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Kinder Morgan criticized for lack of detail on its Trans Mountain pipeline plan

Workers construct the pipeline in Jasper National Park, Alta., as part of the Anchor Loop Project in 2007-08.


Kinder Morgan Inc. has come under fire for the responses it has given to hundreds of questions filed with the National Energy Board concerning its Trans Mountain pipeline project, with Green Party MLA Andrew Weaver, the city and the provincial government all demanding the company be ordered to answer properly.

In a notice of motion filed with the NEB this week, Dr. Weaver claims Trans Mountain "has failed to provide full and adequate responses … [and] has made significant error in determining that the requested information is not relevant."

He requests that "Trans Mountain be compelled to provide full and adequate responses," to the many questions he posed not just as an MLA, but as a world-renowned climate scientist.

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In operation since 1953, Trans Mountain is the only pipeline delivering crude oil to the West Coast. It is operated by Houston-based Kinder Morgan, through its subsidiary, Trans Mountain Pipe Line Co. Ltd., which in December 2013 filed an application to the NEB to expand the pipeline.

The City of Vancouver has also complained, saying that the company failed to answer 145 of the 394 questions it submitted.

"Some key areas of concern include Trans Mountain's unwillingness to share important documents … such as its Emergency Management and Environmental Compliance plans," the city said in a news release. "The company also did not provide any details on what standards it used to determine the worst case spill scenario, a key concern for the City."

And on Friday, British Columbia filed a notice of motion asking the NEB for an order "that Trans Mountain provide a full and adequate response," to its questions.

The company, which has faced more than 10,000 questions from a wide range of intervenors since filing an application to twin its existing pipeline, feels it has answered adequately.

"Given the unprecedented volume of information requests, Trans Mountain believes it provided robust responses to the questions asked that were in the scope of the regulatory review," the company said in an e-mail to The Globe and Mail. "We understand some intervenors may not be satisfied with the answers provided and that is why the process allows for intervenors to make motions on the responses."

Earlier this year Dr. Weaver filed nearly 500 questions with the NEB, asking Trans Mountain to provide details on everything from the impacts of a spill on human health, to analyses of various spill scenarios and descriptions of risks along identified tanker routes.

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"A rather large number of these questions were dismissed, in particular the oceanographic questions. There are basically statements like 'we believe we submitted good modelling results and we're not planning to do any more.' That's hardly an answer to a question. You know I have a little bit of experience in ocean modelling," said Dr. Weaver, who, prior to election held the Canada Research Chair at the University of Victoria's School of Earth and Ocean Sciences. "And to have these essentially dismissed is unacceptable."

Dr. Weaver said in preparing the questions, he and three staff members poured over the pipeline proposal and then asked for more information on issues they felt the company had failed to adequately address.

But he said Kinder Morgan provided little additional information in its response.

"You get a sense that it was just [Kinder Morgan saying] 'we'll give the minimal response because we don't have respect for this process,' " said Dr. Weaver. "It's a box-ticking exercise for them."

In one question, Dr. Weaver asks for "a detailed and comprehensive description of any and all key geographic and geological factors along the tanker route that could contribute to a tanker incident or spill."

Kinder Morgan's answer: "The existing route is used by all ocean going ships calling the port of Vancouver … please refer to the appropriate navigation chart issued by the Canadian Hydrographic Service."

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In another question, Dr. Weaver asked Kinder Morgan to revise its oil response plan, which does not deal with sunken oil. Kinder Morgan replied that it "does not find any credible reason to revise the statement" because in tests "no oil was observed to sink."

But Dr. Weaver told the NEB a government study has shown diluted bitumen can sink and Kinder Morgan should be required to revise its plans.

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About the Author
National correspondent

Mark Hume is a National Correspondent for The Globe and Mail, based in Vancouver, writing news and feature stories on a daily basis about his home province of British Columbia. His weekly column, which often challenges the orthodoxy on environmental issues, appears every Monday. More


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