VANCOUVER – An expanded Trans Mountain pipeline would add $18.2 billion to Canada’s gross domestic product over 20 years, benefit First Nations and reduce environmental harm, Kinder Morgan says.
The energy giant filed its final written submissions to the National Energy Board on Thursday, arguing the $5.4-billion proposal is a safe and viable option to transport diluted bitumen from Alberta’s oilsands to British Columbia’s coast.
“The scrutiny and rigour this project has undergone, both inside and outside of the formal NEB process, is unprecedented,” said Ian Anderson, president of Kinder Morgan Canada.
“Our team takes pride in the efforts made to consider input and present the very best scientific and technical evidence to both the public and the regulator,” he said in a statement.
Kinder Morgan hopes to triple the capacity of its Trans Mountain line by laying almost 1,000 kilometres of new pipe from Edmonton to Metro Vancouver. The project would increase the number of tankers to 34 per month from five in Burrard Inlet.
The Metro Vancouver regional council and North Vancouver’s Tsleil-Waututh Nation are among the interveners who staunchly oppose the project, citing environmental and public health risks and little benefit to the economy.
The energy board will make a recommendation to the federal government in January.
In documents filed Thursday, the company addressed scathing evidence issued by interveners earlier this year. One expert report from Metro Vancouver found toxic benzene fumes from a spill could make up to one million people sick.
Kinder Morgan said the report, conducted by Levelton Consultants Ltd., is misleading because it presents a worst-case scenario without qualification and doesn’t account for its planned $100-million investment in spill response.
It also vowed to meet 145 draft conditions issued last week by the energy board, but asked for scheduling changes. For example, the board asked for some reports to be filed a year before construction, but the company hopes to begin some work in June 2016.
The company said it has signed 28 mutual benefits agreements with First Nations and promised to create employment and training opportunities for aboriginal communities.
Trans Mountain spokeswoman Ali Hounsell said public feedback has prompted changes to the project, including thickening pipeline walls in cities, and routing to avoid 22 major river crossings.
“We believe that the input and feedback we’ve received has made a better project — a stronger, safer, more responsible project. And we will continue to listen.”
Spencer Chandra Herbert, environment critic for B.C.’s Opposition New Democrats criticized the board for only requiring Kinder Morgan to respond to written questions rather than face oral cross-examination.
“Just imagine any trial, in any court in this land, where the judge and jury would not have the benefit of cross-examination,” he said. “The process wouldn’t work.
“Yet, the National Energy Board and Kinder Morgan want us to think that’s OK here, for a project of such high risk to millions of people.”
Vancouver’s deputy city manager Sadhu Johnston defended the city’s expert reports, including its spill model, which found oil would float into English Bay in two hours.
He said the model was done to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration standards, while Kinder Morgan’s model appeared to be “something they came up with on their own.”
Johnston said the company had two months to reply to the reports, while interveners now have just two weeks before responding at hearings in Burnaby in September.
He also lambasted the energy board for not considering climate change in its review.
“This proposal is saying the project is in our best interests, when we’re facing one of the worst droughts in our history,” he said. “This process is an embarrassment for the NEB.”