Province needs more details on Kinder Morgan’s emergency plan

by Jennifer Moreau

The National Energy Board is allowing Kinder Morgan to keep parts of its emergency management plan for the Trans Mountain pipeline system redacted for commercial, security and privacy reasons, despite the provincial government’s insistence on more details.

The provincial government asked for the missing information, along with an oil spill response plan, in a Dec. 5 motion filed with the NEB.

“The province has found the redactions made by Trans Mountain to be excessive, unjustified and prohibitive. The redactions thwart the province’s examination of the EMP (emergency management program) documents, and preclude a thorough understanding of Trans Mountain’s EMP by the board and all intervenors,” the government’s motion reads.

Some of the missing information includes people’s names and phones numbers, bomb threat checklists and valve locations. A section on the Burnaby tank farm is missing information on site drainage and maps for the terminal and the evacuation zone.

But in a decision released last Thursday, the NEB sided with Kinder Morgan.

“In this instance, the board is satisfied that sufficient information has been filed from the existing EMP documents to meet the board’s requirements at this stage in the process,” the response reads. The board went on to explain that the province will be privy to some of the missing documents as Kinder Morgan consults “implicated parties” to update the plans for the proposed pipeline expansion.

Pending NEB approval, Kinder Morgan plans to twin the Trans Mountain pipeline, which would nearly triple the line’s capacity from 300,000 barrels per day to 890,000, while increasing tanker traffic nearly seven fold.

As for the oil spill response plan, the NEB cited Kinder Morgan’s line – that it can’t file what it doesn’t have – because Kinder Morgan is waiting for information from Western Canada Marine Response Corporation, the company in charge of cleaning up oil spills on water.

Several municipalities wrote to the NEB in support of the province’s request for more information, including Burnaby, Vancouver, Surrey, Langley, Abbotsford, North Vancouver and West Vancouver, as well as First Nations bands and environmental groups.

Kinder Morgan filed most of its emergency management plan with the NEB last October, which means the documents are publicly available through the board’s website. Kinder Morgan initially wanted to keep the documents secret for proprietary reasons, which the NEB sometimes allows. In this case, the board ruled that public interest outweighed Kinder Morgan’s request to keep the plan confidential.

Burnaby Mountain ‘warrior’ stands up for us all

Author
Betty Krawczyk

Dear Editor:

Burnaby Mountain Warrior? It only takes one. And Alan Dutton, a retired professor, certainly takes that title in my opinion. He is the only one with the guts and the ability to stand up to what has been a conspiracy between the courts of this province, the resource extraction corporations and both provincial and federal governments. What do I mean by conspiracy?

Because all three of the above conspire to facilitate the use of injunctions to impose the intellectually conniving perceived rights of corporations over the natural rights of the earth and Her inhabitants. When citizens try to stop an obvious harm to land, waterways and habitat for all living things, the corporations turn to the courts. They know the B.C. courts are their friends. Most judges in B.C. were corporate lawyers before becoming judges. They are used to fighting for the artificially perceived rights of death dealing corporations rather than the natural rights of living things to clean water, food, and air to breathe.

But what are these injunctions? Most people know that in some way injunctions make people stop protesting a contested area like Burnaby Mountain, and some even know these injunctions are precipitated by something called SLAPP suits. What is a SLAPP suit? When I heard the actual legal title I was astonished. SLAPP stands for Strategic Lawsuit against Public Participation. How anti-democratic! And blatantly anti-public! And anti-everything except the rights of courts, governments and the corporations they serve. However, with a copy of a SLAPP suit in hand to show they have civilly sued a protester, the corporation can take this back to the court and ask for an injunction (or even before the suit is filed). The judge will most certainly give the corporation the injunction requested (they refuse so rarely it isn’t even worth mentioning) et voila!

Now anybody who steps up to try to block any bit of the corporation’s right to do whatever they chose to do to an area will now be breaking a judge’s order.

