Company requests the highest level of environmental review to allay concerns
By Gordon Hamilton, Vancouver SunMay 25, 2013
If the twinning project goes ahead, Kinder Morgan plans to build storage tanks in Burnaby that would hold 3.25 million barrels of oil, which is triple the current volume. Project leader Carey Johannesson says the public's concern about air quality surrounding the tanks is why they are seeking a full environmental review.
Photograph by: Ian Lindsay, Vancouver Sun Files, Vancouver Sun
Kinder Morgan announced Friday that it has taken another step toward twinning its Trans Mountain pipeline by filing a project description with the National Energy Board.
Because of the scope of the planned expansion and the public interest around it, Kinder Morgan president Ian Anderson said the company is requesting that it be designated under the Canada Environmental Assessment Act, meaning it will require the same level of environmental review as a new project.
"Based on the level of public interest in the proposed project, Trans Mountain believes the project should be a designated project, subject to the rigorous environmental review required (under the Act)," Anderson said in a May 23 letter accompanying the project description.
Kinder Morgan is not certain the project would be designated as it is an expansion of an existing pipeline system, and thus would fall under the National Energy Board Act, which also requires an environmental review. But project leader Carey Johannesson said the pipeline company wants to be covered under both acts to ensure the reviews are rigorous.
"With the level of public concern about it, we think we have been doing the work to that level of assessment, so let's just clear it all up and ask the government for that designation," Johannesson said. "Because it is not clear, we are jumping the gun a bit in asking for it."
It will be up to the federal government to make the designation but Johannesson said the company expects to get it.
The pipeline twinning project has drawn opposition in southwestern B.C. and cities such as Vancouver, Burnaby and Victoria have declared they are opposed to it. The B.C. Liberal government has taken no position on the pipeline, saying it will wait until Kinder Morgan files an application to build it.
The project description is only a step in the process to build the pipeline and is not an application for an environmental review.
In an email response to The Sun, the B.C. energy ministry said Friday that it expects Kinder Morgan to file its application to construct the project in late 2013. "B.C. has informed Kinder Morgan of our expectations for safety and environmental protection, including our province's five conditions for proposed oil projects," the ministry said. "We are continuing to closely monitor the company's proposal."
The project description shows that the Burnaby end will include giant storage tanks and new berths capable of storing and handling enough oil to fill 34 oil tankers a month.
If the project goes ahead, Kinder Morgan intends to build storage tanks in Burnaby capable of holding 3.25 million barrels of oil, triple the current volume. Tanker traffic will increase from three per cent of total traffic through the port to 13 per cent.
A key storage tank issue is the potential for more air contaminants and fugitive emissions, according to the project description.
Johannesson said issues like air quality are why the company is seeking a full environmental review. "The issues around odours and vapours from the tanks are something we know people are concerned about, so we are doing a lot of work to figure that out," he said. "A part of what we are looking at is what kind of technologies would we need to use to be able to meet the air-quality standards."
Emma Gilchrist, of the environmental group Dogwood Initiative, said she does not believe Kinder Morgan has the social licence for an expansion of the scope laid out in the project description. "Building these jumbo oil export pipelines and having 3.25 million barrels of oil sitting around in a major urban centre is really playing with fire," she said.
The project description also shows Kinder Morgan intends to build 973 kilometres of 36-inch-diameter pipeline alongside its existing 24-inch and 30-inch pipeline between Edmonton and Burnaby. The existing line, which has already received some upgrades, is 1,150 kilometres long. The total capacity of the two lines is to be 890,000 barrels of oil a day, almost triple the current 300,000 barrels a day.
Gilchrist said Kinder Morgan's project description is one more step in the company's sophisticated strategy of advancing the pipeline plan one step at a time. "They have gone step-by-step with their toll application; they have met with all the mayors. They are operating in a new climate where they know these projects are very, very difficult to build. So they are going about it differently.
"But I still don't think that gets past the over-arching concern: Having hundreds of tankers on the B.C. Coast is still not acceptable."
Kinder Morgan said if the National Energy Board does grant a certificate for the project, it expects construction to begin in 2016 with a fall 2017 completion date.
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