What you need to know about Kinder Morgan and its proposed pipeline expansion

Kinder Morgan is in the news a lot of late.  The company wants to move 750,000 barrels of non-conventional tar sands crude through BC backyards.  Here are some facts to provide context to the often emotional debate over the company's proposed pipeline expansion.

The Athabasca oil sands as seen from space (NASA)

Did you know that Kinder Morgan's CEO was once a high-ranking officer at Enron? Did you know that the company's proposed increase in tar sands oil throughput could bring BC an estimated CDN$2.5 billion in construction costs?

A recent study of people living along the Trans Mountain Pipeline route, where 750,000 barrels of tar sands crude would move each day showed that few are familiar with the project or the company behind it.

 Pipeline project

Texas-based energy giant Kinder Morgan plans to file an application next year with Canada's National Energy Board to double the Trans Mountain pipeline, running from the Alberta tar sands through Metro Vancouver to Bellingham, Washington.

 The project would nearly triple the pipeline's current throughput of 300,000 barrels per day by 2017. Some 60 percent of the $4.1 billion it would cost to realize the project would be spent in BC, according to the head of Kinder Morgan Canada, Ian Anderson, at a time when provincial unemployment hovers around seven percent.

The total economic impact of the pipleline expansion would be $6.6 billion, according to Kinder Morgan estimates.

Kinder Morgan Canada currently employs 119 people in BC with an $11.5 million payroll and estimates an additional 65 permanent full-time jobs to be created due to the proposed expansion, 35 of which will be in BC.

Tempering enthusiasm about the economic boon of a major industrial undertaking in a post-recession economy are various public safety and environmental concerns posed by a surge in the production and transport of unconventional oil through BC backyards.

 Information gap

Studies conducted in summer 2012 showed that not many Canadians were familiar with Kinder Morgan and its pipeline expansion.

A whopping 50 percent of BC residents are against energy giant Kinder Morgan's bid to expand its Trans Mountain pipeline, according to a survey reported in The Vancouver Observer, in what the director of environmental group Living Oceans Society's Karen Wristen muses is a “real surprise.”

But the survey of 600 residents along the Kinder Morgan (KM) pipeline route, conducted in August by Strategic Communications, found that well over 50 percent of respondents have read little to nothing about Kinder Morgan's proposed expansion. Just under 27 percent of the sample said they were “very familiar” with the topic.

Enron roots

Kinder Morgan was born out of its chief executive's break with Enron, the enterprise behind what has been called “one of the largest and most complex bankruptcies in US history.”

Kinder Morgan's CEO Richard Kinder, 67 -- the 36th richest American in 2012 and a major contributor to the political campaigns of George W. Bush and several other Republican and Democratic politicians – had filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy after a failed real estate investment in a Texan hotel before joining Enron.

“Earlier in his career, Mr. Kinder invested in some Howard Johnson motels in Missouri which failed. He did file bankruptcy, but subsequently repaid the entire debt even though he was not legally required to do so,” explained Kinder Morgan spokeswoman Emily Mir.

Kinder was Enron's president and chief operating officer under the company's late CEO Kenneth Lay, who was largely implicated in a corruption scandal where the misrepresentation of company performance and inflation of assets infamously cost investors US $11 billion. He worked with the company for 16 years until 1996, more than five years before the company's collapse.

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