Here’s what you don’t know about Kinder Morgan

Guest Column/ Elizabeth May
Policy Magazine


When Canadians used to speak of two solitudes, it meant the divide between Quebec and the rest of Canada. Increasingly, I feel that I live in a different country, only the dividing line is the Rockies, and the cultural disconnect is over the Kinder Morgan pipeline.

Here is what the rest of Canada appears to take for granted:

  1. Kinder Morgan’s expanded pipeline was thoroughly reviewed
  2. Kinder Morgan’s pipeline is in the national interest
  3. Alberta’s economy depends on moving solid bitumen to export markets
  4. Eventually British Columbia must back down and accept the pipeline

Here’s the problem:

  1. Kinder Morgan’s expanded pipeline was not thoroughly reviewed

Prior to the 2012 omnibus budget Bill C-38, repealing the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, the National Energy Board (NEB) had had no role in environmental assessment. Thanks to C-38, it was put in charge of pipelines.

The NEB felt forced by time limits imposed by C-38 to alter its usual quasi-judicial process. Intervenors were denied procedural fairness — such as being allowed to cross-examine industry experts, or even to be allowed in the room. I was granted intervenor status in April 2014. My final argument on January 24, 2016 was the first time I was permitted to enter the room. The abuse of normal rules for procedural fairness was breathtaking.

The result was a hearing that left the NEB without actual evidence. It had a pile of worthless assertions, untested as evidence.

For example, the only evidence from KM about whether bitumen and diluent (dilbit) could be cleaned up in the marine environment came from a one-time only, non-published, non-peer reviewed experiment over a 10-day period in Gainford, Alberta. The tests were done in tanks of various seizes using fresh water with salt stirred in. According to Kinder Morgan’s evidence, the five-gallon pail and fish tank research went awry:

“Errors occurred in the fish tank, because the spill was installed in a manner that resulted in a large amount of dispersion at the outset, due to air ingestion, and the resulting slick was larger than the ruler and developed an asymmetric form.” They concluded: “A better-equipped test is certainly recommended for future consideration.” This Keystone Kops version of science was the entirety of KM’s evidence that bitumen mixed with diluent can be cleaned up.

Published studies, peer-reviewed and conducted in conditions that replicate the marine environment, demonstrate that the dilbit mixture separates and that small “oil balls” of bitumen are created, which then sink.

Canada’s premier scientific academy, the Royal Society of Canada, concluded that we lack the science to know if it is possible to clean-up dilbit. The NEB ruled that accepting the Royal Society study would be unfair to Kinder Morgan.

The NEB was unperturbed when a Kinder Morgan expert committed fraud, whiting out the word “draft” from a US EPA spill dispersion model, then introducing it to the NEB claiming it was the approach used in the US. Another intervenor, economist Robyn Allan, contacted the EPA only to discover that they did not use this model. EPA staff were shocked it was being referenced as it was clearly labeled DRAFT. Not by the time KM finished altering it.

2. There is no independent review making the case that Kinder Morgan’s pipeline is in the national interest

The NEB never conducted a review remotely capable of meeting the average citizen’s understanding of what is in the public interest. The largest union in the oil sands, Unifor, intervened before the NEB. Unifor attempted to enter evidence that building Kinder Morgan would cost jobs; shipping out unprocessed solid bitumen to refineries in other countries ships out Canadian jobs at the same time and increases the carbon footprint of the product. Shipping solid bitumen diluted with toxic fossil fuel condensate for export bypasses the last remaining refinery in Burnaby. The refinery cannot process bitumen. It has already cut its workforce by 30 per cent and if Kinder Morgan goes ahead, it will likely close. The NEB refused to accept the evidence. It ruled that its mandate did not include jobs, or climate, or upstream or downstream impacts.

So, “national interest,” according to the NEB, does not include energy security, net employment benefits, environment, climate, GDP, or anything other than getting the pipeline approved.

3. Alberta’s economy does not depend on moving solid bitumen to export markets

When former Premier Peter Lougheed envisioned an oil sands industry, he said the first rule was “Think like an owner.” He had planned for bitumen to be processed in Alberta for a Canadian market. The idea that pipelines to ship out solid bitumen (with diluent to make a solid flow) was essential did not emerge until after the 2008 financial crisis. That pipeline was Keystone, straight south. And as late as 2011, Stephen Harper’s position was that no pipeline should be built to the B.C. coast as no bitumen should be exported to countries with lower environmental standards than those in Canada.

Then, suddenly, it was assumed that we must export to an Asian market. Has anyone noticed that the demand for our bitumen through Kinder Morgan’s existing exports is declining? The case for Kinder Morgan is a sleight-of-hand card trick.

All of this does not even touch on the fundamental issue of how Indigenous peoples and First Nations were treated through this process. I am choking on the lies and hypocrisy of Kinder Morgan, the NEB and now the Trudeau Liberals. It’s a miracle I can remain civil in my non-violent civil disobedience.