Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Expansion Project

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Kinder Morgan has applied to the National Energy Board of Canada through a subsidiary, Trans Mountain, to build a new oil pipeline from Edmonton to Burnaby to carry diluted tar sands, or dilbit for short. If approved, the new pipeline will run more or less parallel to the existing Trans Mountain pipeline through residential neighbourhoods, near schools and day cares and beside aquifers and protected conservation lands.

The new pipeline will increase the amount of oil transported from the Alberta tar sands to the B.C. coast from 300,000 barrels of oil per day to 890,000 or more barrels of oil per day. Kinder Morgan would be able to transport nearly twice as much diluted bitumen through the Trans Mountain pipeline system as the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline.

Tripling the oil transported by the Trans Mountain pipeline will increase tanker traffic through Burrard Inlet and Second Narrows and along the BC coast from 5 tankers per month to 34 and expand the Tank Farm on the south slope of Burrard Mountain from approximately 1.4 million barrels of oil to 5.4 million barrels. The raw dilbit will be shipped to China through the Westridge Terminal which lies near the North Ridge of Burnaby Mountain.

Kinder Morgan plans to build the new pipeline to run more or less parallel to the existing Trans Mountain pipeline. The original Trans Mountain pipeline was constructed in 1953 when Burnaby was sparsely populated. Since 1953 residential neighbourhoods, schools and day cares were built close to the Trans Mountain pipeline, Tank Farm and Westridge Terminal.a

Kinder Morgan Canada purchased Trans Mountain in 2005 by Richard Kinder and William Morgan. Richard Kinder and William Morgan are former Enron employees who left Enron shortly before its collapse and the prosecution of Kenneth Lay.

The NEB Process

To expand the Trans Mountain pipeline system, Kinder Morgan must have the approval of the federal National Energy Board (NEB). The NEB must decide if the pipeline application is in the public interest.

Kinder Morgan submitted its application to expand the Trans Mountain system to the NEB on December 16, 2013 and the NEB announced a fifteen-month review process beginning on April 2, 2014, originally announced to conclude on July 2, 2015, at which time the NEB will submit a recommendation to the Federal Government on whether or not the project should be approved. The Federal Government would then have six months to consider the NEB’s recommendation and either approve or reject the project. If approved, the pipeline could begin construction with a completion date as early as late 2017.

However, due to Kinder Morgan announcing a new preferred route through the South slope of Burnaby Mountain near the North Ridge and exiting at the Westridge Terminal, the National Energy Board announced on July 15, 2014 that the deadline for assessment of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline application has been postponed until January 25, 2016 – well after the next federal election. The decision to delay approval or rejection was supposedly based on the need for further studies of the impact and feasibility of the new route through near the North Ridge of Burnaby Mountain. The most important deadlines are listed here and the list of deadlines can be found on the NEB website.

The new route requires Trans Mountain to contact affected residents. Prior to the notification of the new route 400 groups and people were selected from the 2118 individuals and organizations that applied to participate in the hearing process. A further 1250 people and groups were granted commenter status and 468 were rejected outright. A list of those selected as Intervenors and commentators can be found here. The Burnaby Residents Opposing Kinder Morgan Expansion was granted Intervenor status and is committed to providing science based information on various aspects of the Trans Mountain Application to the NEB and full disclosure on the the NEB process to the public. You can share you ideas, comments and concerns about the Trans Mountain application and the NEB Hearing at Real NEB Hearing.

The distinction between commentators and intervenors is important. Commentators and Intervenors have vastly different rights and access; Commenters are allowed to submit a single letter for consideration by the NEB while Intervenors have the right to question Kinder Morgan on their application, submit new evidence and offer a final oral argument on whether or not the NEB should approve the project. Intervenors therefore play an important and active role in the NEB Hearing process. As a result, many groups, businesses and individuals who have been excluded from the consultation process are challenging the NEB (source court).

However, Intervenors have also argued that the NEB process is severally flawed because key studies have not been filed, Kinder Morgan answers to the first round of Information Requests are inadequate, and that expert evidence is not subject to cross-examination (source and Notices of Motion).

As a result of these difficulties, BROKE has helped develop a website tool to provide an opportunity for individuals, groups and businesses who have been excluded by the NEB to make their concerns and comments known and to be placed on the public record. You can find the website at Real NEB Hearings and you can add your comment. You can use the comment tool to record your concerns and questions, and we will forward them on to key local, provincial and federal decision makers so they know where you stand.

Intervenors and commentators can also record their questions and comments. Intervenors have long argued that the NEB process is severally flawed because key studies have not been filed, Kinder Morgan answers to the first round of Information Requests are inadequate, and that expert evidence is not subject to cross-examination.