Opinion » Pique'n Yer Interest

No friends on an oil day

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In the seemingly endless machinations over Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, the biggest disconnect is a whopper: the federal government, the previous provincial government, and the government of Alberta all tell us this environmental travesty is in the collective best interest of Canadians. Their pronouncements on the subject seem designed to make us believe oil companies are our pals — benevolent, community-minded partners in prosperity. Leaving aside the very clear scientific, economic and land-rights prohibitions, however, even the most cursory examination of facts around pipelines — and their owners — show the truth to be completely opposite. As recent events have demonstrated.

Over two months ago, Kinder Morgan placed anti-spawning mats in eight Alberta and B.C. rivers to prohibit fish from laying eggs in areas where they would normally do so. After outrage and outcry in B.C. (no one in Alberta ever cares about such things), Fin Donnelly, NDP MLA for Port Moody-Coquitlam, made a formal request for their removal to federal Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc, citing negative environmental impact and damage to B.C.'s struggling salmon populations. Installing these mats is in clear violation of the National Energy Board Act and other laws, constituting "construction" for which the company has no permits. Another NDP MLA, Stewart Kennedy, formally requested the BC Oil and Gas Commission "discipline the company to the fullest extent possible and insist these mats be removed," asking the same of the National Energy Board. Kinder Morgan stopped installing nets (they plan 21 more — despite this year's woefully low salmon returns) but has yet to remove those in place.

Then there's the issue of Kinder Morgan's massive razor-wire fence around the Westridge Marine Terminal in Burrard Inlet. According to Vancouver's Port Authority, this blight is expected to remain for years; meanwhile, Kinder Morgan's private security firm has been intimidating and harassing folks boating near the structure, while the RCMP watches.

Far from a friend, Kinder Morgan has proven to be the antithesis of community-minded, demonstrating a contempt and irresponsibility in the pursuit of profits that no human citizen would be able to get away with. In fact, if you look at the criminal convictions of most oil companies — Kinder Morgan included — their litany of sociopathic malfeasance is dizzying. A regular person with such a rap sheet would be deemed pathologically untrustworthy and ostracized, never to again hold a job — despite the fact they'd never been jailed for any of their crimes. Who is this Kinder Morgan dude of whom governments speak so highly? A 2014 white paper by Eric de Place, policy director at Sightline Institute, fleshes it out.

An energy giant launched by two ex-Enron execs (remember the Enron scandal?), Kinder Morgan oversees an oil-and-gas pipeline empire, with hopes of enlarging its role in coal transport. Let's start there: the company's existing coal export ops have a "track record... of pollution, law-breaking, and cover-ups" that include bribery in Oregon and an FBI investigation in Tennessee that found it defrauded its own customers by re-selling coal it had already sold them, resulting in a $25 million civil settlement in 2007; the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) fined Kinder Morgan $613,000 for violating the US Clean Air Act after regulators discovered the company was illegally mixing industrial solvent into unleaded gasoline and diesel; in 2010, the feds fined Kinder Morgan $1 million for repeatedly violating the Clean Air Act in Florida where, among other crimes, its managers lied about anti-pollution equipment in permit applications; the EPA also investigated Kinder Morgan for some 30,000 violations of the federal Renewable Fuels Standard, alleging it used invalid documents to fulfil requirements for the use of renewable energy; and lest we forget the 2007 Trans Mountain Pipeline rupture in Burnaby (two years after Kinder Morgan purchased it from Terasen), where 50 families had to be evacuated as oil rained down on their neighbourhood, one of dozens of high-profile leaks and spills for the company.

What else? Oh, right: Kinder Morgan has numerous labour and workplace safety violations. Fond of claiming it doesn't make political contributions, information provided by the Center for Responsive Politics shows it has spent millions to lobby Congress. Furthermore, individuals at Kinder Morgan had, by 2014, contributed $1.4 million to candidates and PACs, the vast majority to support Republicans.

Clearly, letting these thugs build anything in this province is in no one's interest but their own. Their motto appears to be "Profits before people — and no friends on an oil day."

www.sightline.org/research_item/the-facts-about-kinder-morgan-2/

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