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Regional district requests accountability from Kinder Morgan

Kinder Morgan
Kinder Morgan's Sumas Mountain pump station.
— image credit: Submitted

The Fraser Valley Regional District has prepared a long list of questions for Kinder Morgan to answer about the company's planned Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project.

This is the biggest step the district has taken so far in demanding accountability from the company on its $5.4-billion proposal to twin the existing oil line. Thirty kilometres of the line cuts through Abbotsford, 25 km through Chilliwack, 17 km through Hope, and 74 km throughout the electoral areas. Although the FVRD has no regulatory authority over pipelines, it does have a policy that requires pipeline operators in its territory to address concerns about ongoing projects.

The seven-page list of 64 questions considers the project's impacts on the economy, agriculture, environment, and recreation of the Fraser Valley. How will the company minimize disruption from construction on residents and businesses? Will farmers be compensated for related productivity losses? How will Kinder Morgan prevent contamination of water sources in case of spills? How will it protect sensitive species and areas such as the Cheam Lake Wetlands Regional Park?

"The intent of staff bringing this forward is to frame a discussion for when Kinder Morgan comes. This is really just a starting point," FVRD chair Sharon Gaetz said at the Nov. 26 board meeting.

Local anti-pipeline group Pipe Up Network has previously criticized FVRD for being slow to react on the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

Member Lynn Perrin was pleased to hear these questions will be submitted and offered Pipe Up's research assistance.

"Lots of great questions in that report for sure…Does the FVRD know that the best way to have questions answered is to be interveners?" said Perrin.

Obtaining intervener status with the National Energy Board on the project, according to Perrin, would compel Kinder Morgan to address FVRD's concerns.

FVRD co-chair and Abbotsford city councillor Patricia Ross admitted that with recent changes to NEB rules, it has become "very, very difficult for the average person to participate, unfortunately." She later told the Abbotsford News that she felt going through the tedious and expensive process of applying for intervener status would be worth it.

Ross also disagreed that FVRD has dragged its feet in responding to Kinder Morgan's plans.

"Kinder Morgan hasn't even filed an application yet. We don't yet have all the specific details of their application," said Ross.

The questions represent FVRD's initial step to research the facts of the project before the district takes an official position on it. Kinder Morgan is due to submit its application to the NEB this month.

Ross remained skeptical on the project.

"With Kinder Morgan, I can't imagine what they would come up with to make me feel comfortable with this proposal, but I feel it's my responsibility to wait until I get the application to see, before I jump to conclusions about what it is or isn't."

At the board meeting, CAO Paul Gipps said the regional district is envisioning holding a technical public workshop on Kinder Morgan's project after receiving replies to the written questions. Several board members, including Gaetz and director Bill MacGregor, reaffirmed the importance of such a public discussion.

"This is an item that holds a tremendous amount of concern for many, many communities along this pipeline…It would do as all a measure of good if we were to engage the public," said MacGregor, who also brought up the Sumas mountain spill of 2012.

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