Expropriation for pipeline expansion could have far-reaching impacts: MP

Burnaby-Douglas NDP MP Kennedy Stewart -
Burnaby-Douglas NDP MP Kennedy Stewart
— image credit:

Burnaby-Douglas NDP MP Kennedy Stewart is seeing them everywhere, it seems.

That being the little yellow signs that indicate where Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain pipeline runs below ground.

In Capitol Hill recently, "I was driving past million-dollar homes, a lot of them under construction, and I look right out front and they have one of the little yellow signs saying this is where the pipeline is," he said.

"I don't think a lot of people in that neighbourhood are aware that in order to make it to the Chevron refinery, that pipeline crosses right through one of the most expensive neighbourhoods in Burnaby ... and then down the hill to the docks. The pipes are all over that area."

During a visit to a Forest Grove co-op, he spotted one of the signs within five to six feet of a window. And even outside Burnaby, in Langley, he saw a sign right beside a house.

That could create serious problems for homeowners in Burnaby and elsewhere along the pipeline's route from Edmonton, if property needs to be expropriated to expand it, as Kinder Morgan is proposing.

Through the National Energy Board (NEB), Stewart learned what would happen in case of expropriation.

"If the general [pipeline] route is approved ... if your house is in the way of that, and you refuse to settle with the company or you don't think they're offering enough, don't want to move, then the government has the authority to take that property," he said. "They'll compensate you however they feel that you deserve compensation, and take it.

"And that is the law."

As it is, the pipeline has a right-of-way owned by the company spanning 30 metres (100 feet) wide, Stewart explained. On either side of the right-of-way is a 30-metre safety zone, putting homes within that 90 metres (300 feet) at risk of expropriation.

"That entire 300 feet, or 100 metres, will become a trench [during construction]. After the pipeline is laid then within those safety zones the rights of landholders are significantly curtailed."

The current pipeline was built in the 1950s and since then urban development has encroached upon those safety zones. In Capitol Hill, the pipeline runs within a few feet of houses, he said.

Kinder Morgan spokeswoman Lexa Hobenshield said in a previous interview, "Although we anticipate the proposed project will make use of our existing right-of-way where we are able, there are places where–due to factors such as urban infill or other factors–we will need to deviate from our existing right-of-way."

Stewart responded that the pipeline's terminus, the Chevron refinery and Kinder Morgan's tank farm can't be moved so the pipeline will still have to be routed within those same general areas.

"If you don't go through that neighbourhood, you'll have to go through a different one."

Stewart has commissioned a company to produce a detailed map of the pipeline's current route in the city to better prepare his constituents for the issue. The pipeline enters Burnaby at Lougheed Town Centre mall, then runs through neighbourhoods including Forest Grove, Montecito, Sperling, Westridge, Capitol Hill and the Heights.

He noted that in the federal government's recent budget, it said it would make changes to the way people can participate in consultation processes in advance of major projects such as pipeline expansions.

"There is a distinct possibility a large number of people will be excluded from being heard at these hearings."

Meanwhile, until Kinder Morgan produces a detailed map of its proposed route, there is only uncertainty for homeowners.

"If you're trying to sell your home and you live on the Kinder Morgan pipeline route—because it's uncertain as to whether or not the pipeline is going to go beside your house or not—the property values are going to plummet."

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