How Canada’s pipeline watchdog secretly discusses “ticking time bombs” with industry

By Mike De Souza in News, Energy | July 5th 2016

Canada’s pipeline watchdog has given two of North America’s largest energy companies up to six months to fix what industry insiders have described as a series of “ticking time bombs.”

The National Energy Board waited eight years after U.S. regulators raised the alarm about substandard materials, finally issuing an emergency safety order in February. At least one Canadian pipeline with defective materials blew up during that period.

Newly-released federal documents show that Texas-based Kinder Morgan and Alberta-based Enbridge are both looking into the use of defective parts purchased from Thailand-based, Canadoil Asia, that recently went bankrupt. But the companies were not immediately able to say where they installed the dodgy parts. It’s a problem that also struck Alberta-based TransCanada, which had defective materials in its own pipelines, including one that blew up in 2013.

NEB finally orders safety review of substandard parts

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Call on PM Justin Trudeau and Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr to defend our communities and stop the Kinder Morgan pipeline

The Harper-appointed National Energy Board just approved the Kinder Morgan TransMountain Pipeline despite widespread opposition from the communities it threatens.

We can still stop this pipeline. Prime Minister Trudeau added a step to the review process, promising to listen to communities and look at the climate impacts of this project.

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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.

Kinder Morgan leaves half of Vancouver, Burnaby’s pipeline questions unanswered

Cities’ mayors call on National Energy Board to force pipeline company to address issues

Kinder Morgan has failed to answer almost half of the questions posed by the cities of Vancouver and Burnaby on the company’s proposed Trans Mountain pipeline expansion into B.C.
In a statement issued Friday, the City of Vancouver states that Kinder Morgan has failed to answer 291 of nearly 600 questions submitted by them through the National Energy Board (NEB), and 315 of the 688 questions submitted by Burnaby.

The more than 1200 questions submitted by the two municipalities covered a broad range of issues connected to Kinder Morgan’s 15,000-page proposal, including those covering job creation levels, climate change and emergency response plans.

“Because the city has very significant questions that focus on the hundreds of ways in which Kinder Morgan’s proposed pipeline and tank farm would threaten our city and region’s safety, security and livability, we again asked Kinder Morgan to provide answers,” Burnaby mayor Derek Corrigan said in the statement.

“Unfortunately – but not surprisingly – Kinder Morgan has again failed to show respect for our citizens’ questions by refusing to answer almost half.”

Redacted safety plan

Vancouver and Burnaby say they will continue to call on the NEB to force Kinder Morgan to address these outstanding issues.

Just last week, Kinder Morgan defended its decision to only provide a heavily redacted version of its emergency spill response plan.

The company is seeking approval from the NEB to nearly triple the capacity of the existing pipeline. The $5.4 billion project would twin the existing pipeline that runs from Edmonton to Burnaby, B.C.

The National Energy Board (NEB) ruled in favour of Kinder Morgan’s redacted plan in January.

“In this instance, the board is satisfied that sufficient information has been filed from the existing EMP [Emergency Management Plan] documents to meet the board’s requirements at this stage in the process,” the decision read.

At that time, Premier Christy Clark said Kinder Morgan hadn’t met the five conditions set out by the province, and until that happened, it wouldn’t be going ahead with the project.

Child Safety, Zoning By-laws and the Oil Industry


Burnaby: December 31, 2012

Residents of Burnaby call on Mayor Derek Corrigan to scrap city by-laws that allow schools, daycares and residential developments to be built near refineries, oil tanks, substations and pipelines. The risk of leaks and spills of combustible oil and carcinogenic gases is unacceptable and should have never been allowed.

Elsie Dean of BROKE says, “We should not have to wait for a major catastrophe before we act. Schools and daycares should never have been built near oil facilities in the first place and we need to ensure that they never will again. Like gun control, we should be thinking about laws to protect children before a crisis occurs. Schools and housing developments must be protected from carcinogenic and combustible gases.”

The potential health risks to children in schools near or adjacent to oil pipelines is underlined by the tragedy in Fallon, Nevada. A lawsuit launched by a Nevada mother against Kinder Morgan alleges that the company failed to adequately monitor and repair a pipeline that was leaking jet fuel beneath a school playground and that the leak contributed to a cluster of childhood cancer cases at the school and the death of one child.

