In Support of Burnaby Mountain

On Saturday afternoon, I attended a rally in support of the Burnaby residents who are protesting Texas-based multi-national Kinder-Morgan’s TransMountain Pipeline Project. It isn’t the first time I’ve stood as  part of a small crowd in wind and snow, but even in the cold, I was warmed by the words of First Nations elder Taz Bouchier. Taz spoke about our connection to the Earth, the land and the water. She spoke about protecting the land for future generations and standing in solidarity with other First Nations affected by the pipeline.


Taz Bouchier Photo courtesy of Katrina Armstrong

The Tsleil-Waututh Nation and the Squamish Nation — among others — oppose Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Pipeline, but it isn’t just First Nations who oppose the project. Over 70% of Burnaby residents voted against Kinder-Morgan’s work, work that would ultimately see Kinder-Morgan’s pipeline run through protected land. Since Kinder-Morgan received a court injunction against the protestors, dozens have been arrested, including David Suzuki’s grandson Tamo Campos.

David Suzuki has been on site lending his voice to the protestors. After his grandson’s arrest, he thanked the protestors: “If we continue to look at the world and the land around is just in terms of dollars and cents, we are going to destroy the very things that make that land so precious to us, the very things that keep us alive and healthy,” he said. Author J.B. McKinnon, well-known activist Brigitte DePape, poet and SFU professor Stephen Collis, and SFU scientist Lynn Quarmby were also arrested along with 74-year-old, Della, the 74th person arrested on the mountain, and Bob Kull, the professor who taught me Systems Thinking during my time at Royal Roads University. (Bob wrote a piece for the Vancouver Observer about his experience getting arrested.) These are not radicals or extremists like some would have us believe. These are intelligent, thoughtful, respected, hardworking people who place value on the very thing that gives us food, air, water and life: our Earth.


74-year-old Della

Along with his constituents, Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan has fiercely opposed Kinder Morgan’s plan. In a letter to the residents of Burnaby, he addressed the issues eloquently and concisely. The letter reflects a reality that many of us are likely to face in the future. I’ve reproduced it in its entirety below:

Dear Neighbour (and we mean it!),

Recently, many Burnaby residents received a “Dear Neighbour” letter from Kinder Morgan, regarding elements of the company’s proposal to build a pipeline, storage tanks and docks in Burnaby for the transport and storage of unrefined bitumen oil. This oil is all for shipment to offshore markets. None is for use in Burnaby, British Columbia or Canada.

The City of Burnaby is officially opposed to this proposal because of the damage it would do to our city –during and after construction – and because of the long-term safety risks it poses to residents and the environment. In their “Dear Neighbour” letter, Kinder Morgan says that if the City of Burnaby continues to stop them from cutting down more trees in the City’s Burnaby Mountain Conservation Area, the company may “have to pursue our alternate route through city streets in the Westridge neighbourhood.”

The fact is that Kinder Morgan doesn’t “have to” pursue any route through our city. They are choosing to do so. Burnaby opposes this project, regardless of where Kinder Morgan proposes to put the pipeline. It is not a facility we want. We will continue to work with our citizens to stop this pipeline, its storage tanks and its supertanker transport docks from coming to Burnaby.

In response to the letter, I would like to clarify a number of facts regarding the Kinder Morgan proposal and its potential impacts on our city.

Kinder Morgan describes their pipeline as a twinning.

In fact, in Burnaby 90% of the proposed line would follow a completely new route. It would carry unrefined oil products, not the refined (and less toxic) products carried in the existing line. It would result in a tripling of the capacity of oil stored on Burnaby Mountain and seven times the number of tankers carrying the oil (up to 580,000 barrels in each tanker) through Burrard inlet. The 890,000 barrels-per-day of oil it would carry would be for export, not for use anywhere in Canada. In no way would this pipeline resemble the existing line.

Kinder Morgan says they are your neighbour

Kinder Morgan is a Houston-based, multinational energy company. Its founder, chair and CEO – former Enron executive Richard Kinder, one of the richest men in America – is not our neighbour. He left Enron to start his investment company. His energy operations began with the purchase of Enron Liquids Pipeline.

Kinder Morgan says Trans Mountain has “been operating safely in your community since 1953.”