The court seems to be taking a slightly different tack with Burnaby Mountain protesters than they did with me in the logging protests; instead of the humiliating demand for an apology to the court that I refused, the protesters are agreeing to some sort of settling out of court. Except for Mr. Allan Dutton, who is refusing to settle and is challenging the right of the courts to give out injunctions instead of using the Canadian Criminal Code to deal with protesters.

Okay, so how would that fix things if the Criminal Code was used instead? The Criminal Code has instructions for just about any crime or misdemeanour one can think of. Blocking a road is against the law. So is refusing to move when a police officer commands it. So the police would simply arrest whoever was breaking the law. And then in court a protester could have an actual trial where the contest would be between the protester and the corporation instead of between the protester and the judge for breaking the judge’s order. That’s why the corporations so love injunctions.

The protester can’t argue in court his or her reasons for trying to stop a destruction of the earth when one is arrested under an injunction. There is no defence for breaking a judge’s order. The question just becomes one of if the protester knew about the injunction and if he or she broke the injunction by refusing to move. That’s it. That is what the Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP suits) culminate in, injunctions and humiliating retreats for the protesters.

Except occasionally, for whatever reason, a protester will refuse to retreat. Like Alan Dutton.

This resounds among the populace. It’s heartwarming. It’s hopeful. Courage is inspiring and it’s also contagious.

Alan Dutton, I understand, is to be back in the courtroom Jan. 19. I wish I could be there. Those of you who can, will you please attend and bear witness? And report the results? A warrior is going to be on the stand.

Betty Krawczyk, by email

Protester fails in court challenge to Kinder Morgan legal attack: Vows to fight back

Author
GENE MCGUCKIN

A failed two-day court challenge to an anti-democratic, corporate legal attack is the latest chapter in the 2014 Battle of Burnaby Mountain over the Kinder Morgan tar sands pipeline expansion project.

The B.C. Supreme Court ruled January 14 that stifling Alan Dutton’s right to protest was not the primary purpose of a multi-million-dollar civil suit and, therefore, his application for a summary dismissal of the case was denied. In an unexpected additional blow, he was ordered to pay the company’s costs for the action.

As revealed in an wide-ranging interview with the Vancouver Sun, the setback has left Dutton unbowed.

A retired academic and active member of Burnaby Residents Opposing Kinder Morgan (BROKE), Dutton has indeed been an active protester in the anti-pipeline battle. His challenge sought judicial recognition that he became a victim of strategic litigation against public participation (SLAPP) when he and four other defendants were sued October 30 by KM.

With the support of fellow BROKE members Dutton filed his mid-December application for a summary judgment to include dismissal of Kinder Morgan’s damage claims and an “Order for special costs payable by the Plaintiff to the Defendant.”

In its suit, the energy giant accuses the defendants of conspiracy to commit illegal acts of trespass, nuisance, assault, intimidation and intentional interference with contractual relations. Their acts, the claim says, resulted in “unlawful interference” with “field studies” required by the National Energy Board’s (NEB) review of the expansion project.

A related Kinder Morgan court document projects that each month of delay would cost the company $5,643,000 in expenses, as well as $88 million in lost revenues.

Dutton vows to appeal the court’s ruling, if there are grounds to do so. “I never committed any of the alleged conspiracy, assault, trespass, etc.,” he told this writer. “The charges against me were never proved and don’t have to be under the rules the court followed. Those rules disadvantage and silence defendants in the face of huge lawsuits by large corporations.”

Just before Christmas the energy transnational offered to “discontinue” the suit if defendants agreed not to claim costs. That deal was taken by the other four defendants, whose legal expenses had been paid by an enthusiastic public response to an on-line crowdfunding appeal.

Now, it is not so clear the deal actually settled the suit. A lawyer to two of those defendants barged into the Dutton hearing and was finally permitted to address the court. He expressed his clients’ unease that a discontinuance of the lawsuit was not as final as a dismissal and left them open to further action.

