Here’s the proof Kinder Morgan switched route preferences for the pipeline

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Here’s the evidence that Kinder Morgan has changed its mind about the route through Burnaby. Click here to read the Letter

Let me explain how we came upon this information and why this matters. The deadline to apply for intervenor status is Feb. 12 at 11 p.m. That’s only a few days away.

Last summer, Kinder Morgan put forward two options for the pipeline route. They call them “study corridors,” because they are large paths of land, and the actual right-of-way for the pipeline will be somewhere within one of those study corridors. The right-of-way, meaning the exact path of the pipeline, will be chosen later down the road, after the facilities application is approved.

So, Kinder Morgan put these two study corridors out for public feedback and said the route down Lougheed was their preferred route, but they had an alternate study corridor (along the CN railway tracks and up Gaglardi) if there were problems with the first.

Then comes Dec. 16, when the company files its facilities application with the National Energy Board. In the application, they still say their “selected” or preferred route is Lougheed Highway, but they are looking at an alternate route.

Then I get a call this week from some local residents who inform me they’ve received a letter that says Kinder Morgan is now interested in the southern route along the railway tracks. I don’t see anything on the Trans Mountain website about this. In fact, their interactive map only shows the Lougheed route and everything in their application to the NEB says Lougheed is the “selected” study corridor.

I then spend an hour digging through the 15,000 page facilities application for a map of both routes before giving up and calling the media line to ask for the link. (I don’t know how they expect the general public to sift through that application. I calculated the pages, and it’s like reading Tolstoy’s War and Peace 10 times over.)

When I called the Trans Mountain media line to clarify all this, I got a strange response from Lisa Clement that the information on their website is current as of Dec. 16, when the facilities application was filed. (It’s now February, remember.) I ask why they don’t update it, and she says something to the effect that their outreach team wanted to contact people directly, and that she would get someone to get back to me. Instead of a phone call, I get another strange email from a different woman that doesn’t explain what’s happening and doesn’t answer my query about whether they’ve changed their mind on the route.

Until we received this letter, which is clear evidence Kinder Morgan now prefers the southern route, there was no public knowledge of this switch.( Even the NEB didn’t know, and they still haven’t been formally notified, although I’ve raised this issue with them, and they’ve since talked to Trans Mountain.) When I called the Trans Mountain media line back before we ran the story, to give them one last chance to explain before press time, they still wouldn’t fess up about the change.

People who are directly affected by the project or have relevant expertise can apply to participate in the hearing, but how are people supposed to apply when they don’t even know what route Kinder Morgan is using? One would have to read the fine print buried in that 15,000 page application to know.

The two corridors also have very different issues. If the pipeline came west down Lougheed from North Road, potential public concerns could include traffic disruptions, property values, or proximity to private residences. Coming down the railway line close to the river would potentially raise concerns about salmon habitat and safety of the railway line (we just had a beaver dam wash out the tracks and cause a train derailment and coal spill in Silver Creek). There’s also the Nooksack dace (a nearly extinct prehistoric minnow found only in a few places in B.C., one of those is the lower parts of the river), and the greenway that people walk on regularly. This pipeline route would then go up Gaglardi, past Burnaby Mountain Secondary.

So different routes mean different concerns to raise, and different ways people are “directly affected.”

I spoke with the NEB today and clarified that this Feb. 12 deadline still stands. That means if you care about either route, you should apply now, because there won’t be a second chance down the road when Kinder Morgan officially notifies the NEB that they’ve changed their minds about the route. (And who knows, they may even change their minds again by then.)

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