While the Keystone XL and Northern Gateway pipelines have gotten much of this year’s press, a different pipeline project has been forging ahead in British Columbia.
Today, American energy company Kinder Morgan filed a proposal for an expansion of its Trans Mountain Pipeline. The company aims to build a pipeline that would carry diluted bitumen from Edmonton, Alberta to the Southwestern coast of British Columbia, near Vancouver. The exact route hasn’t been announced by Kinder Morgan yet, but the pipeline is expected to run alongside the existing Trans Mountain pipeline, which will carry more refined oil.
The new pipeline would increase the capacity of the Trans Mountain pipeline system from 300,000 to 890,000 barrels per day — more than the 830,000 barrels that Keystone XL would carry to the Gulf Coast.
Public hearings on the proposal will likely start early next year, though Kinder Morgan has been holding open houses across the province for the past 18 months, getting input from Canadians that Kinder Morgan Canada’s President Ian Anderson says was “carefully considered” by the company. But the company’s open houses haven’t worked in stemming some Canadians’ worry about the project — at least not in Vancouver, where Mayor Gregor Robertson says he has “grave concerns” about spills from the proposed pipeline. The city plans to apply for intervenor status at the National Energy Board hearings on the grounds that the pipeline expansion poses an “unacceptable risk” to the metro Vancouver region due to threat of spills and increased tanker traffic.
Vancouver has reason to be concerned about spills. In June, Kinder Morgan was forced to shut down its existing Trans Mountain pipeline twice due to leaks that combined spilled about 35 barrels of oil in B.C. In 2012, about 29,300 gallons of oil spilled after a rupture in the Trans Mountain pipeline at the Sumas Mountain tank farm in B.C. A National Energy Board report found operators for the Trans Mountain Pipeline ignored spill warning alarms for three-and-a-half hours before finally responding to the spill, and according to Forest Ethics, residents close to the spill reported “nausea, headaches and fatigue, and schoolchildren were kept indoors for fear of airborne toxins.” And in 2009, a leak at a Kinder Morgan tank farm just east of Vancouver spilled about 52,800 gallons of oil.
Despite this threat of spills and opposition from Vancouver, the B.C. government looks likely to support the Trans Mountain pipeline, a project which one report found would create only 50 permanent jobs. As the Globe and Mail reports, B.C. Premier Christy Clark has been calling for economic growth in the province recently, and the province is leaving the review of the Kinder Morgan proposal up to Ottawa. Clark hasn’t endorsed the Trans Mountain expansion or the Northern Gateway pipeline, a project which is expecting a decision from the National Energy Board soon. But in November, Clark and the premier of Alberta agreed on a framework for negotiating pipeline projects in the provinces.