Burnaby asks 1,500 pipeline questions

A tanker at the dock at Westridge Terminal in Burnaby. Kinder Morgan is seeking to almost triple the capacity of its pipeline between Edmonton and Burnaby. - Photo courtesy of Kinder Morgan Canada
A tanker at the dock at Westridge Terminal in Burnaby. Kinder Morgan is seeking to almost triple the capacity of its pipeline between Edmonton and Burnaby.
— image credit: Photo courtesy of Kinder Morgan Canada

When it comes to "what ifs" in the proposal to expand the Trans Mountain pipeline, the City of Burnaby has come up with a doozy: What if city fire crews aren't available in an emergency?

That's among the 1,500 questions the city posed in a 300-page "information request" to the National Energy Board (NEB) in its role as an intervenor in the pipeline application. Kinder Morgan proposes almost tripling capacity of its pipeline between Edmonton and Burnaby to allow for increased overseas exports of oil sands crude.

"Trans Mountain seems to have assumed in its application that the City of Burnaby would be largely responsible for fire, police, health and emergency services," the city says in an excerpt from its submission.

However, the company has not consulted with the city or secured any agreements for that to happen, it says.

From the city's point of view, the company should be looking after its own emergency response using its own resources. For the record, Burnaby city hall is officially opposed to the project, and its line of questioning shows it.

Several questions suggest the tank farm at the company's Burnaby Terminal is in the worst possible location, being on a steep slope, near residential neighbourhoods.

For instance, "Please provide an assessment using a worst-case scenario should a fire/explosion fully engulf the expanded Burnaby Terminal while it was filled to maximum capacity."

Another suggests the company's Edmonton Strathcona facility is much better located as in, "Why is Burnaby being chosen for a location that is inferior to that of Edmonton?"

It also asks why Kinder Morgan has seemingly underestimated the cost of an oil spill. It notes that Enbridge has estimated its cleanup of a spill of diluted bitumen—the same type of product Trans Mountain will carry—in the Kalamazoo River at $725 million. But Kinder Morgan estimates a spill on its expanded pipeline would cost $100 million to $300 million.

At Monday's council meeting, Mayor Derek Corrigan said to those who say the city's submission is excessive, he reminds them the company's application is 15,000 pages. That works out to "one question for every 10 pages."

Coun. Colleen Jordan noted that city staff were given a tight timeframe, a little over a month, to produce the submission. "It was a tremendous amount of work in a tremendously short period of time."

Coun. Pietro Calendino added that the city submitted so many questions because the NEB is no longer allowing oral presentations, and is only taking written submissions.

Corrigan cautioned people to not be apathetic. "I don't want anyone to think they don't have any skin in the game because they're not directly impacted, they do. It's their whole city that will be impacted by this decision."

He said he knows few people have faith that "a little city like ours" can fight off a multinational oil company and the federal government.

"But if anybody can do it, it'll be Burnaby. We will continue to fight the good fight."

Kinder Morgan is required to respond to the City of Burnaby’s information request by June 13.

Meanwhile, for anyone wanting to see Kinder Morgan's application, Burnaby's Bob Prittie Metrotown library branch is one of only two places—the other is in Abbotsford—where a print copy is available, all 41 volumes of it.

Numerous libraries also have electronic versions available on USB flash drives and it's also available on the Internet. For more see:

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