Fact and Fight: Burnaby’s Trans Mountain Pipeline Explained

Burnaby’s overwhelming opposition to expand the oil sands and the Trans Mountain pipeline has happened quickly over the last week. Everyday a new layer unfolds twisting and turning hope for opposition and proponents. We help you understand the facts and fight that has been going on.


The Proposal.

Screen shot 2014-11-27 at 2.17.04 PMEven though surveying is currently occurring in Burnaby, Kinder Morgan has yet to release all the facts on their proposed expansion of the Trans Mountain Pipeline.

Proposed is the tripling of the existing Trans Mountain Pipeline, allowing for up to 890,000 barrels a day of fossil fuels to be transported to oil tankers and holding facilities on the west coast. This expansion will increase oil tankers departing from the Westridge terminal from 1 or 2 tankers a week up to 10 tankers going to Asia and the United States. The expansion will  allow for further export of dilbit (diluted oil sands bitimun) to flow under schools, 15 First Nations communities, conversation areas, under neighbourhoods and aquifers. Burnaby’s pipeline expansion will consist of a 90% new route, and will likely not be able to be paired with existing pipelines. In other parts of the pipeline, Kinder Morgan estimates that 73% of the expansion will follow the existing pipelines.

Potential Harm

Kinder Morgan has yet to address many concerns to human and environmental health including, spills, fires, and leakages. Since it’s purchase of the pipeline in 2005 Kinder Morgan has generated four spills along the Trans Mountain route, all largely due to human error, and since 1997 Kinder Morgan has been responsible for more than 1,800 oil and chemical violations, approximately 500 of which are pipeline incidents. Kinder Morgan’s response plans have yet to be updated to encompass the high magnitude of dilbit, which is mixed with unknown trade secret chemicals and is known to have volatile substances like benzene and carcinogens.

Who would pay for a spill?

Kinder Morgan states that a major spill would cost $100-300 million, but the Burneby Minicupality and Simon Fraser Researchers state that taxpayers would likely be responsible for the multibillion dollar clean up, as the companies liability is limited to $1.3 billion.


The proposal would create 50 permanent jobs, but the town of Burnaby says the ‘oil spill would put at risk industries that together employ over 200,000 people locally including tourism, film and TV, real estate, high tech, agriculture and coastal industries’. Simon Fraser University researcher Doug McArthur also disputes Kinder Morgan’s claim stating that at most 12,000 people would be employed, not the 36,000 people a year Kinder Morgan states. McArthur estimates 65 per cent of the fiscal benefit will go to Kinder Morgan, about 32 per cent to Alberta and only two per cent to British Columbia.


On November 21nd Kinder Morgan started to drill on Burnaby Mountain despite protestors and the mayor of Burnaby calling the actions a municipal bylaw breach on the conservation area. By 4 pm a court injunction allowed for those who did not stay clear of the work site to be arrested. 15 protestors were arrested by Saturday, among them Tamo Campos, grandson of David Suzuki. Organizers say approximately 101 protestors have now been arrested including Barbara Grant, an 84 year old librarian, and many members of a newly formed organization called BROKE, Burnaby Residents Opposed to Kinder Morgan Expansion. Others who have crossed the line include two 11 year old girls who were apprehended and their mothers who were arrested. Kinder Morgan continues their legally enshrined, and RCMP protected drilling despite strong opposition from the Mayor of Burnaby, and the Mayor of Vancouver. Burnaby’s mayor has supported the opposition but has recently stated for protesters to refrain from getting arrested. He states that arrests are a last resort and that he still has faith in the appeal process, which may take several years, to block the proposal. 100’s of other activists like author J.B MacKinnon say that civil disobedience is necessary to take Climate Change issues to the next level, and have done so.

Lawsuits also put pressure on the proposal including one from First Nation community, which seek to block the project. First Nations with claim to the land say they aren’t being respected and haven’t been consulted on the project. Tsartlip First Nation on Vancouver Island have brought forth their opposition to the NEB, with concerns that expansion threatens traditional burial grounds, hunting and food sources because of increased tanker traffic. But Kinder Morgan is also laying down their own lawsuits, suing BROKE $5.4 million for trespassing.

Economist Robyn Allan has put forth a motion to the National Energy Board to halt the review process, and all physical work. Allan has proposed that Kinder Morgan is breaking the law by not receiving approval from the National Energy Board, NEB, for their recent restructuring of assets. Kinder Morgan has recently conglomerated all of its subsidiaries into one $70 billion entity. Sarah Kiley from the NEB said the panel would review Allan’s motion and rule on whether or not this is in fact the case.

And the most recent news is that many of the protestors did not violate a court injunction in the first place.

Kinder Morgan’s recent application and denial for an extended injunction brought to light the confusing and inaccurate GPS coordinates from the original injunction. These inaccurate coordinates lead judge Austin Cullen to rule that all civil contempt charges should be thrown out, leaving only a few charges for assault or obstruction of justice to remain.

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About Jonathan

Jonathan Ventura is the web assistant with One River, Many Relations. His formal education in environmental policy & law, as well as his passion and experience in community based research and mobilization brings a unique perspective to the project.
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