Dutton declined Kinder Morgan’s deal in order to fight the suppression of free speech and freedom of assembly, which he sees as the SLAPP suit’s real goal.

“The issue here is our democracy and the fundamental right to protest,” Dutton told the Burnaby NOW. “It’s to show people we can fight big multinational corporations, and we can be successful.”

On the first morning of Dutton’s application hearing, B.C. Civil Liberties Association Executive Director Josh Paterson, held a press conference with Dutton’s lawyer Neil Chantler. Paterson told reporters that Dutton “is basically making the argument that the reason for which this lawsuit is brought is actually improper and was to shut down people’s lawful and democratic expression.” The BCCLA also put out an “advisory” on the case.

Hoping his action would discourage future SLAPP suits and help bring anti-SLAPP legislation back to B.C., Dutton accepted that he could face growing legal expenses. Crowd-funding and other donations had covered most of his legal costs before this week’s hearing. But this challenge and the court’s unexpected turn-about on awarding costs have added thousands more in legal expenses.*

Kinder Morgan ‘s suit came after a two-and-a-half year battle against its plan to “twin” a 60-year-old pipeline not designed for, but now carrying, tar sands diluted bitumen through Burnaby to a supertanker marine terminal on the municipality’s northern border.

Kinder Morgan ‘s latest revision to the intended route for the “twinned” pipeline has it tunneling under Burnaby Mountain, home of SFU and of a large municipal conservation area.

Kinder Morgan ‘s expansion project would triple the bitumen being piped through suburban Burnaby to nearly 900,000 barrels per day. It would also triple — to five million barrels — the storage capacity of a tank farm on the side of Burnaby Mountain (uphill from residential neighbourhoods, schools, parks, etc.). And it would increase seven-fold, to 400 loads a year, the super-tanker traffic under two bridges across the narrow, busy Burrard Inlet, which is flanked by Vancouver and four other cities in addition to Burnaby.

Opposition to the project has centred on concerns about climate change, as well as about spills on land (already happened) and water, toxic fumes from the marine terminal and tank farm, fire and leaks from the latter (with no response plan in place), and earthquakes affecting the tunneled pipeline section.

Burnaby-Douglas NDP MP Kennedy Stewart has been a steady, engaged and persuasive voice against the Kinder Morgan expansion, while Burnaby North Liberal MLA Richard T. Lee has been living on another planet.
Burnaby Mayor Derrick Corrigan and his entire city council have held and attended several public meetings explaining their objections in detail.

In addition, the city fought several losing court battles to stop Kinder Morgan work on Burnaby Mountain. Those activities resulted in a September opinion poll that revealed an astonishing 93 per cent of citizens were aware of the Kinder Morgan expansion project and 68 per cent of those were opposed. Affirming this result was Corrigan’s November 15 re-election to a fifth term with 68.5 per cent of the vote and a three-peat of his party’s sweep of council seats.

BROKE, through holding community meetings and rallies and through its website, has worked diligently to educate and mobilize the community against the project since it announcement in 2012.

This past summer and fall, another small group calling themselves “caretakers” came together on the mountain to provide vigilant patrols of areas where Kinder Morgan crews were expected to work. As the fall unfolded, another layer of “land defenders” formed around the “caretaker” nucleus.

In late October, some protestors came into confrontation with a crew of contractors hired by Kinder Morgan to do work at several sites on and around Burnaby Mountain. This led with startling rapidity to the lawsuit and an application to B.C. Supreme Court for an injunction barring protesters from several areas on and around the mountain.

That injunction, which the B.C. Supreme Court did grant, gave birth to a pair of 24/7 work camps ringed by police. It also drew hundreds of protesters to the mountain day after day. Between November 19 and 27, over 100 people “crossed the line” into no-go zones ordered by the court and were arrested, only to have their contempt-of-court charges thrown out when Kinder Morgan revealed it had given the court the wrong GPS coordinates to designate the no-go zones.

