Transporting oil is a risky venture. Period.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Surrey Now
By Ben West
June 21, 2012

With all due respect to Keith Baldrey, I have to disagree with the characterization of the Houston-based corporation Kinder Morgan as "touting a good safety record" in his recent column, "Spill heats up pipeline politics in B.C.," (June 12).

For starters, it is disingenuous for Kinder Morgan to take credit for the Trans Mountain pipeline's safety record in the period before it owned the pipeline.

The pipeline was built long before it was bought by Kinder Morgan CEO Richard Kinder and his partner Bill Morgan - both former Enron executives who left before the U.S. energy giant collapsed.

They acquired one of Enron's subsidiary companies, Enron Liquids Pipeline LLP, which later became Kinder Morgan.

Kinder Morgan bought the Trans Mountain Pipeline in 2005, when the pipeline was already 60 years old.

So what about Kinder Morgan's safety record since it bought the pipeline?

Well, of course, most people in B.C. might remember the oil spill in Burnaby in 2007.

But that hasn't been the only incident on this line, even in the short time Kinder Morgan has owned it.

The year it bought the pipeline, there was a significant spill at a storage facility on Sumas Mountain, spilling approximately 210,000 litres of oil into a local creek. Another spill took place at the same location last January, keeping children indoors for fear of airborne toxins.

Not long after that incident, there was a fire and explosion at the Cherry Point refinery, which is serviced by the same pipeline.

There was also a leak at the company's Burnaby Mountain storage tank in 2009, and the pipeline was briefly shut off that summer when spilled oil was reported close to the Alberta border. All these incidents were associated with the same pipeline, over a relatively short period of time.

The bottom line is that transporting oil is a dangerous business, and no one can claim to be able to do it without incident.

Even if Kinder Morgan had been lucky enough to not have any major incidents, it still wouldn't make this new pipeline a good idea.

Just because Kinder Morgan bought an old existing pipeline that has largely been used to serve our local consumption over the last half century, it doesn't mean it should get the green light to build a new pipeline to export oil along the same route.

This route could go through the fields and backyards of many people across the Fraser Valley and the Lower Mainland, in areas far more heavily populated than when the pipeline was first built.

If the folks at Kinder Morgan think they will have an easier time getting this pipeline built than the Enbridge pipeline, they are sorely mistaken.

A version of this letter also appeared in the Vancouver Courier on June 27, 2012, and in the North Shore News on July 11, 2012.

Photo: An aerial view of the 2007 spill in Burnaby, which covered a residential neighbourhood in oil.

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