‘Kinder Morgan Is Breaking the Law,’ Economist Alleges

Robyn Allan accuses firm of failing to seek NEB sign-off for deal that may weaken oil spill liability.

The owner of the Trans Mountain pipeline is distancing itself from responsibility for a potential disaster and is breaking the law by restructuring without a green light from the National Energy Board, claims economist Robyn Allan.

The restructuring Allan points to is a big deal for financial folks, and mind-numbingly complicated for just about everyone else. This week, the Houston-based Kinder Morgan Inc. is set to complete a $73-billion deal that gives it full ownership of Kinder Morgan Energy Partners LP, a separate entity in charge of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion through Burnaby.

“Part of the [company’s] strategy is to deal in complexity that avoids scrutiny,” said Allan, a former CEO of the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia.

This weekend, as dozens of Trans Mountain protesters were arrested, Allan filed a motion to the NEB demanding all work on the pipeline cease.

Allan is an expert intervener at public hearings into whether Trans Mountain should be approved. In her motion, she argued Kinder Morgan Inc. never publicly sought NEB permission for its restructuring. “Kinder Morgan is breaking the law,” she alleged. “They were supposed to file an application and they haven’t done it.”

Kinder Morgan Inc. and Kinder Morgan Energy Partners LP may both have “Kinder Morgan” in their names, but for legal purposes they’re distinct. The Houston-based Kinder Morgan Inc. is North America’s fourth largest energy company, while Kinder Morgan Energy Partners LP is a subsidiary in charge of the Trans Mountain project.

This week, the Houston-based Kinder Morgan is acquiring the Energy Partners Kinder Morgan (and its Trans Mountain project) as part of a $73-billion restructuring deal.

Ask first, say regs

If that seems complicated, prepare now to wade into the thicket of Canadian regulatory policy.

According to Section 74 of the National Energy Board Act, a pipeline company must not “enter into an agreement for amalgamation with any other company,” among other such stipulations, without first publicly seeking permission to do so from the NEB. Since Kinder Morgan Inc. announced its restructuring deal early this August, Allan has found no evidence that such permission was sought.

Why does any of this matter? Allan is not only alleging that a Canadian law was violated, she’s worried that the corporate restructuring may weaken Kinder Morgan’s liability for an oil spill. “Nothing was communicated to the NEB about what this deal means in terms of changes to [Kinder Morgan’s] insurance program,” Allan claimed. In the event of an oil spill, say, in Vancouver’s Burrard Inlet, “it’s very possible that it will be much more difficult to go after Kinder Morgan,” she alleged.

One reason financial folks are following Kinder Morgan Inc.’s restructuring deal so closely is that if offers the company, in the words of its CEO Richard Kinder, “a $20-billion tax saving over 14 years.” The existing Trans Mountain pipeline earns about $170 million per year, and results in about $1.5 million in annual tax revenues to the B.C. and federal governments — a dynamic that Allan refers to as “Kinder Morgan’s high return on equity in relation to its almost non-existent Canadian tax obligation.”

NEB ‘reviewing’ Allan’s motion

When The Tyee first reached out to Kinder Morgan it initially received an automated email stating the firm has “received an extremely high number of phone calls and emails regarding the proposed [restructuring deal] expected to close before Thanksgiving of 2014.”

A spokesperson later wrote to say that “with respect to any questions you may have about the implications this might have on Kinder Morgan Canada or its assets, we wish to advise that this acquisition will have no impact on or result in any changes to the operations of Kinder Morgan Canada or its assets.”

What happens now that Allan’s motion has been filed with the NEB? By law the regulatory agency has to deal with it directly, by first getting a response from Kinder Morgan Inc. about Allan’s allegations, giving other interveners a chance to weigh in, and finally allowing Allan to respond.

An NEB spokesperson told The Tyee: “We have received Ms. Allan’s motion and we are reviewing the contents. As we are currently considering the motion and will make a ruling on this request in due course, it would be premature for me to comment.”

Read more: Energy, Rights + Justice, Federal Politics, Environment

Geoff Dembicki reports on energy and climate change for The Tyee. Find his previous stories here.

