I don’t know how they do it in Texas, where pipeline giant Kinder Morgan is based, but here in British Columbia, we have rules.
You can’t build a patio in a major metropolitan area without an approval. You can’t cut down a tree without a permit. So why should a giant crude oil pipeline—with all the risk it poses to public safety and aquatic health—be entitled to skip the entire process?
Last week, the company asked the National Energy Board (NEB) to do just that. In the hearings, its lawyer told the panel reviewing the complaint that because federal cabinet has given the project permission to move forward, it should not have to follow local bylaws and obtain permits.
I mean, how dare Burnaby require the company to have a plan for fire truck access to its tank farm in case of emergency? What nerve that the city expects permits for controlling sediment flows into local streams? These are the sorts of municipal permits Kinder Morgan wants to override.
The City of Burnaby’s lawyer, Gregory McDade, suggested Kinder Morgan may have purposely botched the application to spark a dispute to override all future local and provincial permits needed.
As the city pointed out in its arguments, it processes a billion dollars worth of applications every year. Kinder Morgan claims because its project is an oil pipeline, Burnaby must drop everything and expedite its permits.
I doubt the condo developers who have taken the time to file their applications properly would agree. They seem to have no trouble navigating the approval process.
"It is our position that the time for permit processing here has been primarily driven by the incompetence, or the ineptness perhaps, or at least the inexperience, of the consultants for Trans Mountain in complying with basic municipal approval processes," opened McDade at the hearing.
Other municipalities have come to Burnaby’s defence. Surrey called the company’s proposal, “an attempt to unlawfully fetter, circumvent and undermine the legislative scheme to the detriment of municipalities, their residents and the public in general".
Chilliwack warned the NEB the company could use a new process to pressure other local governments to expedite permits without the technical data required.
In the end, it seems Kinder Morgan is using a manufactured dispute with Burnaby to try and develop a process to bypass permits from the province of British Columbia. When, in fact, the provincial government has been granting approvals as conditions have been met. So far the company has 66 of the 1,200 provincial permits needed.
Minister of Environment and Climate Change George Heyman echoes Burnaby in saying any troubles the company faces in the permitting processes are due to its own failures.
"Quite frankly, they've yet to be approved because Kinder Morgan has failed in their responsibility to do the environmental research and present the environmental plans that are needed to support approval of the permits," Heyman told National Observer.
"They've failed to do, in many cases, adequate First Nations consultation to support the approval of their permits. Kinder Morgan should look at themselves for any delays they are experiencing."
Kinder Morgan simply can’t be bothered to follow local rules. It wants the NEB to put together an unaccountable panel to strong-arm its pipeline through without the required approvals. No jurisdiction should accept such an attack on its ability to ensure the health and safety of its citizens and its environment.
Nor can we as citizens allow the NEB, infamous for its close relationship with industry, to give a foreign oil company carte blanche to override local rules.
Kinder Morgan’s dirty tricks are a desperate attempt to get back on schedule and appease shareholders who are wary of throwing good money after bad. On Tuesday the company’s stock price plunged 4.7 percent after it told investors it may have to push its target completion date beyond September 2020 due to permitting delays.
Company president Ian Anderson has talked about pulling the plug on the project if it faces further delay. Between court challenges, incomplete permits and the thousands of British Columbians ready to stand in front of the bulldozers, that’s a guarantee he can bank on.
Peter McCartney is the climate campaigner for the Wilderness Committee.