They have not! Kinder Morgan didn’t purchase the Trans Mountain pipeline until 2005. Since then, they have had a number of large spills, one of the most significant of which was in 2007 in Burnaby and saw a neighbourhood drenched in 1,572 barrels of crude oil, some of which flowed all the way to Burrard Inlet. Emergency evacuation of 250 Burnaby residents was required and 50 residential properties were affected. The spill entered the Burrard Inlet through a storm sewer and affected 1,200 metres of shoreline, impacting ecosystems and wildlife. The Transportation Safety Board ruled that the spill was the fault of Kinder Morgan and two contracting companies.

Kinder Morgan says this pipeline would provide economic benefits for Burnaby.

It would not. Though short-term jobs would be created in pipeline construction, there is no guarantee that any of these jobs would be for local workers. The number of long-term jobs that would be created is insignificant. Kinder Morgan president, Ian Anderson, has admitted this fact.

The economic value of any taxes Kinder Morgan would pay would not offset the negative economic impacts to other businesses and the significant permanent limitations the pipeline right-of-way would put on land-use opportunities.

Burnaby has long-term plans – developed with our citizens – for town centre, transportation, residential and recreational developments. All would be severely negatively impacted by the pipeline, tank farm and docks.

Given the planned and potential economic development opportunities that would be eliminated, the taxes Kinder Morgan would pay would not compensate for the permanent damage the project would cause – even without the devastating economic, social and environmental impacts of an oil spill or tank farm fire.

Kinder Morgan told the National Energy Board that Burnaby’s request to hold a hearing locally (not in Calgary), to enable Burnaby citizens and businesses to participate, is “just another attempt by Burnaby to delay and obstruct.”

This is astonishing. Burnaby believes it is critical to ensure citizens can participate in the National Energy Board review process. We therefore requested that the National Energy Board hold a hearing in Burnaby or Vancouver. Kinder Morgan called our request “an attempt to delay and obstruct.”

The hearing then took place on October 9 in Calgary to determine whether or not Kinder Morgan can continue to break Burnaby’s bylaws and cut down trees in our Burnaby Mountain Conservation Area to enable Kinder Morgan to create a helicopter staging area and to drill bore holes for a project that has not been subject to public hearings and has not been deemed by any local, regional, provincial or federal government in Canada to be in the public interest.

Kinder Morgan says the route that would include tunnelling through Burnaby Mountain is now their preferred route.

Kinder Morgan has changed their stated route preference several times. After the change to Burnaby Mountain, the National Energy Board postponed the project hearings by seven months, as citizens who would be directly affected because of the change had been given no opportunity to participate in the hearings.

We believe that Kinder Morgan’s repeated preferred route changes are designed to divide our community and to enable them to say they are responding to public input. We expect their route preferences to continue to change.

Kinder Morgan says they are “committed” to “fully restore” any areas they disturb.

This is not possible. The damage done as a result of Kinder Morgan’s initial survey work has had far-reaching damaging effects on the Mountain. Further drilling and tunnelling work would cause much greater irreparable damage to the conservation area. Certified arborists described the damage from Kinder Morgan’s initial survey, saying: “The impact of this action will be felt for many years to come and will extend much further than the direct area of intrusion…The removal of 6 mature live alders and 7 wildlife trees has had an immediate visual and ecological impact on the Site 1 K.M.C. Drilling Location. There will also be long term effects of such a high level of disturbance that will be felt in the immediate area and surrounding areas downhill.

“None of the trees removed, live or wildlife, posed any kind of risk or hazard to the public. There were no trails or structures which would have been impacted by the standing wildlife trees.”

Even though Kinder Morgan’s proposal is not approved and has not been deemed by any government to be in the public interest, to fund the current application Kinder Morgan received National Energy Board approval in 2011 to charge a $1.45/barrel surcharge to shippers on oil shipped through their existing pipeline.

When the oil is refined and shipped back to Canada to be sold, the price at our local gas pumps will reflect the cost of this federal-government approved Kinder Morgan subsidy. It’s estimated that this will result in an increase in our local gas prices of approximately one cent per litre.

