The cities of Burnaby and Surrey are asking for a say on the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion, a major project planned for the transport of diluted tar sands bitumen from Alberta to a port in the Lower Mainland.
On February 3, the City of Burnaby announced that it had submitted to the National Energy Board (NEB) an application for intervener status in the project.
If approved, intervener status would give Burnaby a formal role in the NEB’s public hearing process, allowing it to present evidence, receive and comment on information filed by Kinder Morgan and other interveners, and deliver written and oral arguments for or against the proposal.
“I am extremely concerned about this proposal to build pipelines through Burnaby streets and communities to carry heavy oil from Alberta for export,” said Mayor Derek Corrigan, quoted in the media release. “Our City would be severely impacted by the construction of the new pipelines, then would be perpetually and permanently vulnerable to potential spills….This is completely unacceptable and we will do everything we can to ensure this pipeline is not built.”
That document notes that an expanded Kinder Morgan pipeline would triple the current amount of diluted bitumen transported from the tar sands—also known as oil sands—from 300,000 to 890,000 barrels per day, and increase the number of oil tankers moving through Metro Vancouver’s Burrard Inlet from 60 to 400 ships per year.
Corrigan recalled that Burnaby knows first-hand the risks of a possible oil spill, having dealt with such an incident in 2007.
“A Burnaby neighbourhood was drenched in oil, oil leaked into Burrard Inlet and Kask Creek, and 44 homes were oiled, requiring evacuation of families,” he said. “This was a relatively small spill and was not the diluted bitumen that Trans Mountain is proposing to carry in the new lines. In spite of safety assurances from Kinder Morgan and Trans Mountain, in Burnaby we know what can and does really happen with pipelines and we will not stand idly by while Trans Mountain proposes to further increase our City’s risk.”
The same day as the Burnaby announcement, Surrey city council similarly passed a motion authorizing staff to apply for intervener status in the Kinder Morgan proposal.
However, councillor Bruce Haynes emphasized that the City of Surrey has not decided to formally oppose the project.
“At this point, there’s no down side for us to apply for intervener status. In fact, we really can’t have any input into the process without it,” Hayne told the Now newspaper. “But I think it’s also important to make sure this doesn’t mean we’re automatically against the pipeline. We’re applying to it so we’re at the table and we’re involved and so we can find out as much information as we can in order to make that determination.”
Vancouver city councillors voted in favour of applying for intervener status on December 18, 2013.
“There is a long list of grave risks and negative impacts to our environment, our economy, our community health,” Mayor Gregor Robertson said at that time.