Local residents received a chance to confront Kinder Morgan and the Fraser Valley Regional District regarding the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project Tuesday night.
Members of Pipe Up Network, Lynn Perrin and Michael Hale, were finally granted delegation seats at the FVRD board meeting, allowing them 10 minutes to present their concerns.
Perrin was previously refused a delegation seat, on the grounds that an agreement with Kinder Morgan to survey the Cheam Lake Wetlands had already been signed.
Kinder Morgan is currently studying the wetlands to determine the path of the pipeline twinning. The company has several routing alternatives for the area, including diverting the line through the south side of highway.
“We have a couple of options there. We haven’t landed on a decision, we’re working through that,” said Kinder Morgan representative Greg Toth, who received 20 minutes to speak about the project at Tuesday’s meeting.
The ecologically sensitive wetlands are of special concern to the Fraser Valley. Bitumen from a spill may sink, complicating cleanup.
“Can we risk a spill in the Cheam Lakes Wetlands? The natural values and ecosystem services provided by these wetlands are unique in this part of the Lower Mainland,” said Hale.
There hasn’t been a serious spill in the area since the laying of the pipeline, according to Bill Dickey, FVRD director for the area.
“People in our community have seen the pipeline in place for 60 years…and we’ve had really no incidents to speak of there. But we were under the assumption that any expansion would be contained within the existing right of way,” he said.
Since the original pipeline was built, the region has experienced major physical changes, including the construction of the Coquihalla highway. This warrants a re-evaluation of the route, explained Toth.
Elsewhere in the Fraser Valley, the routing of the expanded pipeline mostly follows the existing line.
The risks and consequences of a spill were fresh on the mind of Abbotsford city councillor and FVRD director Bill MacGregor, who brought up Kinder Morgan’s 110,000-litre spill on Sumas Mountain on Jan. 24, 2012. At that time, the company had said that the spill was entirely contained, while residents complained of headaches and other health side effects.
“In the Sumas Mountain area where I reside, we’ve already had a couple of alarming incidents up on the mountain in the past few years with Kinder Morgan, and their track record is not that good,” he said.
MacGregor remained opposed to the twinning, and supported Pipe Up’s recommendation for FVRD to evaluate the project.
“I think we’re in for a war,” he said.
At the meeting, Kinder Morgan maintained that its monitoring and response technology is top-of-the-line. This includes such measures as corrosion control through pipeline coating, remote sensors to detect cracks and temperature, a 24-hour control centre in Edmonton, a database on natural hazards such as stream crossings, and regular physical inspections and patrols.
“Pipeline safety is embedded within our integrity management program,” said Toth. “The diagnostics on the pipeline are of a very high level.”
A National Energy Board investigation of the company’s 2012 spill on Sumas Mountain found that Kinder Morgan failed to follow proper procedures. An operator ignored several alarms before responding, causing a four-hour delay in detection.
Pipe Up members also argued that the twinning of the pipeline will not economically benefit British Columbians.
“Studies show that there is no net economic benefit for British Columbians, and that there are alternatives. Alternatives such as renewable energy and electric transportation would produce more economic benefit, more jobs, and would potentially position BC as a world leader in making the transition from finite and increasingly dirty fossil fuels,” said Hale.
Toth responded that municipalities on the route benefit from tax income and new jobs.
This was the first board meeting at which FVRD allowed significant time to members of the public to present their concerns about the twinning of the pipeline. The district has not taken initiative to assess the risks of the project.
“We are very much at the preliminary stages. We are not currently undertaking any studies,” said an FVRD staff member. “We still don’t know what the routing for the pipeline will be.”
Pipe Up wants to see FVRD create an independent committee to assess the risk of sending more bitumen through the Cheam Lake Wetlands, as well as consult with the public on the matter.
Kinder Morgan has submitted a project description to the NEB last week, signaling their intent to file an application in late firstname.lastname@example.org twitter.com/alinakonevski