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Politicians demand to be consulted on pipeline plan

Jan 13 2012

The spectre of oil lapping into Botanical Beach pools or coating nooks and crannies on Gulf Island beaches is prompting more southern Vancouver Island politicians to demand consultation on pipeline expansion.

Kinder Morgan is considering asking the National Energy Bard for permission to twin its 1,150 kilometre Trans Mountain pipeline, which runs from Alberta to Westridge Marine Terminal in Burnaby.

That would at least double the capacity to 600,000 barrels a day, increasing the number of tankers travelling under the Second Narrows Bridge, to the southern Gulf Islands and Juan de Fuca Strait.

"We haven't made an application to the National Energy Board yet. Right now, our first step is making sure we have commercial support from our customers," said Kinder Morgan spokeswoman Lexa Hobenshield.

The period of asking for binding commitments from customers has been extended until mid-February, she said.

If the company does proceed with a twinning application, there will be full consultation and a decision is likely to be several years away, Hobenshield said.

In the meantime, Kinder Morgan was given the go-ahead last month to increase the capacity of oil going from Westridge to offshore buyers.

The potential changes are not sitting well with Sooke Mayor Wendal Milne or Juan de Fuca electoral area director Mike Hicks, who have both written to federal Environment Minister Peter Kent.

"Our community is dependent on the pristine natural state of the shoreline and ocean for our livelihood," says the letter from Milne, sent this week.

Military vessels, freighters and oil tankers already travel through the strait, he said.

"There have been a number of near misses recorded in recent years, so I believe it is inevitable that a major collision will occur in the future," the letter says.

"Increasing the number of oil tankers by five times will only bring that inevitable disaster to our shores sooner."

A major problem is the lack of capacity to respond to even a small spill, let alone a spill four times the magnitude of the Exxon Valdez spill, Milne said in an interview.

Those potentially affected by a disaster need to be involved in the decision making process, he said.

"Until they embark on a process of meaningful consultation, we are opposed to any increased oil tanker traffic through the Strait of Juan de Fuca."

Last year, the number of tanker trips from Westridge Terminal dropped to 29 from 71 in 2010, but it is not known how many tankers would travel the route if the pipeline is twinned.

Customers decide whether the oil goes to U.S refineries or Asia, Hobenshield said.

Hicks said all eyes are currently on the Enbridge pipeline hearings and Kinder Morgan should be getting as much attention.

Juan de Fuca residents must be consulted, he said.

"Why are they having hearings in Kitimat and not having a public hearing in Shirley. This is just as serious here," he said.

In a letter to Kent, Hicks said more crude oil tanker traffic will increase the odds of an environmental catastrophe by the Swiftsure Bank, a treasure trove of marine life.

Transport Canada's positioning of a buoy has already forced all Seattle and Vancouver freighter traffic into a two-mile corridor directly over the bank, Hicks said in the letter.

"Without Canadian pilots on board, a major collision is inevitable."

Hicks and Milne join First Nations and mayors and from throughout Greater Victoria and Vancouver who want more consultation on Kinder Morgan's plans.

Eric Swanson, of Dogwood Initiative, said a twinned Kinder Morgan pipeline would have more capacity than the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline.

"We are opposed to the expansion of oil tanker traffic anywhere on B.C.'s coast," he said.


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