COLUMN: Time for proponent to act in a kinder way

It seems to me that Kinder Morgan should consider hiring a new public relations firm ...

COLUMN: Time for proponent to act in a kinder way

On the Other Hand by Mark Rushton

It seems to me that Kinder Morgan should consider hiring a new public relations firm, because right now its image in relation to the twinning and expansion of its pipeline through B.C. is less than stellar.

Cutting trees in a Burnaby park was not the way to engender support or convert opponents, nor is its refusal to answer many questions posed during the current National Energy Board hearings.

The proposed pipeline expansion, routed mostly on KM’s existing right-of-way, will go through countless neighbourhoods on the Lower Mainland. People want to be assured their backyards will look tomorrow the way they do today. They want to know that the possibility of leaks and spills is miniscule.

Of course, there are also the protestors and opponents who believe shipping more oil is criminal, and that the world should be concentrating on the development of alternative energy sources.

Geothermal would be nice. Wind and water currents also have great potential. The problem at the moment is that our society and our economy, currently and for the foreseeable future, is based on the use of oil-based products.

Oil and its derivatives power our vehicles, keep aviation aloft, create the fertilizers that grow our food, provide materials for clothing and the essential ingredient in most of the products we all use on a daily basis.

The world, or a least the people who populate it, keeps expanding and with that comes the demand for more oil. If the Chevron refinery in Burnaby, or the big one at Cherry Point stopped producing, the Lower Mainland would quickly grind to a halt.

Kinder Morgan’s plan however, is not to increase flow to either of these facilities, but to export the Alberta bitumen via tanker to distant refineries.

And those export plans are what seem to be driving the belief of Kinder Morgan that what it wants to do is in the best interest of Canada, and therefore will be approved regardless of what it does, or doesn’t do, to quell people’s concerns.

In other words, the federal government wants to sell Canada’s oil and Kinder Morgan is going to make it happen regardless of the objections, real or imagined.

Not the way to get a project accomplished because, like most everything else that occurs, it should be done in a good-neighbourly way.

And that is why KM needs to look inwardly, change its tactics and listen and respond to the concerns people are voicing. That is respectful, and needs to be shown to those who want their voices heard.

The reality, and I am certain the eventuality, is that the dil-bit will flow. Unlike the Enbridge proposal in Northern B.C., Kinder Morgan’s new line will be on a right-of-way that already exists, through pumping and delivery systems that are already in place. For the most part, when the project is completed few will remember it’s even there, except of course those who are monitoring the increased tanker traffic through Vancouver’s harbour.

Thus, if Kinder Morgan is so sure that its project will be approved by the National Energy Board and the federal government, why not be nice about it? Why not make every effort to ameliorate concerns?

Taking a highhanded approach only alienates people, results in lengthy and costly delays and, I believe in this case, merely prolongs the inevitable.

Time for the company to adopt a policy of being both ‘nice’ and forthright. We, supporters and objectors alike, deserve that.

markrushton@abbynews.com