Kinder Morgan drops lawsuit against protesters

Kinder Morgan is dropping its lawsuit against several people protesting its recent pipeline study work on Burnaby Mountain, but at least one defendant plans to continue his fight.

The company is proposing to almost triple capacity of its Trans Mountain pipeline between Edmonton and Burnaby. In November and December it ran into opposition from protesters as it tried to drill into Burnaby Mountain as part of geotechnical study work to determine if the pipeline could be routed through it in a tunnel.

In response, the company filed a civil lawsuit against five named defendants—Adam Gold, Mia Nissen, Stephen Collis, Lynne Quarmby, and Alan Dutton— seeking damages it estimated at more than $5 million per month of delay.

The work went ahead after the company succeeded in getting court injunctions preventing protesters from getting in the way of its crews.

In December, the company said in a press release Friday, Trans Mountain offered to discontinue the lawsuit. “There was no financial incentive offered other than the commitment that Trans Mountain wouldn’’t seek court costs. Two of the five defendants agreed.”

“In the interest of conciliation, providing certainty for all involved,” the company said, it has filed a unilateral discontinuance which does not require agreement from the defendants.

“It does mean that Trans Mountain could be responsible for court costs, which the company is willing to pay, in order to demonstrate, without any doubt that it has no intention of pursuing civil action in this case.”

The move is delivering on a promise made by Kinder Morgan Canada president Ian Anderson not to pursue the lawsuit, the release said.

“Even though damages were suffered by the company as a result of the protests that occurred on Burnaby Mountain, Trans Mountain has maintained that it will not pursue compensation for these damages.”

While relieved, defendant Alan Dutton has no plans to go quietly.

A few weeks ago he went to B.C. Supreme Court in an attempt to have the lawsuit dismissed but was unsuccessful.

“We were expecting them to settle and they’ve done so,” Dutton said Friday. “There’s still some outstanding issues, and we have to explore them with my legal team but in my view the issue is not settled.”

Dutton said his lawyers will be looking into the matter of recovering his legal costs and being compensated for damage to his reputation and loss of his time dealing with the matter.

“We have tens of thousands of dollars spent defending ourselves in court and Kinder Morgan is just not going to get away with this kind of action,” he said.

“I’m just happy, though, that Kinder Morgan realizes the publicity nightmare that they’ve caused for themselves. I’m glad they’ve taken this course of action, and perhaps it’ll slow them down in the next phase as they approach their application to the [National Energy Board].”

Dutton said he’ll continue his campaign seeking provincial legislation to prevent SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) lawsuits, those designed to intimidate opposition into silence, which he claims this suit was intended to be.

For now, the end of the lawsuit means he can breathe easier.

“I’m actually quite happy but there’s still a long way to go yet.”

wchow@burnabynewsleader.com (Editor’s note: This article was originally published by the Burnaby News Leader, which ceased operation on October 1, 2015.

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