There are warnings about noxious gases strategically placed throughout the areas where tank farms, oil pipelines and substations have been allowed. Yet schools like Burnaby North Senior, and Forest Grove and Seaforth Elementary sit close to, or below, major oil facilities. Others like Stoney Creek and Lyndhurst Elementary and a YMCA childcare center sits just meters from both highly combustible jet fuel and heavy oil pipelines that carry a soup of toxic chemicals.

There have been major spills and leaks near these and other schools, daycares and residences throughout the years 2007 , 2008 , 2009 and 2010 . All have required an emergency response and evacuations, costing tax payers thousands of dollars. In January 2012, residences and a private school also had to be closed in Sumas.

Tax payers have always borne the costs associated with emergency response, including evacuations and medical care resulting from oil pipeline failure, oil spills and noxious gases from tank farms and substations.

Commenting on the cost to tax payers, Elsie Dean makes the point that “The companies that are found responsible for spills and oil pipeline ruptures should pay not only for clean up, but for all emergency response and medical care as well. The cost to tax payers of emergencies has not been factored into the expense of oil pipelines, tank farms, and sub-stations. Nor have the costs of routine air monitoring near the oil refinery on Burrard Inlet. When Kinder Morgan promises a few million in tax payments, it should be balanced against the hidden costs to tax payers of maintaining a huge oil infrastructure in Burnaby.”

In response to the concern about children’s health in schools and daycares near oil infrastructure, BROKE calls on all levels of government as well as the Union of British Columbia Municipalities and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities to recommend that oil industries should not be zoned near schools, daycares and residences and that all measures must be employed to separate dangerous industries from homes and schools. Children’s safety should be the first priority for every level of government.

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For more information please email

1. The Burnaby Teacher’s Association has already passed a resolution on December 4, 2012 to demand the Burnaby school district monitor oil pipelines for leaks and develop comprehensive evacuations plans for schools near tank farms, refineries and substations.
2. Kinder Morgan plead guilty to negligence in the 2007 pipeline rupture and found negligent by the National Energy Board in the 2012 incident.

Westridge residents complain of intense fumes

Westridge residents are sounding the alarm after noticing intense fumes coming from Kinder Morgan’s nearby marine terminal on Burrard Inlet in the last couple months.

Laura Dean has lived in the North Burnaby neighbourhood for 25 years and was disturbed back in August to come across a strong nausea-inducing smell while out for a run along the Drummond bike path.

It was so strong she had to close up all her windows and doors at home. Living next to a facility that loads crude oil and petroleum products onto tanker ships, Dean is used to certain odours once in a while.

But this wasn’t the usual. “After 25 years you have some idea of what’s normal,” she said. “It’s invisible. What are we breathing when it’s not detected until it gets to that level?”

The problem is only evident when there are tankers at the terminal, lately about once a week, she noted.

That also happens to be when her dog, Lacy, a seven-year-old, border collie-labrador cross has been experiencing diarrhea, lethargy and a reluctance to go outside, issues that only started when Dean first noticed the fumes.

Dean said she and other neighbours have become less apt to complain to the pipeline company because past efforts have resulted in no response or action.

“With the expansion and all of that, now we’re thinking this is getting ridiculous. If this is what it is with only 30 tankers [annually], we don’t even want to think of what it’s going to be when it’s 300 to 400 tankers.”

Neighbour Hartwig Boecking, 70, noticed the same fumes on Aug. 1 and complained, first to Kinder Morgan and then, when he got no response, to Metro Vancouver which regulates air quality in the region.

Only then, he said, did he learn the problem was a result of an equipment problem.

For 26 years, Boecking has lived in his Westridge home facing the inlet which is one of four that could be directly affected by a proposed routing option for the proposed expansion of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline.

He’s particularly concerned about the recent odour problem after learning that the oil sands crude being exported overseas from the pipeline to the tanker ships is diluted to allow it to flow freely. The chemicals used to dilute it include arsenic and benzene.

“This is really serious stuff, especially for children,” he said. “We have my granddaughter living with us, there are many children in the neighbourhood.”

Boecking understands that accidents can happen, and odour control equipment can malfunction.

Still, “on such an important matter, don’t you have warning system?”

Last week’s protest by Greenpeace Canada at the terminal only added to his worries.

“If Greenpeace can enter the compound in five minutes, what kind of safety [system is there]?”