Ian Mulgrew: Judge robbed protesters of right to civil disobedience

BY IAN MULGREW, VANCOUVER SUN NOVEMBER 24, 2014 9:13 AM

By issuing an injuction on the Burnaby Mountain pipeline dispute, a B.C. judge has robbed protesters of their right to civil disobedience, fettered their defences and sullied the court, writes Ian Mulgrew.
Photograph by: Arlen Redekop , PNG
The B.C. Supreme Court smeared its robes with political tar sand by issuing the injunction in the Burnaby Mountain pipeline dispute.

In a bit of legal sleight-of-hand, Associate Chief Justice Austin Cullen robbed protesters of their right to civil disobedience, fettered their defences and sullied the court.

He ought to have known better: Members of his own bench have railed for years against this use of injunctions as a substitute for police doing their job.

Since the NDP government first adopted this policy to subvert environmental and First Nations civil disobedience, smart judges have slammed it.

First of all, civil contempt isn’t a criminal charge so the charged protesters have a restricted number of defences but they’re facing stiffer punishment.

They cannot argue the injunction violated their constitutional rights, for instance, because that’s considered an impermissible “collateral attack” on the court order.

These injunctions are like papal bulls.

In the 1990s the province obtained one by materially misleading a judge, but those who were charged with contempt in the interim were nonetheless guilty.

There is no maximum sentence for contempt and no time off for good behaviour.

(Though in the Clayoquot trials, provincial corrections nonetheless released some inmates immediately after they began to serve their sentences.)

That’s why judges have grave concerns with this little two-step quadrille — get an injunction, proceed under the contempt law — formalized in 1990 under the NDP.

Here’s the background: in 1989, 70 individuals were prosecuted on mischief charges relating to protests against resource extraction in Strathcona Park. Notwithstanding the disruptions and damage they caused, 67 were acquitted, only three were convicted and received minor sentences.

But the trials were drawn out over a period of 18 months, sapping official and private resources, and drawing further attention to the issue.

Compare this to what happened at Clayoquot Sound in 1993 where more than 700 people were prosecuted for criminal contempt.

The trials were concluded within eight months and almost all were convicted. The average jail sentence was three weeks.

In 1994, a labour dispute at a MacMillan Bloedel construction site in Port Alberni resulted in the conviction of more than 90 individuals for contempt. On average, their trials lasted one or two days. Sentences ranged between 10 and 14 days in jail.

Here’s what the late B.C. Court of Appeal Justice Josiah Wood had to say about this policy:

“It is only because the obligations of the office of the Attorney General have not been discharged, in connection with mass public protests which are designed to interfere with the exercise of private rights, that in recent years the courts have been drawn into a role which they were never intended to perform, and for which they are ill-suited.”

Retired B.C. Supreme Court Justice Ian Pitfield similarly complained that the entire excuse for this policy offered by the government was a fraud:

“The analysis that applies in relation to private disputes has been applied in cases of civil disobedience, notwithstanding that the true nature of the debate is a contest between members of the public on the one hand and policy-makers on the other.”

Over the last quarter century, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Mark McEwan has been the most strident denouncing what he considered in some cases to be “a kind of officially induced abuse of process.”

In the 2000 Slocan dispute over “clean water,” he underscored the late Justice Wood’s point and said these cases don’t involve “a legal question, but a question of social policy.”

He added: “It appears to be taken for granted by the authorities that the court’s civil jurisdiction is available to the public as a substitute for criminal law enforcement.

“This can only be done, however, by characterizing as a dispute between ‘parties’ what is really nothing of the kind. … acts of civil disobedience are not in essence civil disputes between individuals.”

Justice Cullen should be embarrassed by his Nov. 14 injunction.

Justice Minister Suzanne Anton’s inaction should be under scrutiny — not the ability of the Supreme Court to quash dissent and force protesters to kowtow.

The Crown has abdicated its law enforcement responsibilities to prevent these citizens from spotlighting their martyrdom in a criminal trial.

There are criminal laws in place to boot those who cross the line from the Burnaby Mountain Conservation Area.

