A new report highlights concerns an expanded Trans Mountain pipeline could increase the risk of a major oil spill and that taxpayers could end up paying for much of any potential cleanup.
The 12-page report, titled “Financial Liability for Kinder Morgan”, was released today (January 24) by the Georgia Strait Alliance, the Living Oceans Society, West Coast Environmental Law, and the Wilderness Committee.
Energy company Kinder Morgan is proposing to twin its Trans Mountain pipeline, which carries oil from Alberta to a marine terminal in Burnaby. The latest version of the plan would see the pipeline’s capacity nearly tripled to 890,000 barrels per day.
The environmental groups behind the new report express worry an expanded pipeline will increase the risk of a devastating spill by bringing more tanker traffic to local waters. They estimate the larger pipeline would require standard-sized tankers to make around 460 trips annually through Burrard Inlet to export the oil.
The report says mandatory insurance for ship owners and federally governed compensation funds could only cover up to $1.34 billion of the potential costs from a large spill. It suggests taxpayers could be left to pay any additional costs, which could amount to billions of dollars if there is a spill nearing the scale of the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster.
The report further claims the ability to recover costs through civil legal action would be ineffective because ship owners are often independent operating companies with few assets. It also notes no spill-response funds exist that provide compensation for non-market losses such as long-term ecosystem damage.
In an emailed statement to the Straight, a Kinder Morgan spokesperson said tankers have been operating in local waters for decades “without incident”.
“Along with stringent regulations there are several layers of safety in-place to help safely transport these ships,” said Michael Davies, Kinder Morgan Canada’s director of marine development. “Tanker traffic in local waters is managed by local, experienced organizations and every tanker is double-hulled, escorted and tethered to tugs with two pilots on-board.”
Davies also expressed confidence there are adequate measures in place to fund any spill response.
“The size of the ($1.3 billion) pool of funds available has been sized to ensure there are sufficient resources to deal with even improbable events,” he said. “In the unlikely event that these funds were exceeded there are a range of government policy solutions that could be implemented to ensure the costs were recovered appropriately and the tax payer remains protected.”