Meanwhile, various other constitutional and procedural challenges to the Kinder Morgan project and to the NEB review process of it have been launched by the City of Vancouver, by the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, by a citizens group and by Robyn Allan, an economist and former president and CEO of the Insurance Corporation of BC who has become a formidable anti-pipeline crusader.

Dutton pledges to continuing the fight and is still committed to new anti-SLAPP-suit laws, “a fight both the BCCLA and West Coast Environmental Law have indicated they would support,” he said.

Gene McGuckin is a resident of Burnaby who worked for 29 years in a Burnaby paper recycling mill. He is a member or BROKE and of the Vancouver Ecosocialist Group.

*In an email to this writer Dutton emphasized that a new fundraising effort is underway, again primarily through crowd-funding.

Pipeline protester fights Kinder Morgan lawsuit

by Stefania Seccia, QMI Agency

VANCOUVER — A Burnaby, B.C. man argued in court on Tuesday that a multi-million-dollar lawsuit filed by Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Pipeline is an attempt to stifle democratic activities.

Alan Dutton, a member of Burnaby Residents Opposing Kinder Morgan Expansion and a defendant in the $5.6-million lawsuit seeking damages against the protesters, is refusing to settle out of court.

In B.C. Supreme Court on Tuesday, Dutton said the case was an abuse of process and highlighted the need for anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) legislation.

Josh Paterson, the executive director of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, said it’s up to the defendant and his counsel to prove that the lawsuit filed by Kinder Morgan was a strategic lawsuit against public participation.

“From our perspective, we’ve said that there needs to be legislation in this province that makes it easier and faster for so-called SLAPP lawsuits to be identified and disposed of,” he said.

Paterson said the province had legislation in place until 2001 that expedited the court’s determination as to whether a case was a SLAPP suit.

The BCCLA is calling on the province to reinstate such legislation.

While B.C. Minister of Justice Suzanne Anton was unavailable for an interview, a ministry spokesperson said the province “is in line with most Canadian jurisdictions which do not provide for what is sometimes described as ‘anti-SLAPP’ legislation.”

“The challenge with such legislation is determining the basis for dismissing a civil claim prior to a hearing on its merits,” the spokesperson wrote in a statement.

The decision on whether a case is legitimate or not is up to the court’s discretion, according to Section 18 of the Supreme Court Act, which outlines general criteria for what constitutes a frivolous claim.

Trans Mountain deferred comment about the court case until it is officially concluded.

The case will be back in court on Wednesday.

Kinder Morgan pipeline clears early hurdle

Author
Jeff Nagel
Kinder Morgan Canada has cleared one hurdle on the way to building a proposed second pipeline to carry Alberta oil sands crude through B.C. to Burrard Inlet.

The National Energy Board has approved the company’s commercial tolling application, the rate structure it intends to charge oil companies to use the expanded Trans Mountain pipeline.

It’s not an approval to begin construction.

A formal proposal to build the pipeline is expected to be filed by Kinder Morgan later this year, triggering public hearings similar to those still underway on Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline.

“The decision reinforces the market support for our expansion plans and it provides us the necessary economic certainty to proceed,” Kinder Morgan Canada president Ian Anderson said in a statement.

“As we continue the process, we look forward to working with the new B.C. government and will remain committed to listening to questions and concerns as we develop our application to file with the NEB later this year.”

The NEB decision ruled Kinder Morgan’s rates are just and reasonable, rejecting complaints of oil firms that argued the pipeline company would reap excessive profits.

A second decision is also expected soon from the NEB on an application by Chevron for priority access to oil from the pipeline to supply its Burnaby refinery.

The $5.4-billion Trans Mountain twinning project would boost the flow of petroleum products from 300,000 barrels per day now to 890,000, bringing about 400 tankers a year to the Burnaby terminal.