Justice Cullen should have told Trans Mountain to do what the rest of us have to do — phone the cops.

If they won’t act and the Crown refuses to lay charges, the government would be forced to accept the political consequences.

Removing this responsibility from elected representatives by allowing Trans Mountain to seek an injunction where the criminal code already provides a remedy does nothing but debase the only currency the court possesses — respect.

Instead of being a disinterested forum for deciding important issues, Justice Cullen has turned the court into a tool for Big Oil and Bad Government.

imulgrew@vancouversun.com

Anti-SLAPP Legislation

The NDP government in the early 1990s enacted anti-SLAPP legislation but it was weak. Even so, one of the first things Gordon Campbell did was repeal it. I understand that Quebec has anti-SLAPP legislation and Ontario is considering a bill. We need to discuss these issues for and against anti-SLAPP legislation again if we are to support democracy and freedom of expression. I think there is renewed interest in anti-SLAPP suit legislation in BC after Kinder Morgan injunction’s to stop protests on the Burnaby Mountain Conservation Area.  

In summary, Kinder Morgan, a giant Texas based oil company, launched a SLAPP (Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation) suit against BROKE and five individuals on October 31, 2014. A SLAPP suit is meant to silence, incapacitate and harm people who stand up to protect democratic values of freedom of assembly and freedom of expression.
 
It is my view that Kinder Morgan’s SLAPP suit is an attempt to curtail genuine and legitimate participation by ordinary people. It is anti-democratic and we must not let people be silenced and intimidated by threats of lawsuits for activities meant simply to protect the pristine forests, coastal waters, conservation and park lands and residential neighbourhoods. It’s just wrong and we must stand up against intimidation and attempts to stop us from protecting public land and coastal waters.
 
Kinder Morgan’s law suit against BROKE is simply about a giant oil company that wants to ignore municipal by-laws mean to protect park land. Kinder Morgan wants to invade public lands and clear cut to tunnel through a mountain in the most seismically active area of Canada to make a profit by shipping tar sands to Asian markets, totally ignoring climate change, safety and the interests of the people of British Columbia. 
 
Kinder Morgan has a terrible safety record in both Canada and the United States, with deaths and damages resulting from poor corporate management. In just the last few years Kinder Morgan has been responsible for a pipeline rupture in Burnaby in 2007, a tank farm spill in 2009 and accidents at the Sumas tank farms in 2012, all requiring evacuations, school closure and hospitalizations.
 
We must have your help to fight this SLAPP suit. We are a small non-profit and every penny that is donated will go to our defense fund. Please consider the issues and contribute to show your support for the environment and the fight against climate change. You can donate here https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/broke-against-big-oil. 

Police prepared to call in reinforcements to Burnaby Mountain

Burnaby RCMP are prepared for a long siege at Burnaby Mountain.

And that could mean calling in reinforcements from other Lower Mainland detachments, said Staff Sgt. John Buis on Saturday.

Buis said Burnaby officers at the scene are being bolstered by members of the integrated tactical unit, emergency response team, negotiation team as well as aboriginal pollcing services.

But as the standoff between protestors and police enforcing a court injunction to allow survey crews from Kinder Morgan to carry out their geotechnical studies on Burnaby Mountain without interference drags on, Buis admitted those officers will need “a day of rest.”

While Buis couldn’t give a specific number of officers deployed to Burnaby Mountain, he did say the force has “staffed accordingly,” and there will be no effect on day-to-day policing.

“We’ll still be able to respond to emergency calls,” said Buis.

As of Saturday afternoon police had arrested 53 protestors in the three days since the RCMP moved in to enforce the court injunction Kinder Morgan had been granted by B.C. Supreme Court last Friday. That injunction came into effect on Monday at 4 p.m.

Arrests of pipeline protesters in Burnaby signal start of long battle

Kinder Morgan began preparing for oil pipeline survey work this morning on Burnaby Mountain after police arrested and removed 26 protesters on Thursday who had refused to take down camps in the path of work crews.

But activists vowed to continue to disrupt project work and blocked an access road Friday morning until Burnaby RCMP once again moved in.

