Kinder Morgan’s pipeline crews met by angry Burnaby residents

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Citizens’ defiance follows Mayor of Burnaby’s stop work order against Trans Mountain pipeline exploratory work in a conservation area.

Kinder Morgan’s attempts to continue its disputed Trans Mountain exploratory pipeline work at Burnaby Mountain faced another day of heated opposition by residents, city staff, and a local Member of Parliament.

The company maintains its work is legal, but the City of Burnaby does not.

“I never cease to be amazed at what this company does in pursuit of its pipeline project,” said Member of Parliament Kennedy Stewart in a statement.

The Texas-based energy giant is trying to do exploratory seismic drilling for its proposed $5.4 billion pipeline project, resulting from the new routing of its Alberta-to-Burnaby oil sands pipeline under Burnaby Mountain.

The company has been informing residents door-to-door and with letters about the incursions into Burnaby Mountain’s forested areas. It needs to clear trees and bore drill holes, for example.

Construction of the actual pipeline cannot proceed until the National Energy Board and the federal cabinet give it final approval — those decisions are not expected until 2015.

Trouble is, Burnaby’s Mayor – who has long opposed the project – says even the pipeline’s preliminary work breaks local by-laws because the activity is in a protected conservation area. He issued a stop work order Tuesday.

“It’s astonishing that, as a private corporation, Kinder Morgan thinks they have the right to override our citizens’ wishes and the laws that have been put in place to reflect the value our citizens place on these sensitive, irreplaceable ecosystems,” said Mayor Derek Corrigan in a statement.

Impromptu gathering of 50 residents

So when local residents got wind of the return of Kinder Morgan crews Wednesday, a message was broadcast out via the opponent group BROKE (Burnaby Residents Opposed to Kinder Morgan Expansion). Within hours, some 50 residents responded and arrived at noon with a banner that read, “No Kinder Morgan!”

Kinder Morgan’s crews had already left, but residents still took their defiance as a win.

“It was really heart warming to see so many people come out to support the city, and the work stoppage order against Kinder Morgan. It was nice to see so many people take action,” said Burnaby resident Alan Dutton.

Kinder Morgan’s representative, Carey Johannessen, told CBC Radio that its quarrel with the city is a matter of a “professional disagreement” – that may soon require the company to go to court to enable its activity.

The company recently got a clarification from the NEB that told it that companies have rights to access lands in these situations. It’s expected the company will return to the NEB for a more formal intervention shortly, said sources.

Following the departure of the company’s crews from the mountain Wednesday, city staff invited local TV media as well as M.P. Kennedy Stewart on a tour deep into a secluded forest area to see the pipeline work already under way.

The group was shown chain-sawed tree stumps, as well as an area the size of a baseball diamond that was cleared, a Kennedy Stewart staffer said. A Kinder Morgan letter sent to residents indicates the company wants to build a helicopter pad.

Burnaby trees cut down by Kinder Morgan crews – photo by Kennedy Stewart.

Pipeline worries

Dutton says citizens major concerns over the pipeline range from climate change, to pipeline spills, to increased tankers.

“The main concerns about the pipeline are that there will be serious health consequences from the oil storage facility.”

“We also believe serious earthquakes, that can occur once [on average] every 25 years, can shake the mountain, and result in a serious oil spillage.”

“Another concern is the increased industrialization of the Burrard Inlet, with increased tanker traffic, polluting the water and air shed,” said Dutton.

Kinder Morgan’s billionaire CEO told investors earlier this year that its Trans Mountain expansion in Canada was the most important pipeline plan in its system, trying to deal with a burgeoning supply of new Alberta bitumen oil.