City needs pipeline guarantees: Abbotsford councillor

Kinder Morgan refutes report that expanded pipeline would cost city millions, but Coun. Patricia Ross says issues remain.

Kinder Morgan Canada's Trans Mountain pipeline runs for nearly 30 kilometres through Abbotsford.

The City of Abbotsford still has unresolved issues with Kinder Morgan Canada’s proposal to twin its Trans Mountain pipeline after the company’s latest submission to the National Energy Board last week.

And a local councillor says the company needs to do more to mitigate the effects of an expanded pipeline on both the environment and local coffers.

Kinder Morgan is proposing to twin the line to increase shipments of diluted bitumen from northern Alberta. The $5.4 billion expansion project would nearly triple the line’s capacity to 890,000 barrels per day. The proposal would also see the construction of an additional tank to the Sumas Pump Station and Terminal, bringing the total there to seven. Capacity at the terminal would increase from 715,000 to 890,000 barrels.

In May, a report suggested Abbotsford would incur $17 million in additional costs over the next 50 years to construct and maintain infrastructure impacted by the pipeline, which runs for nearly 30 kilometres through Abbotsford, crossing the Sumas Prairie, Sumas Mountain, the Matsqui Prairie and leaving the city in its far northwest corner.

Last week, Kinder Morgan replied to the study which was commissioned by five Lower Mainland municipalities as part of a multi-part response to the National Energy Board. The NEB was to hear evidence Monday, but that was postponed after concerns were raised about the appointment of a Kinder Morgan consultant to the board.

In its written response to the municipalities report last week, the company said the study was flawed and “based upon a number of unsubstantiated assumptions or incomplete information that undermines its validity and usability.”

The company said the report ignored taxes, fees and land rights payments it would pay municipalities, and doesn’t acknowledge construction practices and consultations with the municipalities aimed at mitigating and minimizing economic impacts. It also said that while the five municipalities have requested compensation for future potential costs, to pay more on top of the already-existing taxes and fees “would be discriminatory, as compared to how other similar utilities are treated.”

The company said it had promised to cover the costs for those cities that must modify their infrastructure to accommodate the pipeline, but that once in place, KM would look for reimbursement if asked to move its pipeline to accommodate new municipal infrastructure.

The company said the study “assumes that the municipalities make no efforts to mitigate any Trans Mountain related cost increases or damage through time.”

Kinder Morgan said it is working with Abbotsford to address concerns about the effect of pipelines on cleaning of drainage and irrigation infrastructure.

Kinder Morgan also suggested amendments to the draft list of conditions for approval of the project previously released by the National Energy Board.

Among those proposed revisions is a request to make changes to a suggested requirement that the company file a report demonstrating the ability of its design of its Sumas Terminal to withstand and contain a multiple-tank rupture during a once-in-100-years storm event.

Instead, Kinder Morgan said it should be required to complete a risk assessment that shows mitigation measures reduce the risk of off-site releases “As Low As Reasonably Practical.”

The company wrote that “requiring full containment capacity for all multiple-tank failure scenarios, concurrent with catastrophic storm events and firefighting events is a triple jeopardy approach, which is not necessary and excessively conservative for Sumas Terminal.”

City spokesperson Katherine Treloar said that while Kinder Morgan has resolved the bulk of the city’s issues, it has yet to receive a satisfactory response on concerns about the need for agreements for access to infrastructure along the pipeline’s route, the location of control valves that can be used to stop the flow in case of a leak, and the finalization of an emergency response plan.

Staff will update council at a meeting during the fall.

But Coun. Patricia Ross told The News that Kinder Morgan’s reply has failed to convince her that it has done enough to address concerns about the pipeline’s effect on the local environment and city coffers.

Ross questioned the company’s respect for the municipalities’ concerns, and said the city needs a written commitment to pay for ongoing extra costs and delays that will be incurred when new city infrastructure projects cross the pipeline.

“There’s a concern that local government autonomy has sort of been taken away by the National Energy Board,” she said, noting that permits and notifications are required for the city to maintain its own infrastructure that is near the pipeline.

Ross said the company must also do more to address concerns about its plans to mitigate the risks from a potential spill, particularly on Sumas Mountain, where a leak that occurred in 2012 was not detected immediately by the pipeline’s operator.

She said more control valves are also needed, to control any spill in the future.

“This is really important not only for the concerns of the public who live [on Sumas Mountain], but also for the biodiversity and the environment,” she said.

Ross also wants to know for certain that Kinder Morgan it will install its pipeline through the Sandy Hill neighbourhood without the disruptive practice of digging open trenches.

In its evidence to the NEB, the company said it “is still completing geotechnical studies that will inform the trenchless design team of the geological constraints for a possible trenchless solution through the Sandy Hills area.”

Again, Ross said the city needs a guarantee.

“We need a written commitment. We don’t need somebody verbally saying, ‘Yeah, we’ll probably do that.’ That’s not good enough.”