Burnaby NDP MP Kennedy Stewart, who opposes the pipeline project, said the NEB missed an opportunity with the tolling application to order a surcharge on each barrel of oil to help fund environmental protection and spill response initiatives in B.C.

He said the federal Conservative government has drastically clamped down on the public hearing process, and predicted Kinder Morgan hearings will be far less inclusive than the Enbridge hearings.

“There’s now a 10-page application form before anybody will be allowed to speak so the community is just about shut out of these processes,” Stewart said.

“It’s almost an industry love-in now – corporate lawyers talking to corporate lawyers. I guess that’s what you do when you want to ram oil pipelines through to the west coast.”

‘Pipeline Company Bullies’

Author
Andrew Nikiforuk
A farmer’s plea for protections against petro firms who ‘take our lands.’

On February 28th Dave Core gave an impassioned presentation about “pipeline company bullies” before the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources.

The media were not there.

But the 58-year-old farmer and landowner, an expert on pipeline regulation, directly contradicted the testimony of National Energy Board (NEB) chairman Gaétan Caron as well as that of Mark Cory, Assistant Deputy Minister of Natural Resources Canada.

Both Caron and Cory reassured the Senate Committee that pipeline regulations were safe and orderly in Canada.

But that’s not what Core, who supports fair pipeline development, has witnessed over the last 20 years.

He told the Senate that the NEB, which is now overseeing the Northern Gateway hearings, is a captive regulator that does not work for Canadians but “protects the interests of pipeline companies.”

He documented oil-pipeline spills that had not been cleaned up in Ontario, Manitoba and the Northwest Territories.

And he provided evidence that the National Energy Board has left the industry off the hook for multibillion-dollar abandonment liabilities on 70,000 kilometers of federally-regulated pipelines. In other words, pipeline companies can abandon their corroded steel pipes in the ground (a hazard to groundwater and livestock) and walk away.

Core is the founder of the Canadian Association of Energy and Pipeline Landowner Associations (CAEPLA) which represents the legal interests of landowners across the country. It is a landowner’s version of Idle No More, the aboriginal movement now contesting the abuse of power by the Stephen Harper’s omnibus bills.

The Ontario-born farmer has been advocating for changes to Canada’s pipeline regulations since 1993. He knows more about the institutional history of the NEB than most of the nation’s reporters.

Here are a few excerpts from Core’s dramatic and timely presentation:

Kitchen table nightmare

“My goal this morning is to bring perspective to the issues of landowners when confronted by pipeline companies. That is, the issues when private property owners, like yourselves, come up against government supported and subsidized corporations that are allowed to come packing with government regulations to take our lands, our rights and leave us with annual risks, liabilities, a duty of care that we do not want, costs and the pipeline junk which includes the resulting safety and liability issues of historical contamination and pipeline collapse when the companies pack up and leave.

“Before I proceed I would like you to pretend you are sitting around a kitchen table with your family and a ‘land agent’ has just left you with a brown envelope with a Section 87 Notice, an NEB Regulatory Notice, stating that a pipeline company is going to put a pipeline in your backyard and the easement agreement and the compensation offer are included.

“The stress has only just begun. Next come teams of land agents, the men trained in profiling and in telling every tale they can to get the deal signed while they sit at your kitchen table drinking your coffee. He/she might even be your neighbour’s son or daughter. It is like you have stepped into a spaghetti western with cowboys coming to your door, not packing a gun, but a big smile, lots of lies and packing government regulations that allow them to threaten you if you question them.

“As can be seen in the transcripts of your previous guests’ presentations to date, pipeline companies have no real accountability to anyone and they haven’t since 1959….The self-admitted ‘industry partner’ Gaétan Caron, chair of the NEB, said nothing to you but that everything is wonderful, safe and sustainable. Well, it is not, and it is time everyone understands what is really going on.”

