Conversations for Responsible Economic Development highlights risks of Trans Mountain pipeline expansion

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      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.



      Gary Kroeker

      Feb 28, 2013 at 7:51am

      Another example of NIMBY.
      The proposed expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline can be and no doubt will be built utilizing the latest technologies available. The existing almost 50 year old pipeline has operated virtually incident free. Since the original line was built continual upgrades have installed to ensure integrity. The new line will also be upgraded as new technology is developed to provide a safe operation and ensuring the public and environment be protected and best served in all circumstances.


      Feb 28, 2013 at 9:13am

      Its a terrible product that it is not ours,then we would build a pipeline,but we are not getting enough royalties from this terrible product.Yes it can spilland leak ,so can yor LPG that is being piped to the docks,and the world can come to an end .As Clark said she wants more MONY to allow these pipelines .And 78 spills since 1952,60 years and most of these were ealy on when there wernt the safety procedures in effect. Now 78 to 4,000 jobs thats a big diff.who is right?Did Shende not get a contract from them to do work?

      Forward Thinker

      Feb 28, 2013 at 10:31pm

      Funny how pro pipelines feel that 78 spills in 51 years is "virtually spill free". One spill in a spawning river or into the ocean can destroy an industry such as ecotourism and fisheries. They are not spill free. Also, the company that built this pipeline was bought by Kinder Morgan, so KM should not be credited for building that pipeline.
      Gary refers to we on the West Coast as NIMBY. The bitumen does not HAVE to be shipped at all. We are trying to protect our environment not trying to get big oil to ship by a different route. Why does Big Oil and Alberta insist this stuff be shipped in a raw form? That is the most dangerous form. Why not upgrade it so that if it is spilled it will do less damage? You insist that it must be shipped as bitumen and that is not acceptable to we on whom you want to impose. We will tell you what we are willing to accept. You decide if you will meet our terms or chose a different route.

      Frederick Heartline

      Mar 2, 2013 at 1:50pm

      Bitumen is extremely hazardous and deadly - and a major spill near Vancouver (or any other center) would necessitate a major evacuation of the population until the solvents dissolve.

      It has been calculated that fallout of a major bitumen tanker spill in the Burrard Inlet will have the same economic impact as a large atom bomb blast, category 5 hurricane or major earthquake.

      The value of real estate would suffer a loss of unimaginable proportion - and many new or recent home owners would likely end-up defaulting on mortgages. Most of the province would sink into an extended economic depression.

      The risk of a terrorist attack similar to what happened to the USS Cole on October 12, 2000 presents itself... but with ramifications exacerbated to above mentioned degrees - and compounded by the fact that bitumen with solvent is extremely volatile, explosive and flammable.

      Given what little income shipment of bitumen through TransMountain would bring the region, it is *very simple* to calculate and conclude it is not worth the catastrophic risk to life, health and economy.