A group of B.C. business owners, academics, and residents have come together to raise questions about the proposed expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline.
Members of Conversations for Responsible Economic Development say they aim to conduct independent research on Kinder Morgan’s proposal to twin the oil pipeline that runs from Edmonton to Burnaby.
“We believe that better decisions will be made if there is an open, robust and informed conversation about the project’s risks and potential benefits before the approval process [goes] any further forward,” reads a report released by the group this week.
CRED advisor Erica Frank, a public-health professor at the University of British Columbia and an elected resident director of the University Neighbourhoods Association, told the Straight in a phone interview that she’s particularly concerned about the impacts of a potential bitumen spill on the aquifer in the region.
“It’s a terrible product when it makes it to its intended place, and it’s a terrible product when it spills, which it often does,” Frank said.
“It’s terrible for human health, it’s terrible for animal health, it’s a waste of taxpayer money,” she added. “They’re externalizing all of their risks and keeping all of their profits. I feel like, as an elected official and as a public-health professional, that this is untenable. I cannot stand by and watch this.”
Bradley Shende, a CRED advisor who runs the M2O digital agency, argued that the pipeline could place more jobs at risk in the event of a major spill than the expansion project will create.
“It looks like there could be 35 permanent jobs, plus temporary construction,” Shende told the Straight by phone. “I know some entrepreneurs that do that in a month as far as job creation, and what would it put at risk? There’s industries employing over 200,000 people that could potentially be at risk, including tourism, coastal industries, real estate, high tech, and you name it.”
Shende said the group found in their research that since 1952, there have been 78 spills around the Trans Mountain pipeline, four of which were under Kinder Morgan’s ownership.
Greg Toth, project director for the Trans Mountain expansion, said pipeline safety is “predominant in what we do”.
“We have something called an integrity management program, and it’s really focused on the condition of the pipeline,” he said in a phone interview.
Toth added the company has put a lot of focus on emergency response.
“It’s something we spend a lot of time practising, and so everybody basically experiences elements of classroom training, tabletop exercises, simulations, field deployment exercises, so in the event that we did ever have a spill, we want to have the readiness and the resourcing to be able to address it,” he stated.
Toth noted that Kinder Morgan’s latest plan, announced in January, to expand to 890,000 barrels of oil per day, would create about 50 permanent jobs in B.C. During pipeline construction, he said, the project would employ up to 4,000 people.
Kinder Morgan is scheduled to make its formal application to the National Energy Board by late this year.