Burnaby-Douglas New Democrat MP Kennedy Stewart has experienced the fumes first hand.

While walking through the area’s trails with his wife over the summer, “we noticed one day we could hardly keep our eyes open, the fumes were so strong,” Stewart said.

“I can’t imagine a massive expansion is going to make it any better.”

He plans to apply for intervenor status at the National Energy Board hearings once Kinder Morgan makes its official expansion application and will be lobbying in an attempt to ensure Burnaby residents are allowed to have input into the project.

Lexa Hobenshield, manager of external relations for Kinder Morgan Canada, said the company has received four odour complaints since Aug. 1.

“Of the four concerns raised, three were determined to be attributable to our operations. In one instance, a device on our odour control equipment was not functioning as it should and was replaced the next day,” Hobenshield said by email. “The other two complaints occurred during normal operations. In one instance we were loading a vessel, and in the other case, routine tank activity was underway at the time.”

She said all complaints are taken very seriously. In the recent cases, “All instances were thoroughly investigated and although we regret any inconvenience to our neighbours, no concern for public health and safety were found as a result of KMC’s investigations, supported by Metro Vancouver air quality data,” she said.

Its investigations of odour complaints “involves system checks at our central control centre and an in person investigation at the facility or location of the complaint.

“We consistently review all aspects of our operations and encourage the public to report odour complaints to us. Odour complaints can be reported to 1-888-876-6711.”

Pipelines and schools

Paul J. Henderson
While Kinder Morgan’s plan to nearly triple the capacity of its Trans Mountain oil pipeline has hit the provincial election campaign trail, work is being done to make parents and educators aware of the proximity of the pipeline to schools.

Retired Unsworth elementary teacher Wendy Major is part of a working group backed by the B.C. Teachers Federation (BCTF) looking to get the word out about the route of the pipeline.

The Working Group on Pipelines and School Safety has also created a questionnaire that has been issued to 15 schools in Chilliwack along the route of the pipeline.

“I taught for 13 years at Unsworth and

I never knew there was that old Kinder Morgan line going through the farmer’s field,” Major told the Times.

“I’ve lived there in Chilliwack since 1967 and I didn’t even know where the pipeline went until less than a year ago.”

With the help of the Wilderness Committee, the working group has also created a map that shows the route of the pipeline and schools along the way.

In Chilliwack, four schools are “red-flagged” as being within 200 metres of the pipeline and a further 15 are “black-flagged” as “within blocks” of the route.

The closest it runs to a school is at Watson elementary, where the pipeline runs under the back sports field. The line similarly runs near the back sports field at Vedder middle.

The other two close schools include Unsworth and John Calvin elementary, however, Major looked at the map and actually thinks Mt. Slesse is within 200 metres of the pipeline at the spot it crosses Tyson Road.

In the questionnaire, the group asks if respondents have heard about the pipeline, if they know about what is shipped in the pipe and if the schools have emergency procedures specific to a spill of something like diluted bitumen.

Kinder Morgan posted a response Monday on the Trans Mountain project website to the question of pipeline safety and schools.

“Living or being active near our pipeline does not pose a health risk,” the message said, in part.

“Where the pipeline runs near schools, we are open to working with individual schools or districts to fully support their safety efforts and ensure their emergency response plans and ours are co-ordinated.”

Kinder Morgan has proposed a $5.4-billion expansion of its 1,150kilometre pipeline that runs from Edmonton to Burnaby, increasing capacity from the current 300,000 barrels per day (bpd) to 890,000 bpd.

While the company maintains safety is paramount and spills are rare, there have been incidents in recent years. In January 2012 a holding tank at the company’s Sumas Mountain terminal site in Abbotsford was the site of a 110,000-litre leak.

There have also been two other recent leaks on the pipeline, including the 2007 rupture of the pipeline in a Burnaby neighbourhood, which sprayed nearby homes with crude oil after a contractor struck the line.

Retired Burnaby teacher Mary Hatch was one of those evacuated in 2007 and is also involved in the pipeline/school working group.

For details on the project from Kinder Morgan, visit And for information on other schools near the pipeline between Hope and Burnaby visit
© Copyright (c) Chilliwack Times

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Groups seek probe into low-grade crude shipments to L.A. refineries

A coalition of environmental groups says it has discovered that large-scale shipments of low-quality heavy crude oil from Canada’s tar sands are being delivered by rail for processing by Southern California refineries.

