Kinder Morgan files National Energy Board application for pipeline expansion

VANCOUVER – Kinder Morgan Canada filed its long-anticipated application to the National Energy Board on Monday for the expansion of its Trans Mountain pipeline from Edmonton to the British Columbia coast.

The $5.4-billion project would almost triple the capacity of the existing line and result in a 30-fold increase in the number of oil tankers in the waters that surround Vancouver.

The proposal is expected to face the same opposition that threatens to stopper the competing Northern Gateway pipeline proposal through northern B.C., but Kinder Morgan president Ian Anderson said the company has spent months in conversations with the public and First Nations and has incorporated those concerns in the application.

“I think that in the category of lessons learned, one of the things that we pursued from the beginning and, in fact, increased over the course of the last year and a half is the amount of outreach and local involvement and conversations,” Anderson said.

“We’ve watched with interest the issues that have been faced by other proposed projects and tried to learn from them and incorporate our understanding of them.”

A federal joint review panel is expected to issue its report this week on the Northern Gateway proposal, which has been plagued by controversy and opposition from environmental groups and First Nations. Hundreds of aboriginal groups have signed a declaration against the pipeline from Edmonton to Kitimat, on the north coast.

Anderson said one thing Texas-based Kinder Morgan has learned is the critical role of First Nations consultation. He said the company has 46 letters of understanding among about 100 aboriginal communities and groups they have engaged with in Alberta and B.C.

Those letters are not final support but do mean the parties are talking. One band — the Paul Band First Nation west of Edmonton — announced support for the project last week.

Kinder Morgan says 13 companies have signed contracts to ship approximately 708,000 barrels per day but the pipeline would have capacity to transport up to up to 890,000 barrels per day from Edmonton to the company’s marine terminal in Burnaby.

In the application, the company recommended a number of marine safety and spill response measures, including greater spill response capacity and a “moving safety zone” around loaded tankers.

The province of British Columbia has set out five conditions for its support for any oil pipeline to the coast, and officially opposed the Northern Gateway pipeline at a joint federal review panel earlier this year.

Andersen said he’s confident the Trans Mountain application will satisfy those five conditions, which include “world-class” marine and land spill response and a “fair share” of economic benefits.

The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers reiterated its support for the project, saying Canadian oil must reach new markets.

“New oil sands development is expected to contribute over $2.1 trillion to the Canadian economy over the next 25 years,” the industry group said.

Opponents wasted no time in blasting the plan.

The Wilderness Committee said the risk of a pipeline or tanker spill are not worth the economic gain.

And Ben West, of ForestEthics Advocacy, said the new pipeline will transport the same molasses-like diluted bitumen that Northern Gateway proposes, and it will mean hundreds more tankers plying Burrard Inlet around Vancouver.

“We will be going over the application with a fine-toothed comb in the weeks ahead but needless to say this is not the Christmas present that most people in B.C. want,” said West.

West said the application may be new, but opposition is long established.

“Kinder Morgan has seen years of protest and they hadn’t even filed their proposal yet,” he said in a statement.

“If they think they will have an easier time getting approved than Enbridge they have another thing coming. Politicians give the permits but the people give the permission, and the people are saying no to both of these irresponsible pipeline proposals.”

Several Metro Vancouver councils have also passed motions opposing the pipeline, including Vancouver, and the Union of B.C. Municipalities voted very narrowly to oppose growth in tanker traffic on the B.C. coast.

Kinder Morgan will continue to reach out to other parties, including the city of Vancouver, Anderson said.

The pipeline proposal will now undergo a public review late next year. If approved, the pipeline could be operational by late 2017.