“We’re turning away work trucks,” said Kaleb Morrison, one protester who has been on site for four months. “It’s outside the injunction area and the police tape.”

Morrison had been arrested Thursday and held overnight but was back at Burnaby Mountain this morning after a bail hearing in B.C. Supreme Court.

A court injunction granted last week has barred protesters from the work zone since 4 p.m. Monday.

At least eight more protesters were arrested Friday, including SFU science professor Lynne Quarmby and climate change activist Kevin Washbrook.

“There are no other options left,” Washbrook said after being charged with civil contempt of court for pushing through a line of police officers.

“This is what politics in B.C. could become among people who care about our future,” he said. “We may be in for a Clayoquot-type situation where people who feel they have to make a stand show up each day and make an effort to cross the line.”

The company intends to drill two 250-metre test holes into the mountain over the next 10 to 12 days to determine whether a tunneling route for the proposed Trans Mountain pipeline could avoid existing Burnaby neighbourhoods.

“Trans Mountain supports the right to peacefully protest and believes individuals can express their views in the lawful assembly area, which is near one of the work sites, while allowing our workers to continue working safely,” the company said in a statement.

It said protesters’ belongings were respectfully removed and relocated overnight.

The geotechnical work is expected to run 24 hours a day.

Burnaby has been the flashpoint for opposition to the pipeline project because Kinder Morgan is under growing time pressure to finalize its route in north Burnaby to its tanker terminal ahead of National Energy Board hearings on the project in the new year.

Besides the on-the-ground protests, the City of Burnaby and its council are engaged in court battles aimed at thwarting the project by refusing access.

“I don’t think this is going to be over quickly,” Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan said. “We’re going to see ongoing legal battles that will probably take place over the next several years.”

Pipeline opponents argue the huge jump in oil tanker traffic out of Burrard Inlet that will result will greatly increase the risk of a catastrophic oil spill in B.C. waters.

Corrigan said he understands protesters’ frustration, but said they should leave the city and other municipalities to fight the legal battle rather than risk arrest.

Burnaby is in federal court challenging Trans Mountain’s authority granted by the NEB to override city bylaws and it also wants the B.C. Court of Appeal to grant Burnaby an injunction barring the Kinder Morgan crews from Burnaby parkland after a lower court judge refused.

Corrigan said the federally granted authority to supersede local cities could result in all sorts of federally regulated bodies – not just pipeline companies but also port terminals, airports, railways and telecommunications firms – gaining the ability to trump local land-use decisions.

“We are extremely concerned,” he said. “The issues are so much bigger than this incursion in a park on Burnaby Mountain.”

Langley Township, Abbotsford, Vancouver and Metro Vancouver are among the local governments that have filed as intervenors.

Green Party of Canada leader Elizabeth May urged protesters to continue non-violent resistance, calling Kinder Morgan’s work illegal.

“This entire NEB process has been tainted by fraud through the misrepresentation of Kinder Morgan’s evidence and shoddy research,” May said.

May said civil disobedience is a Charter protected right and praised the “courageous actions” of those arrested Thursday.

“The people protesting on Burnaby Mountain are local, law-abiding residents who have been pushed to their limit,” added Burnaby MP Kennedy Stewart, who criticized Kinder Morgan for pushing ahead with the work.

More arrests on Burnaby Mountain as Kinder Morgan moves in

Total arrests now at 34 as protesters defy court injunction

RCMP arrested more protesters on Burnaby Mountain Friday, after Kinder Morgan moved in heavy equipment the night before.

Among the arrested were Burnaby resident Ruth Walmsley, retired teacher Yvon Raoul and Lynne Quarmby, one of the five protesters named in Kinder Morgan’s multimillion dollar civil suit. The protesters were arrested for violating a B.C. Supreme Court injunction prohibiting people from interfering with Kinder Morgan’s survey work for a new pipeline route.

Quarmby, a molecular biology professor at SFU, spoke with media Friday morning, criticizing the lack of consultation with First Nations and slamming the Conservative government for stripping environmental protections from the NEB Act.

