Facts and Recent News on Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline

Since the 1950s Texas-based multinational Kinder Morgan has operated the 1,150 kilometre Trans Mountain oilsands pipeline system, which transports both crude oil and refined products from Edmonton, Alberta, to refineries and export terminals on the B.C. and Washington State coasts.

In 2013 the company applied to expand the pipeline system from a capacity of 300,000 barrels per day to 890,000 barrels per day. The Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain expansion would include building a new pipeline, constructing 12 new pump stations, 19 new storage tanks and three new marine berths located at the Westridge Marine Terminal in the Burrard Inlet near Vancouver. In November 2016 the federal government approved Kinder Morgan's application, an approval the current NDP government in British Columbia has vowed to fight in the courts and through all available means. 

The Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project would effectively triple the pipeline's capacity. Most of the pipeline's oil is destined for Westridge Marine Terminal in Burnaby, where it would be loaded onto oil tankers that would navigate past Vancouver, the Gulf Islands and through the Juan de Fuca Strait before reaching open ocean.

The expansion would mean a seven-fold increase in oil tanker traffic from the Westridge terminal, from around 60 oil tankers to more than 400 per year.

The pipeline was reviewed by Canada's National Energy Board. During the review process, Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans argued Kinder Morgan’s assessment of threats to whale species off the B.C. coast from increased tanker traffic contained “insufficient information and analysis.”

A separate analysis, commissioned by the Raincoast Conservation Foundation, found the anticipated increase in tanker traffic gives the local Southern Resident Killer Whale population only a 50 per cent chance of survival. Southern resident killer whales, which use echolocation to hunt their prey, have been overwhelmed by noise pollution in their habitat, a problem that has recently been connected to starvation.

In addition to concerns about an increase in oil tanker traffic, many criticized the National Energy Board review for its elimination of oral cross-examination, exclusion of upstream climate change considerations and failure to adequately consult affected First Nations along the pipeline route. 

The board also did not compel Kinder Morgan to answer questions regarding the company's oil spill response capacity. 

Several high-profile intervenors publicly withdrew from the  review of the project, saying the process was biased. Former energy executive Marc Eliesen dropped out of the process in late 2014, calling it “fraudulent” and an “act of deception. 

A lack of faith in the pipline review process was noted by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in 2015 during his federal election campaign. Trudeau committed to overhauling the National Energy Board and the review process of major pipeline proposals. On the campaign trail, Trudeau publicly confirmed the overhaul would apply to existing pipeline project proposals, including the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline project. However, after Trudeau's approval, the Trans Mountain pipeline review was not restarted under new rules. Instead the federal government assigned a ministerial panel to conduct public hearings regarding the project. 

In November 2016, the ministerial panel released a report on the project, the “Report from the Ministerial Panel for the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project,” which recommended against the project proceeding without a serious reassessment of its impacts on climate change commitments, indigenous rights and marine mammal safety.

On November 29, 2016, the federal government approved the project subject to 157 conditions. The company has yet to receive full permits from the National Energy Board regarding some project specifics, including the twin pipeline's route, which is a focus of ongoing legal challenges against Kinder Morgan.

Legal and Public Battles Against the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline Project

As of October 2017, there are 18 distinct legal proceedings against the project. 

That includes six against the National Energy Board’s recommended approval, nine against the decision by the federal cabinet to approve it, three against the B.C. government for its decision to accept the federal review process and another two from Indian Tribes in Washington State for potential impact of significantly increased tanker traffic on endangered southern resident killer whales.

The Tsleil-Waututh First Nation launched a legal challenge against the Canadian government and the National Energy Board over legal compliance and consultation with First Nations in relation to the proposed pipeline expansion. In addition, the Secwepemc First Nation has vowed to defend its land against the project. The pipeline crosses 518 kilometres of unceded Secwepemc territory. 

The first round of legal hearings against the project started in October 2017 in front of the Federal Court of Appeals. 

