The National Energy Board (NEB)’s detailed route hearings for Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline expansion provided a setting last week for the City of Burnaby’s latest pushback against the C$7.4-billion project.
Municipal representatives “argued vehemently” that Kinder “is ill-equipped to mitigate damage to local ecosystems or respond to such emergencies as a fire at its tank farm or an oil spill,” National Observer reports. City witnesses stressed that cutting down trees to make way for the 980-kilometre pipeline “will damage waterways, infringe on park space, and reduce air quality.”
Mark Angelo, a retired river conservationist who volunteered to testify on Burnaby’s behalf, said the project would damage the city’s Brunette River Conservation Area and nearby waterways. “Of critical concern is the fact…that the route proposed through most of Burnaby does not follow an existing route,” Angelo said. “Rather, the proponent has chosen to carve through the Brunette River Conservation Area, in addition to some other key green spaces in our city.”
He added that he had recently seen salmon return to the conservation area—a crowning achievement after a valiant cleanup effort over the last few decades.
“He’s seen eagles, herons, bobcats, bears, mink, coyotes, river otters, and peregrine falcons in the area — a key ecological linkage between Burnaby Mountain, Burnaby Lake, and Deer Lake, that allows animals to move back and forth across the city,” the Observer notes.
“To see this occur in such a large, urban environment is so rare and so special that the city deserves great credit for that,” Angelo said. “It’s a very special place.”
Other witnesses for the city detailed the loss of generations-old trees in the Cottonwood Park area at the foot of Burnaby Mountain, and the impact on the nearby Eastlake Greenway. “Greenways are the lungs of the city. They produce oxygen, trap particulates, and contribute to the air quality of Burnaby and across the region. But greenways are also the veins and arteries of the city, and even the heart,” said city consultant Erik Lees.
Burnaby attorney Gregory McDade questioned Kinder Morgan’s request to reserve access to the conservation area for pipeline construction, while stating it likely won’t need it.
“So, you’re telling us it is a low risk, but you’re not prepared to give us an assurance? In other words, you want Burnaby to take the risk, rather than your company,” he said. “If this route were approved and there was a major break in the pipeline in the tunnel, how would you repair it?”
“There are different things that could be done to maintain or repair the pipes,” replied Trans Mountain’s Michael Davies, who accused McDade of entering “the space of speculation” with his line of questioning.
“The point is that we don’t believe we will have to access through the surface. If we ever did, we would work with the City of Burnaby to minimize any impacts on the surface, and if there (were) any impacts, they would be fully restored.”