Canadian Manufacturing

Study disputes economic benefits of Trans Mountain pipeline

Simon Fraser University's Centre for Public Policy Research teamed with a consulting firm to examine the project's estimated impacts

CALGARY—A new report says Kinder Morgan is overplaying the economic benefits, and downplaying the costs of its proposed Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

Simon Fraser University’s Centre for Public Policy Research teamed with The Goodman Group Ltd., a California-based consulting firm, to examine the estimated impacts of the project.

The authors dispute Kinder Morgan’s claim that 36,000 person-years of employment would be created in British Columbia during the project’s development.

More like 12,000, tops, they say—which is less than 0.2 per cent of total provincial employment.

“We correctly anticipated that the benefits from the pipeline would be small in the context of the overall B.C. economy and mostly short-term,” said Ian Goodman, president of the Goodman Group.

“But we were very surprised that the company has exaggerated the short-term jobs associated with building the pipeline by a factor of three.”

The long-term jobs are also overstated, according to the report.

Kinder Morgan has projected 50 direct full-time jobs once the pipeline is up and running, with 2,000 resulting from the project’s spinoff benefits. The report pegs the spinoff jobs at closer to 800.

The report’s authors say B.C. government coffers will get a “tiny” benefit from the Trans Mountain expansion, with Alberta and oilsands producers the main beneficiaries. Property tax benefits for B.C. communities along the route would average less than one per cent of current total municipal revenues.

On the cost side, the report also takes issue with Kinder Morgan’s numbers. The company’s most expensive spill scenario puts the cost at $100 million to $300 million. Goodman and Simon Fraser figure it would be in the “multibillion-dollar range” if oil spills in a populated area.

“KM has vastly underestimated the worst-case costs for a catastrophic pipeline rupture. Contrary to KM’s findings, damage and cleanup costs for major accidents are highly correlated with population density,” said Brigid Rowan, Senior Energy Economist at The Goodman Group, Ltd and co-author of the report.

“So a worst-case scenario for TMX would involve a major accident in a more densely populated area (such as Metro Vancouver) damaging and disrupting key infrastructure, and possibly resulting in a spill to water and losses of human life.”

Doug McArthur, director of the graduate school of public policy at SFU, said the project is “highly questionable from a public policy point of view.”

“These findings, along with the increasing evidence from interveners in the NEB pipeline hearings that Kinder Morgan is not providing accurate and complete data and information about the pipeline, make it difficult to see how the NEB can approve this pipeline while fulfilling its obligation to uphold the public interest.”

The Trans Mountain pipeline currently ships 300,000 barrels of petroleum products per day from the Edmonton area to the West Coast. The $5.4-billion expansion would nearly triple its capacity to 890,000 barrels a day.

Past research by The Goodman Group has taken aim at other projects’ stated economic benefits, such as Enbridge Inc.’s (TSX:ENB) Line 9 reversal between southern Ontario and Montreal and TransCanada Corp.’s (TSX:TRP) Keystone XL pipeline to the U.S.

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