what how and when and for what purpose?” Anderson explained.

Due to security issues in the U.S., the protocol around how such plans are released is already well established unlike in Canada, he said.

“Those bridges have been crossed down there more so than up here and we’re committed to ensuring it happens here as well.”

Kinder Morgan will lead an industry effort to ensure a similar protocol is set up on this side of the border “so the public can be comforted that there’s no secrets, that nothing’s being hidden but that security of the infrastructure and the public can still be maintained.”

Burnaby-Lougheed NDP MLA Jane Shin, through whose riding the pipeline runs, doesn’t see the public having much comfort so far in the NEB process itself.

The B.C. New Democrats are calling on the province to undertake its own review process in addition to the federal one underway. The pipeline “does go through our parks, our schools and our residences … I think the province has a real right to say what makes sense for us.”

Shin agrees that there are security concerns about the release of all aspects of the emergency plan, but believes those are not details the public is necessarily seeking.

Instead, it’s “the reassurance and the social licence that the plan is acceptable and is done on sound evidence and it does protect the safety and the interests of our public,” Shin said.

Kinder Morgan is proposing to almost triple capacity of the pipeline between Edmonton and Burnaby to allow for increased exports of oil sands crude to overseas markets.

On May 26, intervenors are scheduled to begin proving evidence and answer questions posed by the company. Oral arguments are scheduled for September and October. The NEB is expected to provide its recommendation to the federal government, which then will make a final decision within three months.

If the project is approved, Anderson said, construction would start in the summer of 2016 and the pipeline would be in service by September 2018.

wchow@burnabynewsleader.com

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