Despite a short organizing window, about 100 people attended a community meeting Thursday on Kinder Morgan’s plans to put its second oil pipeline through environmentally-sensitive land just west of Fort Langley, near the Salmon River.
The meeting was organized by Byron Smith, whose 31-acre farm would be on the route. He and several other people in attendance have been approached by Kinder Morgan agents about doing surveys for the route.
While Kinder Morgan plans to build most of the pipeline from Edmonton to Burnaby alongside its existing Trans Mountain pipe line, which opened in 1954, it will divert from the original route just south of Fort Langley, near the Belmont Golf Course. This is to avoid twinning the pipeline through Walnut Grove.
While the new route has not been finalized, the company is expected to file a formal plan, which will include a 150-metre wide right of way for the new line, on Dec. 16.
The new pipeline is expected to go north from the existing line to the CN tracks. Kinder Morgan plans to then build the new line along the CN tracks from Fort Langley to CN’s Thornton Yard in Surrey, and then cross the Fraser River to Coquitlam.
Burnaby-Douglas NDP MP Kennedy Stewart, whose riding includes Kinder Morgan’s oil terminal, has done a great deal of research on the project. He told the crowd that the best advice he can give people right now is not to agree to anything that Kinder Morgan asks, even access to their land. It is unclear if an initial agreement to allow them to access the property will be taken as consent to build the pipeline on that land later, he said.
Stewart said people who are directly affected by the pipeline can file to make presentations to the National Energy Board as it considers the Kinder Morgan proposal. He said it is not difficult to apply to be heard, and intervention can also be done by people who live near the proposed route.
Stewart said changes to the NEB process mean the environmental assessment and review of the Kinder Morgan application will have to be complete within 18 months.
Stewart said he has met with Kinder Morgan several times since he was first elected in 2011. The company’s Burrard Inlet oil terminal, from which crude oil would be shipped to Asian markets, is located in his riding.
In 2007, an oil spill caused by a contractor rupturing the pipeline spilled 250,000 litres of oil in a north Burnaby neighbourhood near the terminal. Eleven homes were sprayed with oil and 250 people left their homes until the oil spill was stopped. Cleanup costs were about $15 million.
Stewart did not take as strident a tone in opposing the pipeline as some of the environmentalists on the panel. He said people know the existing Kinder Morgan pipeline is necessary, but the twinned line would simply be used to export bitumen to Asia for further processing.
He has spent a considerable amount of time getting details about where the existing pipeline is located in his riding, as the company did not provide the information. In many cases, it is near homes or schools.
He then published a route map and had a series of meeting with residents. His office also conducted a telephone poll of his constituents. Of the 5,000 who responded, 75 per cent opposed the twinning of the pipeline.
He recently attended an information session on the twinned pipeline in Edmonton and was able to ask a number of questions and get more information. Nine such sessions had been scheduled for the Lower Mainland, but he said they have all been cancelled.
“They said too many people are interested in B.C.,” he said.
There will be extensive information available online.
Stewart said there is $1.5 million available to participants who intervene in the hearing. This money can be used to hire lawyers and experts, and for travel costs.
Stewart will be setting up a website letbcdecide.ca which will give people more information about the company’s plans and how they can participate in the NEB hearing process.
Stewart said he plans to continue pushing to get more information about the Kinder Morgan plan, “and I’m happy to help folks outside my riding who need help.”
He also urged Langley residents who have concerns about the pipeline to call MP Mark Warawa’s office.
“You are more powerful than the people of Burnaby. You live in a Conservative riding,” he said.
Liz McDowell of Conversations for Responsible Economic Development (CRED) said the pipeline will create 50 to 70 permanent jobs in B.C., and contribute an average of $26.5 million in taxes each year to provincial and local governments.
McDowell, a graduate of Langley Fine Arts School, grew up in Walnut Grove and is very familiar with the community.
She said her group formed because there has been little discussion about how the pipeline project affects other areas of the economy, such as tourism, real estate and the film, industry.
“The pipeline will shape the local economy for 40 years. It is a highly-politicized issue, and the key players have a lot invested.”
She said 80 per cent of B.C. jobs are in services, and only one per cent in oil, gas and mining. However, that sector of the economy does contribute 11 per cent to B.C.’s gross Domestic Product (GDP).
“The likelihood of an incident involving the pipeline is low,” she said. “If there is one though, the consequences are catastrophic.”
She said a UBC study showed that if there was an oil spill on the north coast, it would put up to 43 per cent of jobs at risk.
A Washington state study has said a major oil spill could impact 165,000 jobs there, and cost the economy up too $10 billion.
The spill in true Gulf of Mexico involving BP had has an $8.7 billion economic impact.
McDowell said the impact of pipelines on property values can be considerable. Directly affected properties could see their values drop 10 to 40 per cent and even those nearby could see a five to eight per cent drop for up to two years.
“If your property relies on well water, the devaluation is likely permanent,” she said, given that a spill would seriously affect groundwater.
“Most of the benefits from the pipeline are not in B.C.,” she concluded. “The benefits are mainly in Alberta. Yet we are holding most of the risk.”
Eoin Madden of Western Canada Wilderness Committee said it is important to have a “community conversation” about planned pipelines. His committee is opposed to any pipeline expansion, at least in part because of its stance on climate change. He showed graphic photos of the Enbridge oil spill in the Kalamazoo River in Michigan, and said Canada needs to follow the German lead and work towards increasing the amount of green energy it uses.
“We need to go towards new energy projects such as wind, water and solar. We are moving in the wrong direction.”
The citizens’ group PIPE-UP also took part in the event.
Smith plans to meet with Warawa this week to discuss his concerns.