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NDP critic suggests price to accept oil pipeline

Kennedy Stewart is the federal NDP
Kennedy Stewart is the federal NDP's science and technology critic and MP for Burnaby-Douglas.
— image credit: File

A federal NDP MP predicts Kinder Morgan will have to offer B.C. and affected communities hundreds of millions of dollars a year if it wants its Trans Mountain oil pipeline twinning to be seriously considered.

Kennedy Stewart, the federal NDP's science and technology critic, said he expects the company to make a low-ball offer to satisfy the B.C. government's demand for a share of benefits to compensate for the risk.

The Burnaby-Douglas MP estimates Kinder Morgan stands to earn $5 per barrel of oil it transports, so company profits on the 890,000-barrel-per-day dual pipelines could top $1.5 billion a year.

An offer to B.C. of a few cents per barrel shipped for a provincial benefits fund supporting first nations, affected communities and cleanup response measures would be far too low, Stewart said.

But he said a much more generous figure would have to be considered.

"If Kinder Morgan said $2.50 a barrel – half of the revenue would go to the province – you would take that back to the community and talk to the community about it," Stewart said.

It's one of the first suggestions from the ranks of pipeline opponents that a sufficiently attractive offer could trump environmental worries.

"I'm against this project. But I think you always have to keep your mind open when you're looking at economics and then go back to your community with particular offers."

Stewart said he didn't pick the $2.50 per barrel figure – he says it arose through conversations with his constituents, who are seeking a series of commitments from Kinder Morgan, including assurances that no homes be expropriated, that temporary foreign workers won't build the pipeline and that no construction will begin without local referenda.

Stewart noted he's not in any position to negotiate, adding re-elected Premier Christy Clark will have to decide what price is fair.

"This is where this conversation is heading – how much does Kinder Morgan have to pay to put this pipeline through communities."

Ben West, a ForestEthics campaigner opposed to transport of bitumen from the Alberta oil sands, said he was surprised by Stewart's comments.

"There is no amount of money that would make this a good idea," West said.

He said the environmental risk of a spill outweights any amount of financial compensation.

"The impact on our coast is too great and the potential impact on our economy if there was a spill is too great."

West called the notion a "non-starter" because he doubts Kinder Morgan would ever offer anywhere near $2.50 a barrel.

Asked about the company's plans to ensure Trans Mountain's expansion benefits B.C., senior project director Greg Toth called B.C.'s demand for a fair share a "government-to-government" question.

He said local and regional benefits will come from the jobs in building and operating the new pipeline.

"We are looking at a community investment program at a local level," Toth added. "What are the things we can do as part of the project to offset or mitigate the potential impacts of constructing the pipeline."

Company officials wouldn't comment on Stewart's $2.50 suggestion, but reiterated president Ian Anderson's statement last year that they look forward to discussing economic benefits for B.C. and are confident a collaborative approach will lead to an acceptable solution.

The TransMountain pipeline expansion was a major issue in the B.C. election when B.C. NDP leader Adrian Dix came out against a major jump in oil tanker traffic through Metro Vancouver, ahead of any formal application by the company.

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