Vancouver to ask federal government for referendum on Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline
Mayor Gregor Robertson has called for the city to host a series of meetings where residents can express concerns related to the proposed twinning of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline.
“The National Energy Board continues to restrict and reduce public input on Kinder Morgan's proposal for a seven-fold increase in oil tanker traffic through Vancouver's local waters,” Robertson said, quoted in a May 14 statement.
“We've heard loud and clear from the residents of Vancouver that they have major concerns about this proposal,” the emailed statement continues. “If the NEB won't allow residents to express those concerns, then the City should provide opportunities for the public to let their voices be heard on this important issue.”
Speaking before city council the same day, Robertson said these meetings should be convened “as soon as possible”.
A twinned Kinder Morgan pipeline would triple the amount of diluted bitumen transported from the Alberta oil sands to the Lower Mainland, increasing the number of oil tankers moving through Burrard Inlet from some 60 ships per year to more than 400.
Robertson’s move coincided with a pair of motions concerning the Trans Mountain pipeline going before city council. One passed in the form it was introduced while the other was also approved, but only after being significantly altered.
The motion immediately approved was introduced by Robertson and calls for an “open and inclusive” National Energy Board (NEB) hearing on the Kinder Morgan project.
That motion states that the NEB’s hearing process for the Trans Mountain pipeline “meets no test of meaningful consultation”. It resolves that city council request the federal government direct the NEB “to allow all applicants to speak, conduct oral hearings, and allow for full cross-examination in the Trans Mountain pipeline hearings”.
Attending the Vancouver council meeting was Burnaby mayor Derek Corrigan, who fielded questions for more than 45 minutes. (Burnaby is where an expanded Trans Mountain pipeline would meet the waters of the Burrard Inlet.)
“The magnitude of the [proposed] increase of the movement of this oil and the type of oil that is being moved causes me great concern,” he said. “If you keep doing something that is risky, and you do it more, the risk increases. So the result is, if we do this at a significantly heightened rate—if we’re moving through three-times as much oil and we’re moving through four-times as many tankers, we can expect that the likelihood of an accident will increase.”
Corrigan recalled a relatively minor oil spill that occurred in Burnaby in 2007. “Having seen that and contemplating a major accident, makes me very, very fearful,” he continued. “There is a point where that magnitude takes it outside our ability to be able to respond.”
Kinder Morgan did not respond to a request for an interview. An emailed statement supplied to media by Scott Stoness, vice president of regulatory, emphasizes that Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain application was “determined complete” by the NEB.
The second motion concerning the pipeline that went before council was brought forward by Green councillor Adriane Carr and called for a plebiscite on Trans Mountain to be held in conjunction with civic elections scheduled for November.
It failed to get to a vote, and was instead amended by Vision Vancouver councillor Andrea Reimer via a strike and replace motion.
The revised motion calls for the city to request the federal government hold a referendum in Vancouver on the Kinder Morgan expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline.
Reimer noted several conditions that would have to be met for that vote to occur.
A referendum would take place after the NEB’s Trans Mountain hearing has concluded, Reimer said. It would be funded by the federal government as opposed to the city. And it would be held under the federal Referendum Act with accompanying rules for campaign financing.
Carr’s motion was expected to fail as councillors aligned with the ruling Vision Vancouver party had said as much in recent days.
Reimer previously told the Straight that she did not support a plebiscite on the Trans Mountain pipeline because of a lack of spending limits.
Her strike and replace received the vocal support of Vision Vancouver councillors Tony Tang and Kerry Jang.
“I think councillor Carr’s motion has the right intention, but I think councillor Reimer’s strike and replace has the better and the correct execution,” Tang said.
Jang described Carr’s original motion as “a bit of a naïve way of looking at the world”.
“The way things are in Vancouver right now, if we were to hold one during the municipal election, oil money—big oil money—would be going in and supporting one side or another,” he said. “If we’re going to have this, let’s do it right, let’s make it fair, and make sure everybody has the same amount of money to spend.”
Carr protested but voted in support of her motion with Reimer’s amendments.
“This is a strike and replace motion,” Carr said. “It is a different motion. It focuses on a very different action, which is to request something of the federal government….I think it is extraordinarily unlikely that they will ever respond positively to this motion.”