Kinder Morgan Canada’s president Ian Anderson may have misled potential investors in a statement released Thursday that claimed “execution planning is complete, our approvals are in hand” for the Trans Mountain pipeline, according to Ian Stephen, resident of Chilliwack B.C. and campaign director at the Waterwealth Project.
“We are now ready to commence construction activities this fall,” Anderson told the public this week during Kinder Morgan Canada’s $1.75 billion initial public offering — one of the largest offerings in Canada’s history — expect to close May 31.
But according to Stephen, Kinder Morgan is “misleading potential investors,” because the company has yet to receive National Energy Board approval for the Trans Mountain pipeline route through Chilliwack.
The company’s current plan routes the pipeline directly over the city’s aquifer, a source of drinking water for over 90,000 residents in Chilliwack and Yarrow.
“The key thing for me, and for most people in Chilliwack, is the aquifer. It’s our sole source of drinking water for one of the fastest growing communities in B.C.,” Stephen told DeSmog Canada.
Stephen said the original Trans Mountain pipeline was built in 1953, long before detailed knowledge of the aquifer was available. But now Kinder Morgan wants to add a second pipeline along the same corridor that falls within the city’s groundwater protected zone, Stephens said.
“But there are other issues too — the fact that the pipeline crosses two school yards and goes through dense residential neighbourhoods,” he said.
Majority of Statements of Opposition Filed with NEB from Chilliwack
More than 400 statements of opposition have been filed with the National Energy Board in response to the most recent Trans Mountain filing.
A total of 188 of those statements came from Chilliwack, including those from local residents, City Hall, the Chilliwack Chamber of Commerce and local First Nations.
“A high proportion of those letters of opposition came from Chilliwack,” Jason Lum, Chilliwack city councillor, told DeSmog Canada.
“People are paying close attention to this issue,” he said, adding alongside the city’s submission to the NEB, he submitted a personal letter requesting Trans Mountain consider alternate routes that don’t threaten the city’s aquifer as well as sensitive ecosystems such as the Brown Creek wetlands.
Lum added the pipeline route, as currently proposed, runs atop the water systems for both Chilliwack and Yarrow.
“What I hear predominantly from people, even from people staunchly supportive of the pipeline, is that it’s not a good idea to run a pipeline through a drinking water source.”
For Stephen, the large amount of statements of opposition from the community in Chilliwack, which Trans Mountain has yet to formally respond to, conflicts with Ian Anderson’s statement that “approvals are in hand.”
“The pipeline route has not been approved by the National Energy Board,” Stephen said. “And I’m quite confident it won’t be in Chilliwack.”
Chilliwack Residents Among Most Vocal Opponents of Trans Mountain
Residents of Chilliwack featured prominently in a November 2016 report released by a Trudeau-appointed ministerial panel tasked with conducting public hearings along the Trans Mountain pipeline route.
“I do not understand how the pipeline could have been allowed to be built across the aquifer in the first place,” Chilliwack resident Cary Stephen wrote in a submission to the panel.
“Perhaps they simply did not have knowledge of the aquifer in the 1950s. Perhaps they chose to believe that pipelines would never spill. In any case, it would be unthinkable to allow that mistake to be repeated now.”
The panel noted residents of Chilliwack and Abbotsford raised significant complaints about Trans Mountain’s performance managing the existing pipeline and preparation for the proposed expansion.
“Where ranchers from the Interior had praised Trans Mountain staff for being respectful and responsive, farmers in the Fraser Valley — many of whom said they support the pipeline in principle — posted a long list of complaints about the pipeline and the company’s general attitude,” the panel wrote.
The Collaborate Group of Landowners Affected by Pipelines (CGLAP) told the panel the current Trans Mountain pipeline “creates access and drainage problems, that it is frequently outside the legal right-of-way and is not always buried to the designated 60-centimetre depth, which makes it a hazard to cross with farm equipment.”
Despite these ongoing problems with the historic pipeline, in its efforts to secure a new pipeline route, Trans Mountain has “threatened and bullied” landowners, applying pressure to sign one-time bonuses in exchange for route access, according to Delwen Stander CGLAP legal counsel.
Trans Mountain Failed to Follow Procedure, May Face Delays
In addition to charged relationships with local residents in Chilliwack, Trans Mountain also failed to follow its own schedule for public comment periods, Stephen said.
Following submissions to the National Energy Board, Trans Mountain is legally required to make information available to the public as well as post schedules for public comment periods.
“Here in Chilliwack they were handing out these big full-page, colour flyers, delivered door to door just before the detailed route process and it said that other route locations are no longer under consideration,” Stephen said.
“People got the impression from that flyer the route is set and can’t be changed. That’s simply not true.”
“It’s aggravating that people would be misled like that just before a regulatory process starts up.”
Compounding that issue, Stephen said, Trans Mountain filed a schedule for public comment periods with the NEB but then failed to follow that schedule.
“So people may have filed late thinking they had more time than they did, or they thought they missed the deadline.”
Waterwealth filed a motion with the National Energy Board asking them to require a correction from Trans Mountain.
Depending on how the board rules, the period for public comment may reopen after new notices are published between May 29 and June 6, Stephen said.
“I expect the NEB will rule on that today, before the weekend,” he said.
Image: Mychaylo Prystupa/Vancouver Observer