Edmonton

Texas oil company replanting Jasper National Park after pipeline construction

Crews for Texas-based oil company Kinder Morgan Canada Inc. are getting ready to replant more than 500,000 rare native plants throughout Jasper National Park after tearing up the rugged terrain to bury a new pipeline.

Reclamation work extends beyond contruction zone

Crews for Texas-based oil company Kinder Morgan Canada Inc. are getting ready to replant more than 500,000 rare native plants throughout Jasper National Park after tearing up the rugged terrain to bury a new pipeline.

This is the first time an oil company has gone above and beyond simply repairing the land it destroyed, said Dave Poulton, an environmentalist who worked with the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society to draft the reclamation plans for Jasper.

Crews are seeding and planting native shrubs and grasses throughout the park, Poulton said, and not just in the area affected by construction of the Jasper section of the Trans-Mountain pipeline.

"We issued a challenge to them that we would like them to go above and beyond pipeline construction to talk about how to improve the park," he said.

"And, as a result, we struck out on what we called a ‘net benefit project,’ which is something above and beyond the pipeline, which will leave a long and positive legacy for the park."

Known as the Anchor Loop project,  the pipeline carries crude oil from Alberta’s oilsands to markets in the Lower Mainland in British Columbia, the U.S. and Asia.

There are strict rules in this protected area, part of the Rocky Mountain World Heritage Site, and the company must return the land to the way it was, Poulton said.

He hopes other companies will use the project as a model for future oil and gas developments.

"But whether they accept this precedent of offering the net benefit, I suppose, it will come down to a matter of dollars and cents," he said, adding it's not only a good public relations move, but it's also good for the environment.

Great interest in restoration project

Giles Stevenson, who is in charge of restoration for Kinder Morgan, said many people are looking at the project to judge its successes and failures.

"There's great interest and there's actually a community of restoration specialists and scientists who are very interested," he said.

Jasper Mayor Richard Ireland also hopes the interest spreads in the restoration project.

"If it can be done here, it can be done anywhere," he said.

The pipeline expansion in Jasper was completed in April and now continues into British Columbia through Mount Robson Provincial Park.

At that time, Ian Anderson, president of Kinder Morgan Canada, said in a news release that it was the culmination of years of work, but there was still more to do.

"Aside from significant construction challenges created by the mountainous and rugged terrain we encountered, the project had to adhere to very stringent environmental requirements to work in a UNESCO designated world heritage site," Anderson said.

"Significant environmental reclamation and monitoring work, including of wildlife, will go on for many years to come. We will continue to work closely with all regulators and stakeholders to ensure we leave a positive legacy in Jasper National Park."

The expanded pipeline will allow the company to ship an extra 40,000 barrels of oil each day from Alberta, increasing the capacity of the existing pipeline from 260,000 to 300,000 barrels per day.