Sunday, December 2, 2012


Local News

Tapping into the Community  

Activists may force oil companies to abandon pipeline for rail, a more dangerous alternative

Staff/Voice photos


Concerned residents talk with Trans Mountain staff last Thursday at a public information session.


nti-pipeline activists greeted people outside the Best Western last Thursday with display tables carrying brochures and pamphlets. Inside, they mingled with green-jacketed Trans Mountain staff over coffee and muffins during a public information session regarding the company's proposed pipeline twinning project.


Greg Toth, director of the Trans Mountain expansion project, spoke with The Voice at the meeting.


When asked what kind of a contingency the company has in case they can’t push the pipeline through, Toth says it really isn’t their call, that they only ship the oil, which is about 300,000 barrels a day now. He wouldn't speculate about what the company’s plans would be.


“If it's deemed by the powers that be, and the ultimate decision rests with the federal cabinet and the National Energy Board recommendations, that’s a decision that we'll have to consider.”


In a scenario where oil companies have to abandon the pipeline project, the only feasible alternative is to ship it by rail, and they don’t need to go through environmental hoops for that. Plus, all the extra handling of oil in this way will inevitably drive up the price of gas.


Derailments happen a lot more than pipeline leaks and when shipping oil by train, it’s not diluted bitumen in the cars, it’s heavy crude.


Three-years ago there was a derailment at the Evans Rd crossing. It could have been a lot worse had the cars been loaded with crude instead of grain. Imagine for a moment, a derailment in the Fraser Canyon, and how devastating this would be on salmon runs.


Toth says at the moment there’s a shortage of pipeline capacity and companies are already moving oil in railcars south from Fort McMurray.


“I think in some regional areas you're starting to see large volumes of oil being transported by train,” Toth said. “One of the examples is the Bakken oil field that straddles the Saskatewan-North Dakota border, and they are railing that in what they call 'unit trains', all the way down to the Gulf (of Mexico)."


Another aspect to add to the equation is that the federal government might be softening up the populace, bracing them for their next shock — offshore oil drilling. That seems to be the case after a recent report by the Fraser Institute which looked favourably at lifting the moratorium on the BC Coast. Then who needs a pipeline?


Although Trans Mountain isn’t involved in oil exploration, Toth says Kinder Morgan does some in Texas.


“Kinder Morgan runs the largest Co2 pipeline network in North America and they transport Co2 and use it for enhanced oil recovery from some of these fields in Texas, so I think there's some interest there, but we're not an exploration company.”


Another thing seldom mentioned are the municipal taxes that Trans Mountain and Kinder Morgan pay which buy a lot of seniors centres, libraries and ice rinks.


Maybe it's time to look at the big picture and just go with the flow, because by trying to make it better, activists may be making it worse.


People opposed to the pipeline project can't be called NIMBY's (Not In My Backyard), because it's already in their back yards. The 60-year-old Trans Mountain pipeline has been there all along, they just never paid attention to it until now.




During this phase of public consultation, Trans Mountain is encouraging people to fill-in feedback forms on their website until December 14.




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