No spill liability

“Mr. Corey from Natural Resources Canada stated that pipeline companies are fully responsible for cleaning up spills. Then why are there spills and contaminated properties across Canada that have not been cleaned up? As I pointed out at the recent abandonment cost estimates hearing there is contamination in the Enbridge and TransNorthern pipeline corridor just east of Toronto, that has been there for 20 years. And more has recently been uncovered as Enbridge does integrity digs to repair the polyethylene coating disaster on line 9 in preparation for reversal. I also have a letter I read, at the hearing, from a Manitoba resident complaining of an Enbridge spill on her property that had never been cleaned up. I also know of other spills where landowners have signed confidentiality agreements and cannot talk about what was left behind. The NEB regulations and oversight protects companies from having to do due diligence to landowners.”

A revolving door of special interests

“The NEB and the industry have a revolving door when it comes to employees. Brenda Kenny, Canadian Energy Pipeline Association (CEPA) President was a long time employee at the NEB, as were a number of other CEPA people past and present. At the recent abandonment-cost-estimates hearing, two of the regulatory people representing Enbridge had just recently worked at the NEB as regulatory officers….

“Landowners are not just stakeholders. Like you, Honorable Senators, we are property owners. We bought our property as a place to live, a lifestyle choice, an investment, to ranch our cattle, to crop farm or run any other business zoning allowed. We did not request pipelines. We live, raise families and work on these properties, yet we have had pipelines enforced on our backyards, that do not respect our stewardship or legal obligations. Our name is on title and the NEB legislation leaves our future to the whim of pipeline companies and their regulatory partners.”

Expropriation of land without compensation

“In 1988, Section 112 of the NEB Act was created and the legislation was then reworked in 1990 since it was not properly done in 1988. A senator at that time stated that the legislation was questionable from a landowner rights perspective. It created new restrictions to the landowner’s right to farm over the pipelines and also restricted 200 more feet of our land along the pipeline. That is 100 feet on each side of the 60 foot easement. Our original easements gave us the right to farm over the pipelines and stated that the company was to compensate for any land taken for the operation of its pipelines. Those old 60-foot easements are now 260 feet, that is, four-times the width with no compensation.

“Section 112 was created to allow pipeline companies the right to leave pipelines in the ground that are too shallow, corroded, too thin and designed with ineffective protective coatings that compromise safety. These regulations protect the companies and their shareholders from the cost of upgrading its infrastructure and addressing those safety issues. It is easier to restrict the activity of farmers over the pipelines than repair them. Imagine restricting traffic forever rather than upgrading a deteriorating overpass.

“For 20 years we have been asking that regulations be changed to have pipelines buried 6 feet deep and provide thicker pipes in rural areas because we farm over the pipelines and are concerned with our safety and the safety of the pipeline. The CSA standards are only 24” of cover and thicker pipes in highly populated areas. We have pictures at our web site of pipelines with only 1 foot of cover. They should be dug up, replaced and buried deeper.”

Harper’s ‘criminal penalties for farmers’

“In the Omnibus Bill C38 (May of 2012) NEB regulations were changed to put monetary and criminal penalties on farmers if they do not ask permission to cross pipelines; on summary conviction, a fine of up to $100,000 and/or imprisonment up to one year; on conviction on indictment, a fine of up to $1,000,000 and/or imprisonment up to five years. Too bad the presidents of the pipeline companies do not suffer the same consequences for polluting miles of private property. Instead they get multimillion-dollar pensions.”

Canada’s pipeline abandonment scandal

“In 1985 there were five abandonment regulations that held the companies responsible for removal of pipelines upon abandonment. Mr. Vollman, Past Chair of the NEB, an engineer at the time, was responsible for creating a document called “Discussion Paper on Negative Salvage Value.” It discussed the issue of abandonment, pipeline removal and the collection of funds to finance the process. A year later, in 1986, the NEB gave notice to the industry that it would do nothing with the issue.