The groups on Tuesday called for an investigation by air-quality officials to evaluate the effects on health, air quality, safety and the climate of processing the heavy Canadian crude, which requires intensive processing to remove higher levels of sulfur to meet U.S. standards.

The Natural Resources Defense Council and Communities for a Better Environment say they worry that refineries now processing the semi-solid form of oil have increased their noxious emissions and raised risks of accidental spills and accidents. The process of refining tar sands oil is more corrosive on refinery equipment and produces more greenhouse gases than liquid crude, environmentalists said.

“Tar sands crude is a whole new level of bad,” said Julia May, senior scientist at the Communities for a Better Environment, a nonprofit dedicated to preventing and reducing pollution in California’s low-income communities. “Bringing it into the Los Angeles area by rail has taken everyone by surprise.”

Of particular concern is the low-income community of Wilmington, a Los Angeles harbor town surrounded by five oil refineries and long decried by social justice groups as a “sacrifice zone” of commerce and toxic pollution. Three of the Wilmington refineries — Valero Energy Corp., Phillips 66 Co. and Tesoro Corp — recently announced plans to use rail cars to bring in more of the heavy Canadian crude.

Joe Gorder, president and chief executive of Valero Energy Corp., told shareholders recently that his company plans to import an additional 30,000 barrels a day of the Canadian crude to its Wilmington refinery. Deliveries of the heavy crude totaled about 29,000 barrels a day last year for the entire Los Angeles area, NRDC scientists said.

Valero also wants to build a rail terminal to supply its refinery in the Bay Area community of Benicia with 70,000 barrels a day of petroleum products, including dirtier crudes such as tar sands.

Oil company officials say they are operating within state and federal regulations. As cleaner, liquid crude oil from California declines, they say they must rely on a variety of sources, including heavy Canadian crude, to remain profitable and ensure the future of their operations.

In an interview, Valero spokesman Bill Day said, “Valero follows the law. If we add more Canadian crude it will mean no net increase in emissions.”

The request for an investigation, submitted to the South Coast Air Quality Management District, argues that “the highly corrosive nature of tar sands will increase the likelihood for spills and accidents, posing direct safety risks and increased toxic emissions for both plant workers and the surrounding community.”

May said the sulfur found in heavy crude speeds corrosion in equipment and could lead to explosions like the one last summer at Chevron’s refinery in Richmond. A Cal/OSHA investigation into the Aug. 6 explosion at the Bay Area refinery found that the company did not follow safety recommendations made by its inspectors to replace a pipe corroded by sulfur. The pipe ruptured and fueled the fire.

Environmentalists also worry that increases in carbon pollution will make it harder to meet requirements of the state’s global warming law, AB 32, which created a market that puts a price on greenhouse gas emissions. Owners of power plants and factories buy and sell permits to release the gases into the atmosphere.

Mohsen Nazemi, deputy executive officer for the South Coast Air Quality Management District’s office of engineering and compliance, said refineries are not obligated to report the sources of their oil products. “But we have, I believe, the most stringent rules and regulations in the nation when it comes to refineries.” He said the refineries will not get any exemptions from regulations, regardless of the kind of crude they process.

Opponents see the local battle as part of a larger campaign against heavy Canadian crude that has stalled the Keystone XL pipeline project, which would carry tar sands oil to the Gulf of Mexico. As the Obama administration weighs approval of Keystone XL, a shortage of pipeline capacity has increased the use of oil trains bound for refineries here and across the U.S.

Last Wednesday, a train derailed in Minnesota, spilling 15,000 gallons of Canadian tar sands crude. On Friday, a ruptured Exxon Mobil pipeline spewed more than 12,000 barrels of the oil into the streets of Mayflower, Ark.

The issue has galvanized environmental activists in Wilmington, about 20 miles south of downtown Los Angeles in the heart of an industrial empire of cranes, cargo ships, chemical depots, rail yards, refineries and diesel-powered big rigs.

Alicia Rivera, a Wilmington resident and activist with Communities for a Better Environment, said, “For the oil companies, tar sands mean more profits, but for us it’s a health issue.

“We’re demanding that regulators measure the toxicity of tar sands oil and how it’s affecting our community,” she said. “And to make sure that happens, we’re going to go door to door and hand out fliers that say, ‘There’s more pollution coming into Wilmington. Beware.'”