Langley considers joining Trans Mountain pipeline hearings

Langley council is mulling over whether to directly take part in regulatory hearings into the proposed Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion that has drawn considerable opposition.

Proposal before NEB would see tripling in capacity of oil pipeline through Metro Vancouver

Within Metro Vancouver, Kinder Morgan's existing TransMountain pipeline goes through Langley, Surrey, Coquitlam, and terminates in Burnaby. (TransMountain)

Langley council is mulling over whether to directly take part in regulatory hearings into the proposed Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion that has drawn considerable opposition.

Council will debate a motion on Monday to seek intervenor status into the upcoming hearings by the National Energy Board. Intervenor status is granted when another entity is given legal standing despite being not originally a party. 

That would give the city the opportunity to present evidence and question those giving submissions.

Councillor Kim Richter is spearheading the motion because she's worried any leak would contaminate the municipality's groundwater and the Salmon River, which flows north into the Fraser River.

Safety, environment are concerns

The almost 60-year-old, 1,150-kilometre Trans Mountain pipeline system provides the only West Coast access for Canadian oil products, including the majority of the gasoline supplied to the Interior and south coast of British Columbia.

The expansion proposal has no shortage of critics with several municipalities in the Lower Mainland opposing it — it was also a major issue in last year's provincial election.

The pipeline has had several notable spills in the past few years, the most visible being the 2007 rupture that sent about 234,000 litres of crude oil shooting up into the air for 25 minutes over a Burnaby neighbourhood. That incident was caused by a construction crew digging with an excavator.

A construction crew pierced the Trans Mountain pipeline in Burnaby, B.C. in 2007. Witnesses say crude oil shot 30 metres into the air like a geyser for 25 minutes. ((CBC))

In May 2009 about 200,000 litres of crude oil spilled from a Kinder Morgan storage tank on Burnaby Mountain. The oil was captured in a lined containment bay surrounding the tank, and there were no leaks into the surrounding environment.

The pipeline was shut down in April 2011 to check for leaks after a small amount of crude was found on a farmer's field about 150 kilometres west of Edmonton, and in 2012 more than 100,000 litre of light crude oil was spilled at Kinder Morgan's Sumas Terminal in Abbotsford, which borders Langley to the east.

Kinder Morgan's proposal would triple the pipeline's existing capacity to 890,000 barrels a day, and could result in a seven-fold increase in tanker traffic into Vancouver.

The National Energy Board is giving people until Feb. 12 to make a submission or to apply for intervenor status.

Once the NEB delivers its final report, the federal government will have 90 days to review the recommendations and make a final decision on the expansion.

If approved, work on the $5.4 billion project to revamp the pipeline could be complete by late 2017, the company has said.

with files from The Canadian Press


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