Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Pipeline twinning has received the endorsement of the National Energy Board, which has recommended the federal government approve the project, subject to a long list of conditions.
But those don’t include several sought by the City of Abbotsford.
The NEB review panel found the $6.8-billion project is in the national interest, unlikely to cause significant adverse environmental effects, and its benefits outweigh any “residual burdens.”
The second pipeline would nearly triple Trans Mountain’s capacity to 890,000 barrels per day.
The current pipeline runs between Edmonton and Burnaby and includes 30 kilometres of pipeline through Abbotsford, where Kinder Morgan also operates a tank farm on Sumas Mountain and a pump station on the valley floor below. The proposal would add another tank to the Sumas facility, bringing the total there to seven, with capacity increasing from 715,000 to 890,000 barrels, as well as add new pump units.
The report included 157 conditions, but didn’t accept some proposed by the City of Abbotsford, including a proposed requirement for full-scale emergency preparation exercises at the Sumas facilities.
The city had expressed concern about the company’s preparedness, pointing to two oil spills in Abbotsford over the past 11 years.
On July 15, 2005, around 210,000 litres of oil leaked from a section of buried pipe onto land near Ward Road; and on Jan. 24, 2012, around 90,000 litres of oil leaked from a tank at the company’s Sumas tank facility. In both cases, Kinder Morgan was criticized for its immediate response to the spill. In 2012, the National Energy Board found that an operator monitoring a spill detection system failed to properly deal with three alarms coming from one of the tanks. A leak from the tank was found more than four after the first alarm was noted.
The NEB will only require the company to conduct full-scale exercises at its Burnaby terminal and Westridge Marine Terminal. For its Sumas terminal, Kinder Morgan will have to create an emergency preparedness and response exercise and training program “to demonstrate the continual improvement of responder competencies (including control centre personnel).
The NEB also largely dismissed the city’s concern that it will incur millions of dollars in costs to build and maintain infrastructure around the expanded pipeline. The board said those burdens are adequately addressed by taxes paid by the company, its positive economic effects, and community benefit agreements like one signed by the City of Abbotsford that will see Kinder Morgan pay $1.3 million for a new clubhouse at Ledgeview Golf Course, which the pipeline crosses.
Mayor Henry Braun hadn’t gone over all the conditions by press time, but said he expected the approval and agreed the project was in the national interest. Citing the recent deployment of a rapid spill response unit to Abbotsford, Braun said the company was “a good corporate citizen,” and said the city will continue to work with Kinder Morgan.
The NEB did include a condition demanded by the Fraser Valley Regional District, which had argued that the project could further worsen the region’s air quality. The FVRD had said the company’s original pollution monitoring plan had omitted ozone, which it called “a key risk of the project.” The NEB’s conditions include a requirement to monitor and manage contaminants including ozone and volatile organic compound emissions, which was also cited by the FVRD.
The report also requires the company to study two seismic faults that parallel each other on either side of the Sumas Prairie.
Local environmentalists continue to oppose the project.
John Vissers, a member of the PIPE UP anti-pipeline group, said the project will contribute to global warming by increasing the burning of fossil fuels. He said that puts it at odds with local efforts, like that of Abbotsford’s new Official Community Plan, to make the city more environmentally sustainable. He also expressed concern about the age of the original pipe.
“Sixty-year-old infrastructure should be replaced before we allow expansion of that industry.”
The NEB is requiring Trans Mountain to track its greenhouse gas emissions related to construction and operation, and develop a plan to offset the construction emissions.
The review did not consider the downstream effect on climate change from burning oil overseas and also concedes there will be significant increased greenhouse gas emissions from tanker traffic, which can’t be offset.
The federal government must now meet a December deadline to approve or reject the project.
Meanwhile, following an election commitment by the federal Liberals to revamp and restore trust in the flawed pipeline review process, a three-member panel will conduct new consultations with communities and first nations and advise cabinet.
Even if Ottawa gives final approval, other hurdles remain. The province is also required to conduct its own provincial environmental assessment now, after a court ruling that it could not rely on the federal process. During NEB hearings, the province said it could not yet support the pipeline because its conditions for new heavy oil pipelines have not been met, particularly for world-class marine spill response.
The project could also faces aboriginal court challenges, a plan by environmentalists to force a referendum using B.C.’s initiative legislation, and the threat of civil disobedience during construction.
Kinder Morgan would have until Sept. 30, 2021 to begin construction of the pipeline, after which certificates expire. The company aims to start construction in 2017 and finish it by late 2019.
Watch abbynews.com and next Wednesday’s paper for more local reaction to the report.