“In 2002, CAEPLA invited the NEB to come to Sombra, Ontario to view farming practices and we made a presentation on the abandonment and funding issue. The Chair of the Board, Mr. Vollman, an engineer at the time, and Mr. Gaétan Caron were both present, and Mr. Vollman stated that the issue had been looked at but could not be resolved. He never mentioned the 1985 document.

“CAEPLA accidently came across the document in 2007 and upon research found that the five abandonment regulations that called for the removal of pipelines at abandonment in 1985 had been changed a number of times, and now the regulations state that abandonment can now be approved in place.

“In the meantime, two abandonment hearings and hundreds of thousands of dollars of landowners money later, the NEB has ignored its judicial burden-of-proof at hearings and decided to collect money, 50 years late, for only 20 per cent removal of pipelines. It has ignored the legal evidence provided by landowners that clearly shows pipelines must be fully removed to protect landowners from liability. At one point the Board even changed its 2008 judicial decision that protected landowners (20 per cent removal and 80 per cent maintained into perpetuity) to a scheme of just 20 per cent removal at the behest again of CEPA without a hearing.”

Transferring wealth to pipeline companies

“With the coercive power of expropriation, of forced entry behind them, pipeline companies have landowners over a barrel. An oil barrel.

“But it is an oil barrel that does not truly reflect the real economic costs of bringing it to market. Part of that cost is borne by farmers and ranchers and other rural landowners who are coerced into non-market transactions. Non market transactions that are effectively a transfer of wealth from one group of owners to another. From the owners of farms and ranches to the owners of shares in pipeline companies. A transfer of wealth from rural to urban Canada. A transfer from middle class and often less affluent, to the affluent….

“Real property rights imply the right to choose. The right to say no if need be. The right to freely and voluntarily deal or not deal as you see fit…. Government should not be in the business of facilitating the transfer of wealth from farmers, ranchers, and taxpayers to the shareholders of pipeline companies.” [Tyee]

Read more: Energy, Environment

Tyee contributing editor Andrew Nikiforuk is both an Alberta landowner and a reporter. Find his previous Tyee articles here.

US regulator fines Kinder Morgan for breaking 27 safety rules

Author
ANDREW NIKIFORUK
The U.S. federal Department of Transportation has fined Kinder Morgan nearly a million dollars in civil fines for breaking 27 U.S. pipeline safety rules.

The Houston-based firm, the continent’s third largest energy company, currently wants to triple the capacity of its Trans Mountain pipeline in a controversial bid to bring more Alberta bitumen to the port of Vancouver for export to China.

According to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), the violations took place between 2007 and 2009 during the hectic construction of the Rockies Express pipeline.

The 42-inch diameter natural gas pipeline now pumps shale and tight gas from heavily drilled western landscapes to eastern consumers in the U.S.

Unlike PHMSA, the National Energy Board, Canada’s federal pipeline regulator, performs two conflicting roles: it approves new pipelines and regulates existing ones. PHMSA does not approve lines, it only monitors their technical safety and fines companies for breaking the law.

As one consequence of its dual mandate the NEB has no system for fining pipeline companies for violating Canadian laws. Since 1959, the agency has only shut down two pipelines.

Moreover the NEB, which has been operating since 1959, did not begin posting its safety and environmental actions until the fall of 2011.

Since 2008, the board says it has issued 24 safety orders against pipelines owned by Enbridge, TransCanada and Kinder Morgan for a variety of infractions. None of the companies were fined and most of the safety orders were not publicly available when issued.

In July 2011, for example, the NEB ordered Kinder Morgan to reduce pressure on the 60-year-old Trans Mountain pipeline after a leak appeared on a pipe that failed to operate properly after a pump station expansion in 2005.

The NEB later ordered Kinder Morgan to check “long seam weld cracking” on all pre-1970s pipe installed on the line by December 2013.

In 2012 PHMSA fined Enbridge, a Calgary-based firm, a record $3.7 million for a total of 24 violations of pipeline regulations related to largest onshore oil spill in U.S. history in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The spill of diluted bitumen cost nearly $1 billion to clean up and the river remains contaminated.

