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Some Metro Vancouver mayors are taking a wait-and-see approach to Kinder Morgan's plan to twin its Trans Mountain oil pipeline through the Lower Mainland.
Unlike the mayors of Vancouver and Burnaby – who are already opposing the $5-billion project, citing the higher risks from a five-fold increase in oil tanker traffic – those further inland along the pipeline corridor want more information before taking any position.
Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart said his city has no shoreline at risk so his council will focus on the land risks of the pipeline and the construction-related impacts on local residents.
"It goes through back yards and front yards," he said. "Our biggest high school's property is bisected by the pipeline."
It's the same story in northern neighbourhoods of Surrey and Langley Township, where the Kinder Morgan right-of-way stretches through several established neighbourhoods.
The company has said the new pipeline may deviate from the existing right-of-way in some urban areas.
Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson wants to force oil carriers to take out additional insurance to cover the impacts of a worst-case spill fouling local shorelines.
Although tankers are already insured against spills and have cleanup agreements in place, Robertson claims cities could be on the hook for extra costs. Since the port is federally regulated it's unclear how Vancouver could enforce the mayor's proposed bylaw.
Stewart said he's also heard suggestions that affected cities press for some sort of benefits package to compensate for the extra risk and disruption.
But he said he's not sure it would be right to to single out Kinder Morgan when power lines and gas lines already run through his city that primarily serve customers elsewhere.
"Our region is a very complex network of infrastructure," Stewart said, pointing out the risks from trains that roll through carrying hazardous materials.
"I don't want to single this one out as being particularly different," he said of the oil pipeline. "It's not nearly as explosive as some of the things that go through our community."
Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts, who chairs Metro Vancouver's port cities committee, said it's too early to pass judgment because Kinder Morgan is still far away from formally filing an application to the National Energy Board, a move expected after as much as two years of company-led public consultations.
"It's really important to ensure we have all of the information," she said.
"We want to know what emergency response measures are in place. We want to know what the environmental measures will be and any other impacts we need to have brought forward to us."
The committee will be meeting with officials from the port and Kinder Morgan in the weeks ahead on the proposal, which would expand Trans Mountain pipeline capacity from 300,000 barrels per day now to 850,000.
Kinder Morgan officials have estimated the number of oil tankers loading in Burnaby could climb from 30 to 70 per year currently to between 300 and 360.
That's based on the existing 650,000-barrel Aframax tankers – which officials say could continue to be used – although Kinder Morgan may pursue the use of much bigger Suezmax tankers, which would require the dredging of the Second Narrows.
Abbotsford Mayor Bruce Banman said his city needs to work with Kinder Morgan to ensure there's proper consultation on local concerns, and noted his city stands to receive an extra $1 million or more in property tax each year for the expanded pipeline corridor.
Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain oil pipeline is shown in green. The proposed twin pipeline might not necessarily follow the exact same right-of-way.