Burnaby mayor slams Kinder Morgan and Harper government at town hall
Starting in September 2012, Texas-based pipeline giant Kinder Morgan began public consultations for an estimated $4.1 billion expansion of its Trans Mountain pipeline from Alberta’s oil sands in Edmonton to Metro Vancouver. The company plans to more than double the capacity of the pipeline by 2017 from its current 300,000 barrels of oil per day to 750,000. The project rivals Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline, which aims to export oil sands crude through the Great Bear Rainforest. Kinder Morgan plans to file an application for its expansion project to the National Energy Board in late 2013, and says it plans to begin town hall meetings in Burnaby in November.
The province has failed to be accountable to British Columbians, Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan told more than 200 residents of Burnaby, Abbotsford, North Vancouver, and other neighbouring municipalities who packed the hall at a Burnaby Residents Opposed to Kinder Morgan Expansion (BROKE) town hall last night.
And now it's up to citizens to voice their concerns to elected officials about a multinational oil giant that wants to expand an oil pipeline under their backyards, homes, and neighbourhoods, the mayor said.
"The federal government determines what's in the national interest, and if they determine it's in the national interest—that is, what's in the interest of Alberta—they can proceed with pushing through a pipeline through our community no matter what kind of bylaw the city of Burnaby proposes," said Mayor Corrigan.
Noting that since the province of British Columbia opted out of the environmental assessment process on Enbridge and Kinder Morgan, he said that city councils are in a position of 'powerlessness' when it comes to demanding accountability in the hierarchy of Canadian politics.
"Eventually they have to be accountable to you, and there is no more important force in Canada than the people of our country," Corrigan said.
"Despite our lack of constitutional authority, we still have faith that you can make them come to heel."
Burnaby Mayor criticizes lack of national energy strategy
Corrigan took sharp aim at the Harper government's management of the Alberta oil sands, alleging that it has "absolutely no idea," and leaves crucial decisions to multinational corporations.
"They say the market will decide. The reality is, they are mining it and failing to refine it because they want to send it offshore to China. They want to refine that oil without any of the difficulties in North America," Corrigan said.
"And those problems will be drifting back across the Pacific as a result of those decisions. Not only are we doing ourselves a disservice, not only are we hurting our own community if we allow this to go through, but we are hurting people who are 5,000 miles away from us, who didn't do us any harm whatsoever. By sending them this caustic oil and by allowing that oil to be refined in a country without the standards that we hold to in North America, we are only creating a problem for someone else that eventually will end up on our back door."
When asked after the town hall what the response has been from the federal government regarding his constituents' concerns, Corrigan said that the Ministry of Natural Resources uses the National Energy Board as a "foil" in order to avoid answering questions.
"They switch it back to the National Energy Board. They use the National Energy Board as a foil in order to avoid discussing the issue at all," he said.
"Yet at the same time they passed legislation that says eventually the decision will be made by the cabinet. So on the one hand they're telling us deal with the NEB, on the other hand they're saying we're going to make the eventual decision."
Minister of Natural Resources Joe Oliver responded to Mayor Corrigan's allegations in a written statement to The Vancouver Observer.
"Our Government wants to responsibly develop our resources to create prosperity and security for Canadians across the country," he wrote.
"In respect to major resource projects, recommendations are made by an independent regulator which conducts a comprehensive objective scientific evaluation to determine whether the project is environmentally sound. The proposed expansion of the Trans Mountain system has not yet been submitted to the National Energy Board for review. The only way to ensure controversial projects are fairly reviewed is to allow our independent regulators to review it scientifically -- not politically. We will await the review of independent scientific experts before making a decision."
Burnaby resident raises spectre of "traumatic" 2007 oil spill
Much of Corrigan's ire toward Kinder Morgan and the federal government's management of Alberta oil sands originates from a 2007 oil spill near Burnaby's Westridge neighbourhood.
