Washington State has documents outlining emergency response plans for a Kinder Morgan pipeline – plans similar to those British Columbians have been told by Canada's National Energy Board they're not allowed to see due to security concerns.
The B.C. government lost a battle with the National Energy Board in January to have greater access to Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain pipeline emergency response plan (ERP). Kinder Morgan had already provided B.C. with a version of the plan, but significant portions were blacked out.
The denied information included specific response times, valve locations, and evacuation zone maps. The government had argued it needed the entire plan to be able to understand Kinder Morgan's ability to respond to an oil spill. The proposed $6.5-billion Trans Mountain expansion would twin the pipeline and triple the capacity for Alberta oil intended for Asian markets.
But in Washington State – where the pipeline would cross through to Puget Sound – Kinder Morgan has provided a more comprehensive response plan.
NDP environment critic Spencer Chandra Herbert wants to know why a similarly detailed plan isn't available for B.C. residents.
"We need to be able to get at least the information they are providing in Washington State," he said.
The U.S. plan includes information on response timelines, the availability of emergency equipment near specific pipeline sections, and a list of companies that could help out after an oil spill.
In one example, a company called BakerCorp is identified as being able to deliver "21,000 gallon tanks to a spill site within 12 hours," and having enough pumps and hose to remove 6,300 gallons of oil per minute.
Yet in B.C., the energy board rejected B.C.'s demand for a complete response plan, citing sensitive information that could cause "security concerns."
A link to the Washington State ERP was available online recently at DeSmog Canada, but has since been deactivated by state officials.
The emergency plans were only to be online between Jan. 9 and Feb. 9 during a public consultation, said Scott Zimmerman from the Washington State Department of Ecology, but they were accidentally left up until Feb.18.
The U.S. plan details further information about "unique" sections of the pipeline. These include the location of shutoff valves, areas where the pipeline crosses water, peak volumes, and the thickness of pipeline walls.
In the event of an emergency, 48-hour timelines are also presented for each section of the pipeline, with descriptions of the type of equipment and number of people needed – as well as how much oil could be recovered immediately after a spill.
On the Samish River – a location identified as "Zone 3," about 40 kilometres south of Bellingham – Kinder Morgan estimated it could have 18 people and 600 metres of containment boom available within two hours of a spill.
A spokesman with the B.C. Mines Ministry did not respond directly when asked for an opinion on the plan's availability in Washington State.
But the B.C. government has been aware since last year that a version of the plan was available to the Americans. B.C. argued in its motion to the NEB asking for the public release of the information that keeping it secret in B.C. is "inexplicable."
It "calls into serious question the legitimacy of Trans Mountain's claim," reads the B.C. government motion.
In the same motion, the province said history showed the possibility of a spill from Trans Mountain facilities.
"The potential for devastating effects on the environment, human health, and local economies is irrefutable," it said.
In 2007, a spill released about 1,500 barrels of oil in a Burnaby neighbourhood, with 440 barrels flowing into the Burrard Inlet.