Mayor, MP no longer supporting Chevron at NEB hearings

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Wanda Chow

Chevron Canada can no longer count on the support of Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan or Burnaby-Douglas NDP MP Kennedy Stewart at its National Energy Board (NEB) hearings this week.

The hearings are for Chevron’s application for priority destination status on Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline to ensure a steady supply of crude oil for its North Burnaby refinery. The company applied for the status last year in response to ongoing supply shortages due to it having to increasingly share capacity on the pipeline with other users.

But while both the mayor and MP are the only politicians granted intervenor status at the hearings, and both planned to speak on Chevron’s behalf, neither now plan to attend.

That’s because at recent NEB hearings for Kinder Morgan’s commercial tolling application for a proposed expansion of the same pipeline, which runs between Edmonton and Burnaby, a Chevron representative indicated that company supports the pipeline twinning.

That was news to both politicians, who have been outspoken critics of the expansion proposal, which is geared towards exporting oil sands crude to overseas markets.

“It’s harder to support [Chevron] now that they’re not neutral,” said Stewart. “I don’t think the community is going to be happy about that [changed stance].”

Corrigan said he had received assurances from Chevron that it was not taking a position on the pipeline expansion.

“I couldn’t have been more disappointed that after having told me they were going to remain neutral they came out in the tolling application and said they were in support of the Kinder Morgan expansion.”

Corrigan stressed that he never asked Chevron to oppose the expansion proposal, but as long as they remained neutral “I thought there was nothing hypocritical about me attending on behalf of the city to say we support their application.”

Calling Chevron’s support of the expansion “gratuitous,” Corrigan said the company “has decided that they want to have it both ways … In essence what they’re saying is we don’t care about the impacts of the pipeline, all we care about is us. And if the solution to us getting what we want is you expanding the pipeline then we’re in favour of that. Well that is not the position the city has taken, the city has taken the position they’re opposed to the pipeline [expansion].”

Burnaby’s position is still that Chevron should get priority status for the crude supply that’s brought in by the existing pipeline.

As for not speaking at the hearings this week, Corrigan said it would have been a lot of effort to testify in Calgary and be cross-examined by Chevron’s opponents on the issue.

“How far am I going to go out of my way in order to try to help Chevron when they’re working at cross-purposes to the city?”

He pointed out that the easiest way for the NEB to give Chevron a priority supply of crude is to approve Kinder Morgan’s expansion.

“If [Chevron has] got the City of Burnaby standing beside them saying the most import thing for us is Chevron gets the supply, then they’re going to say, ‘well Burnaby, you’re talking out of both sides of your mouth. You’re supporting Chevron and they’re saying expand and you’re saying you want Chevron to get a supply, what’s wrong with you?'”

Ray Lord, spokesperson for Chevron Canada’s Burnaby refinery, said the company’s position has not changed.

“As we’ve made clear from the start, Chevron supports the safe and efficient, movement of Canadian energy resources to diversified markets and pipeline expansion could certainly play a key role in that opportunity,” Lord said in an emailed statement. “The issue for us at this time is ensuring the Burnaby refinery has a reliable and economic source of crude. Our application for Priority Destination Designation is the essential element to ensuring cost-effective access, whether on the existing or an expanded Trans Mountain pipeline system.”

Lord said priority access would be “in the best interests” of Burnaby by helping ensure ongoing access to a reliable supply of competitively priced products for its customers, keeping 400 well-paying refinery jobs in the city and providing an economic impact of over $70 million spent annually on local goods and services.

“We cannot speculate on how [Corrigan’s and Stewart’s position] might impact our Priority Destination Designation application. The basis of our application to the NEB remains the same.”