VANCOUVER—Oil pipeline builder Kinder Morgan says it is more than willing to share its entire spill-response plan directly with the British Columbia government as it seeks approval for a proposed $5.4-billion pipeline expansion project.
While the energy giant raised concerns over disclosing personal, security or commercially sensitive information, Premier Christy Clark demanded that more details of the safety plan be made public through the National Energy Board (NEB).
“There’s always going to be some information in response plans like ours that isn’t appropriate to file publicly,” Michael Davies, a Kinder Morgan senior director, said in an interview.
Withholding information is not an issue of secrecy but rather of appropriateness, he added.
“What’s being discussed is whether or not all of these details should be filed on the public record, where it’s open to everyone.”
But the B.C. government said it remained dissatisfied with Kinder Morgan’s guarantee of complete but confidential access—an offer the company said extended to local governments and first response agencies along the pipeline route.
“It’s to get it on the public record,” said a Ministry of Environment spokesperson about the government’s persistence. “That’s the long and short of it.”
Kinder Morgan’s proposed Trans Mountain expansion project would triple the pipeline’s bitumen-carrying capacity with the laying of almost 1,000 kilometres of new pipe near the pre-existing pipeline that runs from Edmonton to Burnaby, B.C.
The NEB recently rejected a demand from the B.C. government that Kinder Morgan provide more information about its existing emergency response plan.
In a written ruling, the regulator said it was satisfied with an earlier version of the document submitted by Kinder Morgan, despite a number of redactions.
Clark spoke out about the decision on a Kamloops, B.C., radio station, demanding that Kinder Morgan disclose more of the details of its safety plan before the province would consider approving the multi-billion-dollar pipeline extension.
Speaking on CNHL, Clark referenced the five requirements previously laid out by the B.C. government to support oil pipelines, which included the development of a robust spill response plan.
“If those conditions aren’t met these projects can’t go ahead, and Kinder Morgan has not met the five conditions,” she said. “They need to or it won’t happen.”
Despite ruling in its favour, the national regulatory agency did raise concerns over how clearly Kinder Morgan communicated the reasons for the information it left out.
“The justifications for redaction provided by Trans Mountain were not as thoroughly and clearly articulated as the Board would expect,” read the ruling.
While acknowledging room for improvement, Kinder Morgan maintained that it had gone beyond any regulatory requirements to submit its emergency response information in the first place.
“I think we’ve gone a long way to help address people’s interest and information around this subject,” said Davies.
“It’s not fair to say that there’s any sort of secrets being kept or information not being shared.”
The NEB also denied the province’s request that the energy company submit an oil spill response plan produced by Western Canada Marine Response Corp., concluding that it could not provide a document not in its possession or control.
The corporation is an oil spill response organization certified by Transport Canada and funded by more than 2,000 industry members, including Kinder Morgan.
A variety of municipal governments in the Lower Mainland, including Vancouver, Abbotsford and Burnaby, along with several First Nations groups and environmental advocacy organizations, had filed letters in support of the province’s request for more comprehensive public disclosure of Kinder Morgan’s safety plans.
Those submissions failed to sway the NEB in its ruling.
“The province is committed to ensuring that the Trans Mountain expansion project, if it does go ahead, satisfies the highest standards of environmental protection and protects British Columbia from financial and environmental risk,” said the B.C. government in a release.
“Any heavy oil pipeline project must satisfy the province’s five conditions before B.C. will consider supporting it.”