In addition to legal challenges, there is strong public opposition to the project, especially concerning early engineering and construction work. 

The project is formally opposed by the mayors of Vancouver and Burnaby. Preliminary engineering work provoked a large protest in 2014 on Burnaby Mountain and resulted in citizen arrests. Those arrests were nullified, however, when it was revealed Trans Mountain contractors used faulty coordinates to determine their worksite.

Image credit: Carol Linnitt | DeSmog Canada

DeSmog Canada's latest news coverage on the Kinder Morgan Pipeline

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By Guest • Monday, January 22, 2018 - 13:29
David Seibold Sockeye Salmon Contamination Illustration

Amid continued controversy, Kinder Morgan is poised to break ground on its $7.4 billion Trans Mountain Expansion Project. When the pipeline is complete, it will triple the volume of diluted bitumen, or Dilbit, that reaches Canada’s Pacific shoreline to 890,000 barrels per day.

The Trans Mountain pipeline has been in operation since 1953. It crosses numerous waterways as it snakes its way from Edmonton to Burnaby, B.C., including the lower portions of the Fraser River — North America’s primary salmon-producing river system. The pipeline expansion has raised concerns about how its failure might have an impact on these fish.

By Kai Nagata • Wednesday, November 29, 2017 - 12:49
Justin Trudeau Sunny Ways

This piece originally appeared on the Dogwood website.

Sunny ways, my friends. Sunny ways!” For most people, that line in Justin Trudeau’s victory speech two years ago heralded a return to “positive politics” after 10 years of Stephen Harper’s icy glare.

It’s also a reference to tricking someone into taking their clothes off.

By Carol Linnitt • Friday, November 3, 2017 - 15:34
Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline

Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain may be in violation of a condition laid out by the National Energy Board, Canada’s federal pipeline regulator, after ordering nearly 300,000 tonnes of pipeline for the expansion project without submitting a quality management plan.

According to regulatory documents filed by the National Energy Board in September, Trans Mountain was required to file a quality management plan “at least four months prior to manufacturing any pipe and major components for the project.”

The quality management plan requires Trans Mountain to supply documentation regarding the qualifications of pipeline contractors, vendors and suppliers, quality auditing of manufactured pipe and the preservation of pipe during shipping and storage.

Yet in documents submitted to the NEB, Trans Mountain confirmed pipeline manufacturing contracts were awarded between May and July of 2017 and manufacturing of the pipeline began in October with no plan in place.

By James Wilt • Wednesday, October 18, 2017 - 10:07
Oceti Sakowin Camp Standing Rock

The battle against the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline could lead to the next Standing Rock and destroy any investment case for the project, according to a newly released report.

The report, commissioned by the Secwepemc nation and prepared by the Indigenous Network on Economies and Trade, is titled “Standing Rock of the North: The Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Secwepemc Risk Assessment.”

Over the course of 35 pages, it articulates seven ways that Kinder Morgan Canada has failed “to account for the lack of political, legal, and proprietary certainty surrounding the pipeline.”

By James Wilt • Friday, October 6, 2017 - 11:39
Alberta oilsands

TransCanada’s Energy East pipeline is officially dead.

Announced via press release on Thursday, the news confirmed long-held suspicions that the $15.7 billion, 4,500 km oilsands pipeline simply wouldn’t cut it in today’s economic context.

But that hasn’t stopped commentators on all sides from pouncing on the cancellation as proof of their political project. Conservative politicians have lambasted the federal Liberals for introducing carbon pricing and new rules on pipeline applications, while environmentalists have claimed the company’s decision was a direct result of their organizing.

DeSmog Canada is here to help wade through the mess. Here are five things you should know about the cancelled Alberta-to-New Brunswick pipeline.

By Emma Gilchrist • Thursday, October 5, 2017 - 09:59
TransCanada pipeline

Canadian pipeline company TransCanada announced today it will no longer be proceeding with its proposed Energy East Pipeline and Eastern Mainline projects.