“We have a process that does not allow for the consideration of climate change in the evaluation of a major fossil fuel project at a time when climate change is the biggest problem facing humanity,” Quarmby said. “That’s unethical.”
Quarmby then turned to subject of civil disobedience.

“It’s done in full respect of rule of law, but it’s also done as a serious responsibility of being a citizen in this country,” she said. “So I’m going to turn around right now, and I’m going to walk up that hill, and I’m going to be the best citizen I can be.”

And with that, Quarmby marched up Centennial Way and lifted the yellow police tape, along with Raoul, Walmsley and Burnaby resident Suzanne Crawford. They stood behind police lines, facing down the RCMP, awaiting their arrest.
In all, police made eight more arrests Friday, bringing the total to 34. Most have been released with a promise to appear in court and stay out of the injunction areas on Burnaby Mountain. Five were scheduled to appear in court Friday.

For the most part, the arrests have been peaceful, although James Keller from the Canadian Press filmed police yanking an elderly woman back and throwing her to the ground. Josh Paterson, executive director of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, was on Burnaby Mountain Friday as a legal observer. Paterson is already expressing concerns that excessive force may have been used.

“It did appear that yesterday there were some incidents of roughness between police and protesters,” Paterson said. “We’re going to be reviewing that as the B.C. Civil Liberties Association and trying to speak with the people involved to see if they wish to file complaints in relation to the way they were treated.”
Staff Sgt.-Major John Buis of the Burnaby RCMP was not aware of the video, but he did say police did not want to arrest anyone.

Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan is urging residents to avoid arrest.
Corrigan, who once said he was prepared to stand in front of a bulldozer to stop Kinder Morgan, is trying to keep the fight in the courts.

“Meanwhile, I encourage all Burnaby citizens and supporters not to do anything that will place them in harm’s way or subject them to arrest or lawsuits,” Corrigan said in a statement released Thursday evening. “In addition, I do not want our police officers to be hurt or abused for doing what they are required to do by order of the Supreme Court of B.C. They are not there because they support the court decision.”

Corrigan also said protesters could lose public support “by exceeding the bounds of peaceful dissent.”
Meanwhile in Ottawa, Burnaby-Douglas MP Kennedy Stewart rose in the House of Commons and called for Kinder Morgan to stop work on Burnaby Mountain. Like Quarmby, Stewart blamed the Conservatives for the conflict.

“The government’s changes to the National Energy Board Act have completely removed the ability of British Columbians from having any voice in how this massive energy should proceed through our community,” Stewart said, adding the vast majority of these protesters were not radicals. “They are parents, grandparents, university professors, teachers, students and home owners. They are on Burnaby Mountain because they feel their community is threatened and they have no other way than protesting to voice their concerns. Mr. Speaker, as the Conservatives have abandoned Burnaby and British Columbia, I’m calling on Kinder Morgan president Ian Anderson to cease his current activities on Burnaby Mountain and not force local police to arrest my constituents.”

That plea seems to have fallen on deaf ears, as Kinder Morgan moved heavy equipment in overnight. Much of the protesters’ camp has been dismantled, and about 30 people remained on the mountain Friday morning.
Kinder Morgan is surveying Burnaby Mountain for a new pipeline route that would connect the tank farm to the Westridge Marine Terminal. It’s all part of the $5.4 billion plan to twin the Trans Mountain pipeline, which runs oil from Alberta to Burnaby.

© Burnaby Now

Police arrest pipeline opponents on Burnaby Mountain

It was a tense Thursday morning on Burnaby Mountain, as RCMP arrested at least a dozen anti-pipeline protesters.

Police cordoned off sections of Centennial Way, where protesters set up a barricaded camp, and anyone caught inside the yellow tape was subject to arrest.

The people were arrested for defying a B.C. Supreme Court injunction banning the protesters from interfering with Kinder Morgan’s survey work for a new pipeline route. Some have been released already.

“It’s a very emotional event, and I respect the people who have decided to commit civil disobedience,” said Alan Dutton from Burnaby Residents Opposing Kinder Morgan Expansion. Dutton was also one of the five protesters named in the court injunction. “We’ve advised people to respect the law and allow the court process to continue to see what the resolution will be.”

