Jeff Lee & Brian Morton, Vancouver Sun, April 14 2012
Oil pipeline expansion to be 40 per cent larger than anticipated on strong demand
Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson raised the spectre of an oil tanker crashing into Stanley Park and the resulting economic devastation it would cause for why he and his city are stridently opposed to Kinder Morgan Energy's plan to dramatically boost oil tanker exports through Burrard Inlet.
On Friday Robertson joined Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan in calling the Kinder Morgan plan to quintuple the amount of tanker traffic in the port a wrong-headed decision that puts B.C. port communities at great risk.
"I am fiercely opposed to the expansion of tankers in Vancouver's harbour and we are gearing up as a city to deal with this, working with other local governments in the region and around the southern coast," Robertson said in an interview Friday.
"It means unacceptable risk of an oil spill and massive cost to our economy and our environment. We can't risk an oil spill around Stanley Park or the devastating impact a spill would have on tourism and port jobs. For all those reasons this is way over the line."
Robertson said his city will directly oppose the expansion when it comes before the National Energy Board for consideration, likely late next year. But it is also gearing up a public-relations campaign to fight the proposed expansion, which he said runs counter to the city's carefully-crafted international image.
"I don't think many Vancouverites support becoming a huge oil port. It is totally at odds with our city brand and our identity and ethic," he said.
On Thursday Kinder Morgan announced plans to ship enough crude oil from Alberta to fill 25 to 30 tankers a month, up from an average of five a month. It would require twinning its pipeline from Edmonton to its Westridge port facility in Burnaby to allow the company to meet its goal of shipping 850,000 barrels of oil a day, up from the current 300,000.
Corrigan said his municipality will see no economic benefit from the expansion and instead would take on greater risk because Kinder Morgan wants to triple the size of its storage tanks on Burnaby Mountain. The Chevron refinery in Burnaby would also likely suffer economic harm, meaning fewer jobs and less taxes for the city, he said.
An oil spill on a Kinder Morgan pipeline two years ago in Burnaby is a painful reminder of what can happen when mistakes are made, he said.
"We are well aware of the potential dangers and even when people claim to have all the safety procedures in place human error can cause a serious problem," Corrigan said. "It is not an asset to us, it is not an asset to British Columbia."
The growing political opposition comes as a Kinder Morgan official acknowledged the proposed twinning of the existing oil pipeline from Alberta and through much of southwestern British Columbia will likely require new rights-of-way for some rerouting.
"We've got a lot of work ahead speaking to landowners and people on the right-of-way," said Kinder Morgan's director of external relations Andrew Galarnyk, adding that there are also several issues surrounding the existing right-of-way, including urban encroachment and commercial development over the years.
Galarnyk said the existing right-of-way is approximately 18 metres wide, adding: "You need a work space [to twin the pipeline], so there might be areas where that opportunity is not [possible]. But it's only temporary."
Galarnyk would not specify which stretches of the project posed the most concern, but noted some areas might require a new permanent right-of-way. The pipeline, originally built nearly 60 years ago, goes through the Lower Mainland communities of Hope, Chilliwack, Abbotsford, the city and township of Langley, Surrey, Coquitlam and Burnaby.
Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart said he is not so sure the pipeline expansion would affect his community. He's heard very few complaints from citizens, many of whom he said don't even know the pipeline runs through their municipality.
"We have this right of way that goes through portions of Coquitlam and, in fact, cuts through our largest high school [Centennial]," Stewart said. "I don't know that it would increase any risks associated with the line itself, but I certainly would expect our residents would sit up and take notice."
Corrigan said the provincial and federal governments can overrule the city in the national interest if it refuses to give Kinder Morgan expanded rights-of-way to accommodate the second pipeline. Still, he said the expansion is so politically charged that the company faces many obstacles.
"I know the concerns we have are shared by many mayors, including Vancouver, Victoria and the North Vancouver mayors. First nations opposition has been legion, so this is not an easy row to hoe for the Kinder Morgan folks," Corrigan said. "I haven't heard anything from Kinder Morgan or any of the other proponents that this kind of project should be welcomed by us in British Columbia."
Kinder Morgan announced the plans after completing a so-called "open season" to seek binding commitments from potential pipeline customers to book capacity on the pipeline. It received far more commitments than it needed to support construction. Kinder Morgan Canada president Ian Anderson said detailed design and routing work, along with consultations with communities and first nations, is to take place over the next 18-24 months, with an application to the NEB to be made in late 2013. If it receives approval by 2015, construction could be completed by 2017. He said two-thirds of the $5-billion cost would be spent in B.C.
But Robertson said Vancouverites won't want "a supertanker every day in our port." He doesn't even like the current five ships a month that largely take Alberta crude to California for refining before being shipped back to Canada for domestic use.
"I would rather see all that refining happen here in Canada. This proposal is all about massive expansion of exports to China in particular. Dramatically expanding exports at significant risk to our economy is a whole different equation," Robertson said.
Both Corrigan and Robertson professed surprise at the scale of the proposal. They said Kinder Morgan officials had communicated with their cities for several years and never revealed the size of the project.
"The talk was it would be a "significant expansion"," Robertson said. But this is far beyond what was expected. What we expected was a massive expansion, but this is just colossal."
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