Given the number of ongoing problems on the Rockies Express line, Kinder Morgan must develop a plan to “address the potential for remaining girth weld defects resulting from inadequate radiography or delayed cracking that was not identified during girth weld remediation activities.”

Improper welding practices and inspections for pipelines were the subject of two part-Tyee series last year based on documents and complaints registered with Canadian and U.S. regulators by Evan Vokes, a Calgary-based mechanical engineer. The NEB confirmed the allegations against TransCanada, Vokes’ former employer, and ordered “remediation measures.”

Kinder Morgan wants to boost the capacity of the Trans Mountain pipeline from 300,000 to 890,000 barrels a day with a $5-billion expansion. The upgrade would increase the number of international oil tankers in the port of Vancouver.

Local communities, First Nations and environmental organizations have criticized the expansion plans, saying a larger bitumen highway will multiply risks to the environment, community health as well as violate of indigenous rights and sovereignty.

After Kinder Morgan experienced a major pipeline leak and an oil tanker spill near Burnaby in 2007 and 2009, citizens have raised questions about the adequacy of company’s monitoring and accident response programs.

In recent years Kinder Morgan has profited from the “energy sprawl” generated by increased production of lower quality unconventional hydrocarbons such as bitumen and shale gas. As such Kinder Morgan has become a major shipper of condensate, a gasoline-like hydrocarbon, much in demand in Canada’s bitumen industry.

Bitumen, a junk crude, is so thick and heavy that it will not move through a pipeline without being diluted by higher quality fuels such as condensate.

The Eagle Ford Shale, an unconventional gas resource that requires heavy hydraulic fracturing, now yields large volumes of highly valued condensate which Kinder Morgan hopes to ship to Canada via two proposed pipeline networks by 2014.

But the NEB recently raised serious concerns about the fitness and integrity of one of the proposals, the Cochin Pipeline. It also questioned the adequacy of crack detection methods employed by Kinder Morgan.

The more bitumen that Canada exports, the more dependent the country becomes on imported condensate and higher quality hydrocarbons from the U.S. or the Middle East.

Currently, a lot of condensate needed to move bitumen comes from shale gas fields where hydraulic fracturing blasts open deep rock with millions of gallons of water, sand and toxic chemicals. The process can contaminate groundwater, cause earthquakes and leak vast amounts of methane.

Canada now imports about 300,000 barrels of condensate a day in order to export its bitumen. Expected demand could grow as high as 670,000 barrels a day in the absence of any public policy to upgrade and refine raw bitumen within Canadian borders.

PHMSA posted its ruling on Kinder Morgan on its website last November where it went largely unreported in the Canadian press.

Andrew Nikiforuk has been writing about the energy industry for two decades and is a contributing editor to The Tyee.

Kinder Morgan goes full-speed on Trans Mountain pipeline expansion

Through pristine Jasper Park, Kinder Morgan goes full-speed on Trans Mountain pipeline expansion

Through pristine Jasper Park, Kinder Morgan goes full-speed on Trans Mountain pipeline expansion

Thanks for the article Karl

– National Post reports 4 years to completion of the KM line (2017)!

– the polls show most Burnaby residents are already opposed. What is their main reason; health and safety, real estate values, environment, climate change or a combination? We should know.

– My reason to oppose KM’s expansion is health and safety and climate change and I bet its the main reason for many not directly in the pipeline corridor. But is that true and what does that mean for our approach to organizing, messaging and branding?

– If Burnaby residents are already opposed, maybe we should be branching out and creating more alliances as we are in our pipelines and school safety campaign?

– We should know more about the facts so we can design better campaigns and events.

– What is the point of making new members and contacts if there are no mechanisms to engage, inform and inspire them to action? Are we just making members and contacts for the sake of making new members and contacts? What’s the point unless we put people to work and what is that work?

Alan