Kinder Morgan Canada President Ian Anderson later explained the deal to his investors by stating that if “the project doesn’t succeed or we don’t get the permits, all the development costs are being covered by the firm service fees that we are collecting so there is no risk there to us.”

Who covers the cost? Consumers, not Kinder Morgan or its investors.

Kinder Morgan says, “We have had close to 150 early interactions with the City of Burnaby, but have yet to receive constructive feedback that would enable us to refine our routing based on the City’s preferences.”

The City of Burnaby has no interest in refining routing. We have made it clear to Kinder Morgan that no route through our city is acceptable.

When we did attempt to offer Kinder Morgan feedback about the project, asking 1,700 questions through the regulatory review process to attempt to clarify what they are proposing to do, where they are proposing to do it and the nature of the risks, the company chose not to answer 62% of our questions and gave partial answers to 14%. Kinder Morgan said most of the City of Burnaby’s questions were not relevant.

In fact, the questions we asked are fundamental to attempting to ensure the safety of our citizens and our community. For example, we asked for Kinder Morgan’s Emergency Response Plan for the Burnaby Terminal. In response, Kinder Morgan told us that the plan is confidential and that they won’t provide the plan unless stipulated conditions are met, including Burnaby being willing to respond to any kind of event associated with the Trans Mountain Pipeline system within our jurisdiction – and signing a confidentiality agreement! In other words, we have to accept the project in our community before Kinder Morgan will share with us critical information that would allow us to assess its safety. That’s absurd – and Kinder Morgan has since been ordered by the National Energy Board to provide the plan. Hundreds of other questions critical to Burnaby citizens, however, remain unanswered by Kinder Morgan.

One interaction Kinder Morgan had with a citizen was to alert the RCMP to the fact that she had been taking photos of the Burnaby Mountain tank farm. Police responded by going to the home of this citizen, saying they believed she may have posed a security threat.

The RCMP said this action was taken because the Burnaby Mountain tank farm is a potential terrorist target. If this is the case, why is Kinder Morgan proposing to triple the size of this terrorist target in a densely populated urban area on a hill above homes, businesses and critical waterways?

Kinder Morgan says they are looking to reinforce their “rights” to undertake the destructive work they call “studies” in the Burnaby Mountain Conservation Area.

We are looking to enforce the bylaws that clearly prohibit these destructive “studies” – to protect the conservation area our citizens have told us they want to protect.

With this project proposal, Kinder Morgan is demanding that Burnaby – and Metro Vancouver – accept most of the impacts and risks. Kinder Morgan even refused to confirm that it would guarantee supply from its proposed line for Burnaby’s Chevron refinery. Their focus is on maximizing profits, regardless of the many significant costs and damage to our community.

Our concerns are compounded by the fact that the National Energy Board has said that it will not be hearing evidence, and that Burnaby and other intervenors will not have opportunities in the NEB hearing to question Kinder Morgan. Their draft conditions suggest that Kinder Morgan will receive approval for its project, before having to address any of the fire, safety and routing issues that will be raised by Burnaby and other intervenors in the pre-approval hearing process.

I am very pleased that at September’s Union of British Columbia Municipalities meeting that brings together Mayors and Councils from throughout the province, delegates passed three emergency resolutions regarding their concerns about Kinder Morgan’s proposal – one demanding restoration of a full National Energy Board public hearing process for this project; one to compel Trans Mountain and all other pipeline operators shipping diluted bitumen, to provide site specific consequence analyses and response plans and tactics for submerged and sunken oil to be subject to public review and approval by impacted communities; and one asking the Province of British Columbia to undertake its own Environmental Assessment process for the Trans Mountain Expansion Project, which should include sufficient opportunity for meaningful participation by all interested British Columbians.

The delegates’ support for these emergency resolutions demonstrates clearly that concerns about Kinder Morgan’s proposal are not limited to just a few cities. They are shared by communities throughout the province. Their votes mark an important milestone in ensuring our shared, wide-ranging concerns about both the deeply flawed hearing process and the proposal itself are heard and acknowledged by the federal government and the National Energy Board.

The City of Burnaby will continue to represent its citizens’ interests as we move through this process. We look forward to continuing to hear from you directly, via a dedicated Burnaby telephone line at 604-297-4400, or email to


Derek R. Corrigan


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