Uncertain future of Kinder Morgan pipeline in Hope

Residents worry about jobs, rail safety after work stops on Trans Mountain expansion

A local business owner says Kinder Morgan’s decision to stop work on the Trans Mountain expansion project will have very real consequences for his business and many others’ in Hope.

Kinder Morgan announced Sunday it will stop all non-essential work and related spending on the Trans Mountain expansion project, a pipeline between Edmonton and Burnaby, a project the company said it has spent $1.1 billion on since 2013. The pipeline runs through the community of Hope and whether the project goes ahead will affect the community’s industry.

Kinder Morgan made the decision to stop spending and work on the pipeline after the Horgan government acted to limit the amount of diluted bitumen flowing through a future pipeline, until it determines what the effects will be of the bitumen spill and a spill response plan is created. The move escalated into an ongoing dispute between the B.C. and Alberta governments.

The Trans Mountain project has been the source of months of tension between the two provinces. Notley instituted, and then reneged from, a ban on B.C. wine, and suspended talks to purchase electricity from B.C., with Horgan vowing to fight the pipeline in court.

“A company cannot resolve differences between governments. While we have succeeded in all legal challenges to date, a company cannot litigate its way to an in-service pipeline amidst jurisdictional differences between governments,” KML chairman and CEO Steve Kean stated.

“The fact remains that a substantial portion of the project must be constructed through British Columbia, and since the change in government in June 2017, that government has been clear and public in its intention to use ‘every tool in the toolbox’ to stop the project. The uncertainty created by BC has not been resolved but instead has escalated into an inter-governmental dispute.”

Ray Zervini, owner of Canyon Cable, said he has a lot invested in the Trans Mountain expansion project. Spectra Energy and Kinder Morgan are two of his biggest customers and seeing an increase of 30 per cent in business from the project this year alone, Zervini hired additional staff and signed business contracts in preparation.

“A company was going to rent half my yard to be here for two years, I was going to hire another seven staff,” he said. “There’s going to be 2,000 men in Hope to look after the building of the pipeline for two years, plus once the pipeline is done, there’ll be more stations put in so there’ll be more full-time positions in Hope.”

Not only his business will suffer, Zervini said, as other businesses and residents have begun preparing for the influx of workers which would need some place to stay, eat and shop.

The B.C. government playing politics has Zervini “pissed off”, and he would like to see more support for the pipeline from district council.

Zervini said he would wait some time before laying off staff and canceling contracts, as he sees much of the evolving dispute between B.C. and Alberta governments as political jockeying.

“As time drags on, how much longer can I afford to keep staff if there’s no business. Eventually, I’m going to have to…let them go,” he said. “I can’t keep dragging on and on and on anticipating something coming up.”

He added finding qualified staff is difficult here, so he would hate to see his investment in finding staff wasted.

Hope Mayor Wilfried Vicktor said he feared the increase in rail transportation of diluted bitumen if the pipeline is not built, and the heightened risk of a rail disaster in the community.

“Petroleum products are getting to the market, there’s no doubt, so they’re either going to go underground in a pipeline, above ground on railway or on trucks on a highway,” he said. “In all likelihood we’ll have a huge increase in railway traffic if this pipeline doesn’t move forward.”

Wilfried said the district would need to speak with the province about enhancing rail safety in Hope. As the situation unfolds, Wilfried said any communication with the Horgan government would come from council as a whole.

He added the business consequences will be felt by local suppliers counting on a pipeline being built.

“There’s a lot of people who were planning on participating in the building of the project. There’s a lot of local suppliers, industrial suppliers that were counting on some business, so that’s obviously a big hit for them,” he said.

MLA for Fraser-Nicola Jackie Tegart said she would be holding the B.C. government to account on this file, adding the Horgan government’s latest actions send a negative signal to companies looking to invest in B.C.

Art Green, who organizes membership and fundraising for the local riding association of the BC Green Party is not surprised by the latest announcement.

“I was told back in August, through the Green caucus, that the Site C dam was probably going to go ahead and that Kinder Morgan is probably going to die in the water,” he said.

As for the jobs the community will lose, Green said the short term benefits will be many but in the long term the project will bring little to Hope.

“The actual construction, of the expansion of the pipeline, would create a considerable amount of economic activity, but in the long run after the pipeline is built, as far as jobs go, there is a very limited amount of jobs that it would create,” he said.

– with files from Ragnar Haagen and Katya Slepian


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emelie.peacock@hopestandard.com

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