Dutton said it will be difficult for police to clear the area as more people convene on the mountain.

“There are a lot of people coming into this area, and the longer it takes, the more people are going to be here and the more peaceful it will become because there are more people to witness what’s going on,” Dutton said. “I anticipate this is going to continue, and this is going to be a long, long struggle.”

Burnaby resident Ruth Walmsley slept in the park overnight and was on the scene when a large number of police officers showed up and read the injunction to those in the camp area.

“A number of protesters locked arms and refused to get off of the premises,” she told the NOW.

Police were also dealing with protesters at a clearing in the woods at another spot where Kinder Morgan needs to drill for soil samples. Vancouver resident Adam Bognar was one of three people who camped overnight in the clearing, which is about a five-minute hike from Centennial Way

“There have been no arrests made yet (in the woods),” he told the NOW.

Police arrived as Bognar and two others were waking up, still in their sleeping bags.

“They came in, in a line, and set up a perimeter and made us move outside of it to not be arrested,” Bognar said. “They said this is in the injunction perimeter, … since then it’s grown three times that size, and it’s just been on whim.”

At press time, Bognar was outside the cordoned-off area, documenting the scene. He also reported that one man chained his neck to a tree, about 25 feet from the ground, and two police officers were up the tree with bolt cutters trying to remove him. The RCMP’s aerial extraction team removed him and arrested him.

One of the more intense and emotional moments was when Clarrisa Antone from the Squamish Indian Band arrived on the scene singing and drumming. As the crowd began to sing along with her, she marched right under the yellow police tape into the protesters’ camp as RCMP looked on. By press time Thursday, only Antone and another indigenous woman were allowed to stay inside the camp, where a “sacred” fire is burning.

There’s been a call out for more protesters to convene on the mountain, and many more arrived Thursday morning, as word spread of the arrests. People from the Musqueam, Tsleil-Waututh and Squamish First Nations were reportedly on their way at press time, although this is not confirmed.

Burnaby RCMP Staff Sgt.-Major John Buis said there were 14 arrests, but the number is fluid, because some protesters are being released if they agree to appear in court and not return to the protest site. Seven have been released.

“We will secure the site,” he told the NOW.

As for the remaining women inside the camp, Buis said RCMP were working on that.

Kinder Morgan released a media statement Thursday, saying crews were back on the mountain, clearing the work sites.

“As of 12:45 p.m., Trans Mountain staff and contractors have arrived at Burnaby Mountain to begin preparing the work sites for our geotechnical field studies. Trans Mountain is pleased that the majority of the individuals occupying the area complied with the order and continue to exercise their rights to express their views in a respectful manner, while allowing our team to begin the work safely. Our crews will be respectfully relocating any items that are in the designated work area. It will be secured and handed over to RCMP.”

© Burnaby Now

Lawyer condemns arrests of Burnaby Mountain protesters while appeals are before courts

A VANCOUVER CIVIL-RIGHTS lawyer says it’s “dangerously wrong” that protesters on Burnaby Mountain are being arrested while the courts are still evaluating the legality of a U.S.-owned energy company’s actions.

“There is the uncontroversial right of the citizens to protest, which is one of the key planks of a democracy,” Gail Davidson told the Georgia Straight by phone. “And the right of Kinder Morgan hasn’t been determined.”

Davidson said that she thinks that the Kinder Morgan subsidiary Trans Mountain Pipeline, is, in effect, “defying the court process” by conducting geotechnical survey work on Burnaby Mountain while the issue is before the B.C. Court of Appeal.

In addition, the City of Burnaby has asked the Federal Court of Appeal to set aside a National Energy Board order to allow Kinder Morgan’s work to proceed.

“They shouldn’t be going ahead with their basically irremedial activities,” Davidson said. “You can’t put the tree up after they’ve cut it down.”

As a result, she said that the uncertainty over Kinder Morgan’s legal right while these cases are being appealed does not justify any loss of liberty for the protesters.

Davidson also said that she doesn’t blame the RCMP for what’s happening. “I think the police were trying to be careful, so I’m not really faulting them so much as the pressures that are brought to bear upon them.”

