The delayed review of the twinning of the Trans Mountain Pipeline has also snarled negotiations between Kinder Morgan Canada and a group of Fraser Valley landowners, according to the group’s president.
Peter Reus, a Sumas Prairie grower who heads the Collaborative Group of Landowners Affected by Pipelines (CGLAP), said talks between the two parties continue to be stuck on his group’s insistence on ongoing annual payments.
Construction on the proposed pipeline had initially been pegged to begin in 2016, which had Reus confident an agreement could be reached soon. He says more than 60 kilometres of the Trans Mountain pipeline cross 79 different properties owned by CGLAP members around the valley. But the National Energy Board’s (NEB) review of the pipeline was delayed in September after a consultant for Kinder Morgan Canada was hired by the NEB. The newly elected Liberal government has also promised to strengthen the review process, and, even pending NEB approval, construction on the pipeline is unlikely to begin until 2017.
That, Reus said, has lessened the momentum towards a deal.
“I think if construction would have been in 2016 we would have reached an agreement by the end of the year.”
The current pipeline sits on a right-of-way owned by the company, although Reus says that right-of-way was agreed to in 1952 regarding the present pipeline, not a future one.
“This is a completely new thing,” he said.
Earlier this year, Reus told The News the existing pipeline, which dates back 62 years, has long been a “hassle” for property owners. Reus said farmers have to call the pipeline company and wait for their assistance with any plowing below 30 centimetres. That can take time, he said, and can be problematic when a farmer hopes to take advantage of a small window of good weather to get a crop in.
He said it’s in the company’s interest to work with the group, and said he’s confident a deal will be reached, even though the current state of negotiations is “disappointing.”
“I think it is very good PR for them if they can sign with a group of 80 landowners.”
Kinder Morgan has been receptive to the owners’ issues, and has promised to bury the new expanded pipeline – which will be constructed 20 feet away from the existing pipe – significantly deeper. Carey Johannesson, Kinder Morgan Canada’s project lead for land and right-of-way, said they’ve also agreed to hire an “agriculture monitor” to ensure construction doesn’t harm the ability to grow on the land.
Johannesson said the company has had a fruitful relationship with CGLAP, but that the sticking point remains a financial agreement.
He said the company’s previous right-of-way agreement gives it the legal ability to expand its pipeline through most of its route, but that Kinder Morgan has agreed to “essentially repurchase” the land.
“To maintain good relations with the landowners in the long term, we think, is the best thing we can do,” he said. Johannesson said he expected discussions to continue.
Despite the differences over payments, Reus said the two sides remain talking and hope to resolve the issues soon.
“From the onset we have said we are not against it, but it still our land and they want something from us.”