Kinder Morgan's shares in spill response companies creates conflict of interest, economist alleges

Canadian politics, Kinder Morgan, Trans Mountain Pipeline
Graphic by Lori Waters
Texas-based pipeline giant Kinder Morgan, along with Enbridge, is a shareholder in two major oil spill response companies in Canada, according to corporate registry documents.
 
Kinder Morgan owns 25 per cent of Western Canada Spill Services (WCSS) and over 50 per cent of Western Canada Marine Response Corporation (WCMRC).

Economist Robyn Allan suggests that Kinder Morgan could stand to benefit from a spill along the coast. 

"Organizations receive revenues for spill preparedness and response, which means they make money whether or not there is a spill," Allan said. "They make money when there is not a spill and when there is. The spill preparedness and response organizations should be independent, third parties, to avoid conflicts of interest."

The Texas-based pipeline giant is currently applying to expand the existing Trans Mountain pipeline from Alberta to a marine terminal in Burnaby. If approved, the pipeline's capacity will be tripled to carry 890,000 barrels of diluted bitumen, and increase oil tanker traffic in the Burrard terminal six-fold. Although the pipeline is purported to bring $335 million in tax revenue to B.C., the project has sparked heated civilian protests at Burnaby Mountain last year, resulting in the arrest of over 100 people.
 
Allan wrote in 2013 that if oil spill response companies are owned by oil companies that may be responsible for spill events, there may be a risk of "distorted decision-making" in the event of a spill. 
 
Allan wrote the federal National Energy Board last year, pointing to a corporate registry filing showing that Kinder Morgan Canada holds a 25 per cent of the voting shares in WCSS, known as one of the major oil spill preparedness and response companies in Canada, and a 50.9 per cent shareholder in WCMRC. 

The corporate registry she found showed that Kinder Morgan's health and environment director is on the WCSS's Board. Although she pointed these relationships out in a letter to the National Energy Board, the NEB removed her letter from the Board's website, on the basis that it came in a day after the deadline for notices of motion. 
 
Kinder Morgan had previously sparked controversy by suggesting oil spills could have economic benefits and Allan questioned whether its stake in oil spill response companies means that the company could stand to profit in the wake of an accident.

WCSS's top executive said Kinder Morgan would not benefit in any way and said the company had limited influence on WCSS' operations. 

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