OPINION: Listening and learning keys to working together
by Ian Anderson
Earlier this year, we announced our intentions to pursue expanding the Trans Mountain Pipeline System, which has been responsibly transporting oil between Edmonton and Burnaby since 1953. At that time, we committed to embarking on an open, extensive and thorough engagement process on all aspects of the proposed expansion project along the route and marine corridor. It was a promise, to hear every voice and every concern.
Since then our conversation has begun in earnest and we’ve received much feedback from interested British Columbians about different aspects of our project. Of all the feedback we’ve received, risk and safety — particularly pipeline safety and marine safety — have been the primary concerns. This concern is echoed in the B.C. government’s five conditions for oil pipeline projects. We’re confident that, with the cooperation of others, this concern can be addressed.
We understand the safety of our coastline is paramount, and are proud to be able to say that all 900 tankers that have ever loaded and sailed from the Westridge Marine Terminal in Burnaby have done so without a single spill.
This record is thanks to a culture of safety within Trans Mountain, the network of safety and response organizations in the marine community and the regulations and requirements established to ensure safe transit of oil tankers in the local waters.
When it comes to marine safety, Kinder Morgan Canada (KMC) also stands with B.C. in advocating for the necessary level of federal funding and response capabilities. At the same time, we believe companies must also pay their fair share, as it is companies that are liable for potential spills — not communities.
On the pipeline itself, we’ve had very few incidents in a history spanning nearly 60 years. For us no spill is acceptable, but we have plans to respond, clean up, remediate and learn from every incident should one occur. While we cannot promise there won’t ever be a spill, we can tell you this: we’re doing everything we can to prevent spills.
There’s been much discussion about heavy oils and bitumen and whether these types of products pose increased risk. Bitumen isn’t something new, but a resource Trans Mountain has been transporting for close to 30 years — with no scientific or operational evidence that it is any more corrosive to the pipeline than other products. The bitumen in our pipeline is less dense than salt or fresh water, at a maximum density of 0.94, and will float if there’s a spill.
Beyond risks and safety, another overall theme we’ve heard loud and clear from individuals and in the B.C. government’s five conditions is that people want to know about the benefits of expanding the Trans Mountain Pipeline to British Columbia and B.C. communities.
The project promises to yield significant economic benefits for communities along the route. It will create both construction and long-term jobs, and we are committed to hire companies and workers from communities and aboriginal groups along the pipeline. Should the project proceed, more than 60 per cent of the $4.1 billion in projected construction costs would be spent in B.C.
B.C. and its communities can also benefit from opportunities associated with this project to create legacies such as investments in the green economy, environmental stewardship, First Nations communities and improvements to drive a world-leading spill response and cleanup capability. We have some ideas, but also want to hear yours.
We know the public is very interested in our project and are seeking channels to provide input. A large part of our project team is local, based in B.C. communities along the pipeline. We’ve been reaching out to the 2,200 landowners along the pipeline and meeting with community leaders, elected officials, environmental groups and aboriginal groups to get their perspective. We agree with the province’s view about building strong and enduring relationships with First Nations and we will meet its expectation to address aboriginal rights.
We'll soon be expanding our public engagement program, giving British Columbians the opportunity to learn more about the proposed expansion and provide feedback on some of our routing options, soliciting ideas on the kinds of benefits they'd like to see, and listening and responding to their concerns.
Lastly, through the discussions we’ve had so far, we understand British Columbians want and need reliable information and facts that will provide them with greater understanding of our proposed project and assist them in forming opinions, allowing for an even more informed and effective dialogue. We’ll do our best to provide that information through various channels, including a new and much more expansive website, meetings and various engagement events.
The Trans Mountain team is committed to earning your trust and confidence — not simply to be able to say we did but because it’s the only way forward.
Ian Anderson is president of Kinder Morgan Canada.