Lynn Perrin, on behalf of Pro Information Pro Environment United People NetworkDate:

19 February 2016
Subject: What is wrong with Abbotsford supporting the Kinder Morgan expansion?

What’s wrong with Abbotsford “supporting” the Kinder Morgan expansion?

“Abbotsford signs agreement supporting Expansion Project, first Community Benefit Agreement in Lower Mainland”

That’s what Kinder Morgan tweeted the day after the Abbotsford City Council approved a $1.3 million Community Benefit Agreement with Kinder Morgan to upgrade the clubhouse at the Ledgeview golf course.

Kinder Morgan knows that cities don’t approve pipelines and the mayor made it clear at the council meeting on Feb. 15 that pipeline approvals are in the hands of the federal government.

So what is wrong with the city signing an agreement to take that money?

A city staff report noted that the City of Abbotsford’s submission to the National Energy Board “forcefully put forward key concerns over emergency planning, training and the need for resources to respond [to oil spills] in a timely and effective manner.”

The B.C. government has declined to support Kinder Morgan’s application, stating lack of adequate spill response as the primary reason. Kinder Morgan has, to date, refused to make its spill response plans public. 

Two major spills took place in Abbotsford and the company refused to tell residents what was spilled. How does supporting Kinder Morgan now give the city any leverage for getting answers to its concerns?

Other jurisdictions have declined these agreements. The City of Chilliwack, the Chilliwack School Board and Kwantlen Polytechnic University have said that, in some people’s minds, it could be seen as bribery. There is an appearance of undue influence by Kinder Morgan–that money is being offered to secure approval of the proposed pipeline expansion.

The funds are only available if the pipeline goes ahead but the National Energy Board has not yet made a recommendation to the federal cabinet.

The proposed agreement with the City of Abbotsford was negotiated in secret and Kinder Morgan is controlling how information is presented to the citizens of Abbotsford. Clause 5 of the agreement states:

“Prior to making any public announcements regarding this MOU [Memorandum of Understanding], other than a public announcement solely regarding the existence of this MOU that it will provide a copy of said public announcement to Trans Mountain for approval.”

Isn’t the city obliged to allow members of the public to participate in decisions that affect them?

Patricia Ross was the lone councillor who voted against the MOU. She said that she felt backed into a corner by Kinder Morgan–that if the city didn’t sign now it would lose the benefit. She also said that the city raised several issues (such as higher levels of ozone emitted from expanded tanker traffic) that Kinder Morgan did not address in its application.

It is obvious that most members of council felt pressure to accept Kinder Morgan’s terms of meeting in secret and accepting the time-sensitive sales pitch. It is also obvious that Kinder Morgan is using Abbotsford City Council’s action to indicate support for pipeline expansion.

Kinder Morgan has repeatedly tried to prove that bitumen behaves “just like any other crude.” Yet the U.S. National Academy of Sciences released a report in December that states that diluted bitumen does behave differently. It emits toxic gases and then sinks.

Or take the example of economic benefits. During the NEB hearings, intervenors have presented clear evidence that there are few economic benefits for residents of B.C.

The City of Abbotsford’s Community Sustainability Charter states that council members:

Commit to provide public information, education, advocacy and opportunities to participate in community decisions that affect the quality of life for all citizens.”

How does council’s decision to take Kinder Morgan’s money with all the attached conditions uphold these noble words? 
Lynn Perrin, on behalf of Pro Information Pro Environment United People Network