Meanwhile, SFU professor Lynne Quarmby was among eight demonstrators arrested yesterday This came after 26 were taken away on November 20.

They’ve all been charged with civil contempt of court, according to the Mounties.

The RCMP has issued a statement on its website saying that Centennial Way at the Burnaby Mountain Parkway will remain closed.

Follow Charlie Smith on Twitter @csmithstraight.

Koch Brothers Are The Largest Land Owners Of Canada’s Tar Sands

Author
ARI PHILLIPS
The Koch Brothers are known for many things — their vast financial empire, their conservative political ideology, their active political involvement, their support of the Keystone XL pipeline — but their Alberta, Canada land ownership has not been as widely discussed. A Washington Post feature has brought this subject back to attention as the Keystone XL debate heats up and discussion over the relationship between the Koch Brothers and their Republican allies takes on even greater significance in an important election year.

According to the Washington Post, which uses a report from the activist group the International Forum on Globalization as a foundation, a Koch Industries subsidiary holds leases on 1.1 million acres in the northern Alberta oil sands, an area nearly the size of Delaware. The Post confirmed the group’s findings with Alberta Energy, the provincial government’s ministry of energy.

“What is Koch Industries doing there?,” asks the Washington Post. “The company wouldn’t comment on its holdings or strategy, but it appears to be a long-term investment that could produce tens of thousands of barrels of the region’s thick brand of crude oil in the next three years and perhaps hundreds of thousands of barrels a few years after that.”

In 2012, InsideClimate News reported on the Koch family’s long-term investments in Canada’s heavy oil industry, calling it an essential part of the company’s massive growth since 1959. In a wide-ranging analysis, InsideClimate News found that Koch Industries has been involved with almost every aspect of the tar sands industry, from mining bitumen to transportation, exportation, distribution and, of course, refining the petrochemicals — a large part of their empire.

The report found that Koch Industries is “one of Canada’s largest crude oil purchasers, shippers, and exporters, with more than 130 crude oil customers,” and is also responsible for about 25 percent of oil sands crude imports into the U.S., for use at its refineries.

In their recent report The Billionaires’ Carbon Bomb about the Koch Brothers and the Keystone XL pipeline, the International Forum on Globalization (IFG) contends that Koch Exploration Canada, the Koch Industries subsidiary that buys and sells land for energy development, could profit by up to $100 billion with the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. While this number is up for debate, it is clearly not a losing investment. And at the very least the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline would lower transportation costs of getting the oil to refineries, increasing the production margins of those refineries, whether Koch-owned or not.

“The biggest way Koch could benefit from Keystone is by the pipeline’s acting as the ‘keystone’ of oil industry strategy to increase the ‘takeaway’ capacity for producers of Canadian crude, whereby getting more oil to more lucrative markets, and ending the deep discounts on Canadian crude currently glutting markets,” IFG’s Victor Menotti told the Washington Post.

In Alberta, like in many places in the U.S., owning the land and owning the mineral rights beneath the surface are different things. According to the Alberta Department of Energy, 81 percent of the surface mineral rights in the province are owned by the provincial Crown, with the remaining 19 percent owned by National Parks, First Nations, or individuals or corporations that acquired the land in the 1800s before the modern rights went into effect.
Koch Industries has held the line that they have no financial stake in the Keystone XL Pipeline and “are not party to its design or construction,” or “a proposed shipper or customer of oil delivered by this pipeline.”

Most people in the path of oil and gas development find themselves helpless in the face of the industry’s deep pockets and political affiliations. Landowners and farmers are left to deal with the environmental and health impacts of nearby fracking and drilling, often polluting or drying up their water sources. It would seem that the Koch brothers would be happy to sell their land away for a little profit — and with little risk of physical or psychological harm. They doubtlessly have land to spare. And until the true impacts come to their own backyard — as they recently did for ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson outside of Dallas — that isn’t likely to change.

UPDATE
The Washington Post revisited this story on April 8 to state that further reporting revealed that Koch Industries on a net acreage basis is the largest American and foreign holder of leases in Canada’s oil sands but it might narrowly trail two Canadian companies overall.