Mayors object to oil decision

Change could see more tanker traffic in Burrard Inlet

Burnaby mayor Derek Corrigan is disappointed that the National Energy Board is allowing Kinder Morgan to make more oil potentially available for tanker customers at the Westridge Marine Terminal without public consultation.

Corrigan was one of eight mayors, along with a group representing Gulf Islands municipalities, who sent a letter to the National Energy Board requesting a public consultation process for any expansion applications.

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"We are disappointed that the National Energy Board failed to hold public hearings in coastal communities prior to this approval, especially given that it opens the door for future expansion," Corrigan said in a press release. "We have made it clear that all future applications must provide ample opportunity for involvement by our residents and civic governments before any decision is made to expand crude oil flows and oil tanker traffic through Vancouver harbour."

Kinder Morgan operates the 1,150-kilometre Trans Mountain pipeline, which runs a daily maximum of 300,000 barrels of crude and refined oil from Alberta to Burnaby.

Most - about 83 per cent - goes to land-based customers (refineries in B.C. and Washington State), while the remaining 17 per cent can go to the Westridge Marine Terminal in North Burnaby for offshore exports.

Where the oil goes, on land or to the dock, depends on who bids the highest as part of a competitive bidding process between shippers.

The Dec. 1 National Energy Board decision partially changes that by allowing Kinder Morgan to offer "firm service" for tanker shippers (who sign longterm contracts) by allocating more oil to the terminal to guarantee those customers can access up to 54,000 barrels per day.

The approval does not necessarily mean an increase in how much oil is coming down the pipeline; it's just that more oil can be diverted to the dock if need be.

"These volumes have been moving across the dock in recent years already," said Kinder Morgan spokesperson Lexa Hobenshield.

In 2010, Kinder Morgan moved an average of 83,000 barrels per day across the dock at the Westridge Marine Terminal. The newly approved 54,000 barrels reserved for firm service plus an additional 25,000 barrels that could go either way, (to land-based customers or tankers, depending on who bids the highest) total 79,000, which Hobenshield pointed out is fewer than what was moved last year.

"It is simply an allocation, it will not likely reflect actual volumes year over year," Hobenshield said.

Ben West of the Wilderness Committee said the move will likely mean more tankers in the Burrard Inlet.

"My understanding is it's about 13 new tankers in the Inlet annually," he said. "It's a continuing expansion of Kinder Morgan's desire to turn the Inlet into an export facility."

Kinder Morgan's move to offer firm service is in response to increased demand at the Westridge dock.

Kinder Morgan consulted with commercial third parties but argued that public consultations weren't necessary because the application was for firm service only - not new facilities or pipeline expansions.

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