Mary Hatch, a BROKE member and Burnaby resident, recounted her experience of the spill in her neighbourhood.
"Some of my neighbours were out of their homes for months as their houses were being repaired. It's been five years since the pipeline was ruptured," Hatch recounted on the panel stage.
"That was a traumatic time for our community—our health and safety had been breached. Now, boom. We're back to worrying about a new assault on our homes and community."
Burnaby NDP MP Kennedy Stewart, who has been surveying Burnaby and Kamloops residents about the proposed pipeline expansion over the last year and a half, said that he intended to continue his pursuit for answers.
"I just met with the Greater Vancouver Real Estate Board about what this means for property values, what kind of insurance do you need to prepare for the kind of rupture that we had in 2007, and I'm getting no answers because they don't usually run pipelines of this size through urban areas," he said.
"So the National Energy Board doesn't really have the answers at the moment, and I'm saying you better give them to us, because I have a concerned community here, and before we go too far down this road, we have to know the facts."
Kinder Morgan maintains that it is doing an "extensive and thorough engagement process."
"An open, extensive and thorough engagement process on all aspects of
the proposed Trans Mountain Expansion Project is underway along the
pipeline corridor between Strathcona County, Alberta (near Edmonton) and
Burnaby, British Columbia and the marine corridor," Trans Mountain spokesperson Ali Hounsell said.
"We are reaching out to all landowners along the pipeline and meeting with community leaders, elected officials, environmental groups and Aboriginal people to get their input and perspective pipeline corridor between Strathcona County, Alberta (near Edmonton) and Burnaby, British Columbia and the marine corridor. We are reaching out to all landowners along the pipeline and meeting with community leaders, elected officials, environmental groups and Aboriginal peoples to get their input and perspective."
Kinder Morgan and First Nations consultations at a standstill
However, not all First Nations community leaders agree that Trans Mountain has done adaquate consultations for aboriginal input and perspective.
Rueben George of Tsleil-Waututh Nation, located near the Burrard Inlet where most of the tanker traffic is expected to increase, said that there was no consultation, and the federal government was not helping.
"There was no consultation from them or anybody, and they didn't talk to us since 2005 when they started running oil out of Alberta tar sands into our traditional waters. They didn't talk to any of us about that before that happened," George said.
"The other side of it is that they're rushing through this with the support of the Harper government, so there's been none at all, no consultation or no talk at all."
Kinder Morgan countered George's allegations, and that this was an atypical case.
“We have been seeking the opportunity to meet with Tsleil-Waututh for
some time now. While they have advised they are not ready to meet with
us yet, we stand ready to provide information to them and to meet with
them at any time," Gary Youngman, Project Lead, Aboriginal Engagement, Trans Mountain Expansion Project told The Vancouver Observer.
"Their position isn’t characteristic of our engagement with other First Nations. We have been in many discussions with many other Aboriginal groups along the line—and many of these discussions are positively progressing.”
Brace for David versus Goliath battle ahead, warns BROKE organizer
Concluding the town hall before a question and answer, Karl Perrin, BROKE member and Burnaby resident, emphasized the scale of a community-wide effort against a major oil pipeline expansion project.
"Of course, Richard Kinder of Kinder Morgan is one of the top 100 richest in the world—he's number 36 in the United States, and he's climbing fast," he said.
Karl Perrin of BROKE
"He's going for number one. Right now he's number one in Houston. So he can outspend the whole province if he wanted to, but we live here, and we can invest in our future."
Perrin and Burnaby City Council plan on applying for intervenor status at the Kinder Morgan National Energy Board hearings in late 2013.
"All opinions and input are valuable and we think it will help make our
application better," wrote Trans Mountain spokesperson Hounsell. "We encourage people to participate in the information sessions or online and to fill out a feedback form—all comments and concerns will be submitted and considered by the NEB."
Hounsell added that Trans Mountain will have information sessions in Burnaby in November.