Since DeSmog Canada broke the story two weeks ago that Kinder Morgan publicly released its emergency oil spill plans for the Trans Mountain pipeline in Washington State while withholding or severely redacting the exact same plans in B.C., there's been a firestorm of activity on the topic.
The story has now been covered by the Globe and Mail, the CBC and the Canadian Press, the issue was raised in the House of Commons this week and the president of Kinder Morgan and the chair of the National Energy Board (NEB) have been forced to respond.
Kinder Morgan and the NEB angered the B.C. government in January after ruling the company could keep spill response plans for the proposed oilsands pipeline secret due to “security concerns.”
This week Kinder Morgan president Ian Anderson defended the company’s actions, saying the NEB did not demand disclosure of the plans.
“We in no way want to have this perceived lack of transparency around our emergency response plans as any indication of us wanting to hide anything or keep anything a secret,” Anderson said.
“There are very real security concerns that we have with respect to posting our full and complete plans where critical valves and critical access points to the system are delineated.”
Anderson elaborated that requirements for disclosure are different in Washington State.
In January the NEB ruled Kinder Morgan was not obligated to provide the plans despite multiple requests from the province of B.C., an intervenor in the federal Trans Mountain pipeline review process.
In a motion to the federal regulator, the province called Kinder Morgan’s redactions “excessive, unjustified and prohibitive.” B.C. added the withheld information “thwarts” their review of the pipeline expansion project and “precludes a thorough understanding of Trans Mountain’s [emergency management plan] by the Board and all intervenors.”
The release of the plans in Washington “renders inexplicable” Kinder Morgan’s insistence the information remain secret north of the border, B.C. argued. The fact emergency information is available in the U.S. “calls into serious question the legitimacy of Trans Mountain’s claim that what is presumably almost identical information ought…not to be disclosed,” the province told the NEB.
Victoria MP Murray Rankin raised the issue in the House of Commons on Feb. 23, saying:
“Kinder Morgan is allowed to keep its plans for oil-spill recovery secret from the people of Victoria and from all British Columbians — the very kind of plans that are routinely available across the border, in Washington state. This deplorable secrecy does no favour to the resource industry which depends upon social licence from first nations and from communities small and large trampled by a government that allows our resources to be sold at any price.”
A spokesperson with the NEB said the federal regulator is considering making public emergency response plans mandatory for energy companies operating existing pipelines, the Canadian Press reports.
“Our chairman is not very happy that there’s a lack of transparency around these emergency response plans,” Darin Barter said. “Canadians deserve to have that information. There’s a public will for that information. Industry needs to find a way to make that information public.”
Barter added the NEB is not pushing for a legislative change around emergency plan disclosure requirements, but is seeking greater transparency from companies.*
* Correction February 25, 2015: This article has been corrected to show the NEB is not seeking a change in legislation but rather greater transparency from companies.
Image Credit: Trans Mountain