COLUMN: The city is quiet about pipelines

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Surrey council has said little about the proposal to twin Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain oil pipeline, even though the new pipeline will be built through an environmentally sensitive area of Surrey.

The company filed its formal proposal with the National Energy Board (NEB) more than a month ago, and those who wish to apply for intervenor status in the NEB hearings must do so by Feb. 12.

The seeming lack of interest is particularly surprising, given that council has been vocal about the proposal to ship coal from the Fraser Surrey Docks, and Mayor Dianne Watts has also been pushing to reroute the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway line through prime agricultural land south of Cloverdale. Both of these projects, if they go ahead, will also have a major impact on the environment.

Several other local governments are taking strong stands on the pipeline proposal. Vancouver and Burnaby, both of which oppose additional oil exports from the Burrard Inlet marine terminal owned by Kinder Morgan, are planning to file for intervenor status.

Langley Township, which will play host to the location where the twinned line splits into two separate routes as it approaches the Metro Vancouver urban area,  is also considering applying as an intervenor. So is Abbotsford.

In Surrey, the existing line runs north of Highway 1 as it enters from the east, for a significant distance into Fraser Heights. It then crosses Highway 1 to run along 108 Avenue to almost 140 Street, where it heads north and crosses the Fraser River  west of the Port Mann Bridge.

The new line will run along the CN rail tracks from the Surrey-Langley border to a river crossing east of the current pipeline crossing. The exact crossing route isn’t clear, as it will depend on the alignment in Coquitlam.

There have been no major incidents involving the existing pipeline in Surrey over the past 60 years, even though it does go through a number of residential areas.

However, the new route will go through Big Bend, a portion of which is a protected environmental area. It will cross several creeks that run into the Fraser River, including Bon Accord Creek near the Port Mann Bridge. It will also cross the Fraser itself – the mightiest salmon river in the country and a major cultural and economic force in B.C.

Kinder Morgan appears to have been a responsible operator of the pipeline since it took it over about 10 years ago. The pipeline is a major force in Canada’s economy and the new line will be a significant economic player.

Surrey Board of Trade has looked at the pipeline issue and passed a resolution supporting its expansion. It also has stated that some concerns about it need to be addressed. Its full position paper on the project can be found at http://bit.ly/1kYHPb3.

This paper provides some useful background information on the project, and is far more readable than the eight-volume application by the company to the NEB, which contains more than 15,000 pages.

A new pipeline route through Surrey does require some attention from local government. It is the only entity that can speak on behalf of the community and its voice needs to be heard.

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