Kinder Morgan Canada president Ian Anderson appealed for calm Wednesday ahead of a B.C. Supreme Court decision on the company’s requested injunction to clear protesters who are blocking survey crews on Burnaby Mountain.
The company wants to drill test holes to determine if it can viably tunnel through the mountain rather than run its proposed Trans Mountain oil pipeline expansion project through an existing Burnaby neighbourhood.
“I’m just hoping we can see our way through this reasonably, calmly and fairly,” he told reporters, acknowledging the dispute threatens to become a major protest that requires police action.
Anderson said the survey work has been “stopped by individuals set on civil disobedience and intimidation” and denied accusations the company has tried to intimidate protesters with a lawsuit seeking millions of dollars in damages.
He called the civil suit a legally necessary step to demonstrate financial implications in order to obtain the injunction.
“I have no intention of pursuing any damages if we can undertake the work that we know we have the legal clearance to complete,” Anderson said.
He said several trees have been removed by crews but said they were a safety hazard to the planned work and half were dead or dying.
A decision on the injunction is expected by Nov. 17.
Anderson said photos of snarling protesters that were submitted to court – and that have now spawned a social media protest with opponents making similar faces – were to record the intimidation tactics being used.
Opponents hope direct action in Burnaby can block the $5.4-billion project, which would triple Trans Mountain’s flow of oil through B.C. and greatly increase the number of oil tankers it loads.
Anderson said there’s no change in the planned opening date of late 2018.
Nor, he said, has the company considered switching to a new terminal in Delta or Washington State, an option Burnaby politicians have suggested.
The project faces other legal and political challenges, including agreement of the B.C. government on acceptable safety standards and benefits for First Nations and the province.
Anderson said 16 First Nations have so far signed support agreements.
Kinder Morgan has not yet responded in detail to a new SFU study that estimates of project benefits are much lower than the company claims and that the worst case spill scenario would consume billions of dollars, not $100 to $300 million.
“Clearly the SFU study has used a different set of assumptions than what our work has,” Anderson said, adding he expects the issue to be examined more fully in upcoming National Energy Board hearings.
“We think what we have done is fair and reasonable and in many respects conservative.”
He said the company has steadily improved the oil pipeline project in part by listening carefully to its detractors.