A dozen Burnaby residents want the chance to intervene in National Energy Board hearings for a commercial tolling application linked to Kinder Morgan's pipeline expansion plan.
"We're not going to passively sit by while you guys jam a pipeline down our throats," said Forest Grove resident Lou Kaiser. "We are just a bunch of neighbourhood people. We are not corporations. We just want to live peacefully in our neighbourhood."
Kaiser is one of 11 people and one housing co-op represented by Ecojustice, a group of lawyers and environmental activists. Ecojustice submitted a July 20 letter to the National Energy Board, formally asking that the residents be allowed to participate in the hearings as intervenors.
According to Kaiser, the group of residents (many of whom are neighbours) banded together after attending community meetings on Kinder Morgan's expansion plan.
The company wants to twin the existing pipeline, more than doubling capacity, from 300,000 barrels of oil per day to 750,000. The current line, in place since the 1950s, transports various oil products from Alberta to Burnaby and runs through the Forest Grove neighbourhood at the base of Burnaby Mountain, just 30 feet from Kaiser's home.
Kaiser is worried Kinder Morgan will create a larger right-of-way and remove trees or even homes.
"We are also concerned about the safety hazards of a pipeline in the neighbourhood," Kaiser said. "Most people don't want to be living next to a pipeline, let alone a dual pipeline."
According to Kaiser, the pipeline was originally built for sweet crude to supply local refineries. Kinder Morgan's expansion is tied to the rising demand for Canadian crude in Asia and, if the pipeline goes through, much of the oil will likely be diluted bitumen for export to Asia.
"They're going to be making millions of dollars transporting this sludge to China or wherever," he said.
But Kinder Morgan's commercial tolling application is not about the pipeline expansion or route of the twin line; it's a hearing to seek approval from the National Energy Board on how much the company can charge its customers. (Kinder Morgan doesn't own or sell the oil, it just charges companies a toll to use the pipeline.)
"One of the ways of addressing the concern is making sure Kinder Morgan has liabilities to cover the kind of potential damages that arise in the event of an interruption, and this will force them to include that in their rates," Kaiser said. "That way, their rates are going to have to increase to address that. We want insurance from Kinder Morgan in the case of any kind of problems (that) there are adequate funds to cover any kind of damages that occur. That means that's going to have to be paid for by whoever's using the pipeline."
Kinder Morgan already had a spill in Burnaby in 2007, when a city-hired work crew accidentally broke the pipeline, releasing 224,000 litres of oil.
Kinder Morgan spokesperson Lexa Hobenshield said it's up to the National Energy Board to decide what the process will be.
"We will abide by all regulations and requirements that are set out by the National Energy Board. We look forward to meeting with the local stakeholders and listen(ing) to their concerns," she said.
The National Energy Board is still reviewing Kinder Morgan's application. As for when the hearings start and who will be allowed to participate, details will be announced online at www.neb-one.gc.ca.