NEB concerned about tank farm fire safety plan

Standoff with Kinder Morgan and fire department leaves no clear plan to deal with major oil fire

The National Energy Board appears to be stepping into the longstanding fray over who would respond to a major petroleum fire at Kinder Morgan’s Burnaby Mountain tank farm.

While on tour in the Lower Mainland, NEB chair Peter Watson told the NOW the board would get involved.

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“Absolutely we would, because we wouldn’t want anything to occur that would put the public at risk associated with that facility that we regulate,” Watson said. “We will require that the company has an adequate plan to respond to it. As part of that, they would need to understand what the role of the local fire department is and isn’t and how that would unfold.”

If a major fire were to break out at the tank farm, the Burnaby fire department has said its role is to help supply water and protect the surrounding community, as their staff are not trained to handle large oil fires. However, Kinder Morgan has indicated staff would phone the fire department for help.

Last Friday, Watson said he would follow up and meet with the city administration, including the first responders.

“Let’s make sure we’re clear on roles and responsibilities, because I’m absolutely committed to ensuring that the company’s doing the right thing and everybody knows what their role is going to be,” Watson said.

Burnaby mayor Derek Corrigan, who had a private meeting with Watson on Friday, was surprised by the news.

“If their idea is that our fire department is going to take responsibility for this, they’re wrong,” Corrigan said. “I’m not prepared to have our firefighters going into that situation, nor am I prepared to have the city putting itself in a position of being in any liability for it. There’s a lot more issues than them telling our fire department what to do.”

Corrigan also raised concerns with Watson about Kinder Morgan’s proposal, now under the NEB’s review, to triple the tank farm’s capacity as part of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

“I said, ‘You realize how crazy it is to be expanding a tank farm in the middle of a residential area below a university,’” he said.

He also raised the recent cases of Kinder Morgan calling the RCMP on people who were taking pictures around the tank farm.

“That shows that as far as the RCMP are concerned, this is a terrorist target, now why would you do something like that – expand what you say is a terrorist target in the middle of an urban area? Nobody would build that pipeline there now.”

Kinder Morgan has started working on fire “preplans” and already has roughly 20 people to call on in the event of a fire.

Watson’s visit last Friday included a meeting with Metro Vancouver mayors, many of whom recently signed a declaration of non-confidence in the NEB, raising concerns about how the Trans Mountain hearing is conducted. Watson also said that the NEB is going to conduct a full audit of Kinder Morgan’s entire emergency response management program for the existing pipeline system. The audit should be completed by the end of 2015 fiscal year (which ends March 31, 2016), and the report will be made public. The NEB conducts audits of larger companies on a semi-regular basis. Watson also announced the NEB is launching a public consultation on the transparency of emergency management information until June 25. To comment on what information should be included in emergency management plans, go to http://tinyurl.com/NEBcomments.

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