Kinder Morgan Seeks Talks With Trans Mountain Opponents

  • Pipeline company trying to speak to mayor in Vancouver area
  • Oil conduit now accounts for 4% of Vancouver port traffic

Kinder Morgan Inc. is confident it can find common ground with opponents to its C$5.4 billion ($4.1 billion) Trans Mountain pipeline in Vancouver even as resistance mounts.

The company is trying to speak with Derek Corrigan, the mayor of Burnaby in the Canadian city’s metropolitan area and a major opponent, said Ian Anderson, president of Kinder Morgan’s Canadian unit. Corrigan has said he’s prepared to get arrested to stop the pipeline and hasn’t talked to the company for two years.

“It’s 10 to 20 percent of my day trying to figure out how to get through Derek Corrigan’s door to talk about these things,” Anderson said at a conference in Calgary. The pipeline operator wants to discuss local concerns and find ways to “best manage them together,” he said in an interview earlier.

Canada’s oil industry has turned its eye to the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline, which already ships Alberta crude to the port of Vancouver, as well as Enbridge Inc.’s Northern Gateway and TransCanada Corp.’s Energy East after Keystone XL was rejected by President Barack Obama last week. Like Keystone, they face resistance from opponents concerned about increased tanker traffic and spills.

Shipments from Trans Mountain now account for as much as 4 percent of Port Metro Vancouver traffic and an expansion would boost that to as much as 8 percent, Anderson said.

Trudeau’s Pledge

Adding to the hurdles to pipeline projects, Canada’s federal government said it will make good on a promise to ban tankers on the country’s northern Pacific Coast. That moratorium would affect Northern Gateway but not Trans Mountain.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has instructed Marc Garneau, the minister of transport responsible for the Coast Guard, to implement a ban on crude oil transport on the north coast of British Columbia which has informally been in place for years and was part of the leader’s campaign platform, according to the prime minister’s office. Some environmental opponents to Trans Mountain are seeking a similar measure in the southern coastal waters of British Columbia.

Anderson said oil tankers can safely access the company’s Westridge Marine Terminal in Burnaby and Kinder Morgan is pushing the federal government to expand its marine response capabilities to handle any potential spills.

Opposition and regulatory scrutiny have delayed the Trans Mountain expansion by about two years to a startup in 2019. British Columbia Premier Christy Clark has said oil pipelines, including Trans Mountain, must satisfy conditions such as providing the province with economic benefits and addressing aboriginal rights.

Unique Pipeline

Kinder Morgan plans to almost triple Trans Mountain’s capacity to 890,000 barrels a day. The system, in operation since 1953, is the only pipeline from Alberta to the Pacific Coast and unique in connecting the oil sands directly to an ocean to reach markets outside North America. Requests by producers to ship on the line regularly exceed its capacity.

The route chosen by Kinder Morgan for the pipeline expansion “maximizes the existing footprint and an existing terminal,” Anderson said in the interview. The company’s proposal to tunnel through Burnaby Mountain, which met with fierce opposition a year ago, was based on local feedback, he said.

“This was the community saying if there’s any way to take the pipe out of the roadways and put it somewhere more benign, we would want you to investigate that,” Anderson said.

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