Kinder Morgan presses pause on pipeline project

By on April 11, 2018
On April 8, Kinder Morgan Canada announced all non-essential work on the Trans Mountain expansion project would be halted until May 31. (Photo courtesy of Kinder Morgan Canada, graphic by Cole Wagner/Herald).


by Dara Hill

Kinder Morgan Canada announced the company would be suspending non-essential work on their Trans Mountain pipeline project on April 8.

“Under current circumstances, specifically including the continued actions in opposition to the project by the province of British Columbia, it will not commit additional shareholder resources to the project,” stated a press release from the company.

The company will continue consulting with their stakeholders in an effort to reach agreements by May 31, the release went on to state.

“The focus in those consultations will be on two principles: clarity on the path forward, particularly with respect to the ability to construct through B.C.; and, adequate protection of KML shareholders,” they wrote.

In response to the announcement, B.C. Premier John Horgan said the federal process failed to consider B.C.’s interests and the risk to the province.

”We believe we need to grow the economy, while protecting the environment. We want to work to address these challenges together,” he said. “But we will always stand up for British Columbians, our environment and the thousands of jobs that depend on our coast.”

Merritt Mayor Neil Menard told the Herald he’s disappointed with the news.

“We’re very supportive of the pipeline — we’re strong believers it’s the safest way to move oil right across the country,” he said. “But I think we have to be understanding, too, because [Kinder Morgan’s] been putting up with an awful lot of pressure and costs that are, in my mind, unnecessary in order for them to proceed with the pipeline.”

The City of Merritt signed an impact benefit agreement with Kinder Morgan in 2015, which would provide the city with $420,000.

“They’ve made some commitments to us for some dollars for the community. The support that’s going to be here for them when they come through — with the workers, camps, hotels, restaurants — will be very beneficial for our community. We were looking forward to it,” Menard  said.

Menard told the Herald the pipeline will have a positive impact on both the province and our community.

“I think the people on the coast should be not only concerned about themselves but they should be concerned about the welfare of the entire province which will benefit substantially from this pipeline,” he explained. “We’re hoping they can work out whatever their difficulties are and proceed with the pipeline.”

Local bands skeptical that recess will lead to end of project

Lower Nicola Indian Band Chief Aaron Sumexheltza. (Photo contributed).

Lower Nicola Band (LNIB) Chief Aaron Sumexheltza said he’s not entirely surprised by the recess.

“Ever since the provincial government expressed their opposition to the project there has been some uncertainty in regards to whether it would go ahead or not,” he said.

The proposed route of the twinned pipeline would cross seven reserve territories in B.C., three of which are utilized by the Lower Nicola Indian Band.

LNIB voted in favour of signing a conditional Mutual Benefits Agreement (MBA) with Kinder Morgan in 2017. As part of the agreement with the band, Kinder Morgan will make several payments over the life of the 20-year deal.

The agreement also contains benefits such as having LNIB-approved environmental monitors on site during all construction in LNIB territory, and employment and training opportunities for band members.

“It looks like it may be in trouble — it’s definitely not a done deal,” Sumexheltza said.

The Coldwater Indian Band has lingering concerns with the project, Chief Lee Spahan told the Herald, including the risk of contamination in the band’s sole water source and a lack of consultation throughout the process.

The May 31 deadline set by the Trans Mountain to resolve issues between B.C. and Canada is meaningless for Coldwater, said Spahan. The band is currently waiting for a decision from the Federal Court of Appeal regarding the Trans Mountain easement, as well as an impact and risks study of their aquifer.

“The decision pending from the Federal Court of Appeal — we’re waiting for the decision. The court’s decision may or may not come by the 31, but we’re looking forward to hearing the court’s decision either way as it will provide some clarity on the issues of significant importance and concerns to us,” he said.

Coldwater Chief Lee Spahan at a press conference announcing his band’s court challenge of the Trans Mountain pipeline project. (Photo courtesy of Hayley Lohn).

Spahan also confirmed the impact and risks to their aquifer are still being studied.

“The required study for our aquifer will not be completed by May 31. Baseline data about our aquifer is still being gathered but we still don’t know what the results of the study are, and won’t for some time,” he said.

He noted Coldwater is not to blame for the delay.

“The fact that the hydrogeologic study of our water aquifer is far from finished is because of Trans Mountain own doing. Trans Mountain refused to study our aquifer in the National Energy process,” he said. “Over the last year and a half they have tried to take shortcuts with the study and even contravened our agreed-upon process for the study, causing further delay while things were set back on the agreed-upon course.”

While much remains undecided, Spahan notes the protection of their water has been a top priority expressed by his band.

“Right from the beginning they’ve stated the protection of our water needs to happen, as water is life — water is sacred. Without water, nothing can survive and that’s why we need to protect it for now and for the future generations,” he said.

Spahan noted he doesn’t think Kinder Morgan, nor the federal government, have adequately consulted with the band regarding the pipeline.

“Justin Trudeau — he talks about the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and implementing that. He talks about that and going on a government-to-government basis with First Nations, but yet that still doesn’t happen,” he said. “He goes ahead and approves the pipeline without proper consultation — there has to be trust and respect, and the way it happened, I don’t trust the Canadian government. And that respect doesn’t seem to be there because they’re not respecting our title and our rights.”

As for the future of the pipeline, Spahan hasn’t ruled out further resistance.

“Waiting for the decision to come down, and which way it goes — will Coldwater have to do what Standing Rock did, to protect the water? That direction will come from the membership,” he said.

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