After careful review of changed circumstances, we will be informing the National Energy Board that we will no longer be proceeding with our Energy East and Eastern Mainline applications,” said president and CEO Russ Girling in a statement released Thursday morning.

The $15.7 billion Energy East pipeline planned to transport 1.1 million barrels of oil per day from western Canada’s oilsands to refineries in Quebec and Saint John, New Brunswick, as well as an export terminal in New Brunswick.

By James Wilt • Wednesday, September 27, 2017 - 14:28
NDP leadership debate

It feels like an eternity since federal NDP leader Thomas Mulcair received the boot from delegates at the party convention in April 2016.

The lengthy leadership race hasn’t exactly helped that feeling.

Most candidates launched their campaigns in February. Nine debates were held between March and September. But we’re almost at the end of the tunnel. Voting for the first ballot, via both mail-in ballots and online, commenced on Sept. 18 and concludes on Oct. 1. If needed, second and third ballots will be collected by Oct. 8 and Oct. 15.

While there are only four candidates left in the race — Guy Caron, Jagmeet Singh, Charlie Angus and Niki Ashton — there are an enormous number of combined proposals related to energy, climate and environmental policies (especially compared to what was discussed during the federal Conservative leadership race).

Let’s take a look at what’s on offer from the NDP candidates.

By Robyn Allan • Monday, August 28, 2017 - 10:13
Trans Mountain pipeline construction

When Prime Minister Trudeau announced approval of the Trans Mountain project he said the expansion “will create 15,000 new, middle class jobs — the majority of them in the trades.” 

Natural Resources Minister, Jim Carr, repeatedly points to this figure to justify Ottawa’s approval. He says, “the project is expected to create 15,000 new jobs during construction.”

Alberta Premier Notley relies on it too. “Initially we’re looking at about 15,000 jobs…” Former Premier Christy Clark said, “And then there’s Kinder Morgan, 15,000 new jobs…”

When the figure of “15,000” for new construction jobs emerged, I was confused. Kinder Morgan told the National Energy Board (NEB) that construction employment for the project was an average of 2,500 workers a year, for two years. It was laid out in detail in Volume 5B of the proponent’s application. 

Why would elected officials promote a construction jobs figure six times Kinder Morgan’s actual number?

By James Wilt • Thursday, August 10, 2017 - 17:39
Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain protest

The new B.C. NDP government has officially taken its first major step in attempting to stop the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline.

On Thursday morning, it announced it will seek intervener status in upcoming legal challenges to the federal approval of the pipeline.

The announcement helps to fulfill what was pledged in the now-famous NDP-Green “confidence and supply agreement” to “immediately employ every tool available to the new government to stop the expansion of the Kinder Morgan pipeline.”

Perhaps the most significant part of the announcement was who the B.C. government hired as external legal counsel for the process: Thomas Berger, one of the most renowned lawyers in Canadian history, especially in the realm of Indigenous and environmental rights.

Here’s a quick explainer about who Berger is, and what message this hiring sends.

By Guest • Wednesday, July 26, 2017 - 13:56
Christy Clark and Petronas CEO Tan Sri Dato

This is a guest post by Lisa Sammartino, the democracy campaigner for B.C.'s largest democracy group Dogwood. It originally ran on The Tyee.

Christy Clark rounded out her final days in office with a parting gift — not to British Columbians but to a loyal BC Liberal donor, Taseko Mines. The company donated more than $130,000 to the BC Liberals, and now they’ve scooped up Clark’s prize.

While members of the Tsilhqot'in First Nation were being chased from their homes by an aggressive wildfire, Clark’s outgoing government approved exploratory permits for the company to dig up their traditional, and constitutionally protected, lands — an area so culturally and environmentally important that Harper’s Conservatives rejected federal permits twice.

But then again, the federal Conservative party can’t accept corporate donations. Over here in the “Wild West,” Clark’s BC Liberals can, and did.