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'Our support will not be bought!' Burnaby residents respond to Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion proposal

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"Our support will not be bought," said Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan to Kinder Morgan staff at a public forum on Wednesday. The forum to discuss Kinder Morgan's proposed Trans Mountain pipeline expansion showed that Mayor Corrigan was not alone, and that residents of Burnaby are also opposed to this project. Not surprising, since Burnaby has seen first-hand what can happen. In 2007, a Burnaby oil spill caused 15 million dollars in clean-up costs and forced evacuations. For the cbc coverage, click here.

There were speakers from Kinder Morgan, the Burnaby Chevron refinery, Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan, federal NDP Kennedy Stewart, and Carleen Thomas of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation followed by time for Q & A and comments.

Several hundred people attended the forum, packing the church and requiring people to stand in the aisles. The pipeline expansion is clearly a concern to residents and people said that they came "well informed" but were not getting the information they needed from the company.

While the facilitator asked that people refrain from responding to peoples questions, answers, or comments (whether agreeing or disagreeing) so as to ensure the timeliness of the forum, anytime someone voiced opposition (from the audience or the panel) to the proposal there were cheers and applause from the audience.

The questions began with residents concerned that expanding this pipeline would undermine a collective need to transition off of fossil fuels, mitigate climate change, and protect Burnaby and Burrard Inlet from oil spills. Kinder Morgan hopes to more than double the capacity of the pipeline so that oil can be exported. Burnaby was concerned that they were being put at great risk-repeating that it was not a matter of "if" a spill happens, but "when"-at the expense of corporate profit.

Mayor Corrigan accused the lack of federal foresight into transitioning Canada to renewable and more sustainable energy sources, and for allowing energy purchasing to be at the whim of the market and trans-national corporations. He says that the company is expecting people to live in constant fear.

His particular fear was around oil pollution entering the Inlet, as it is much more difficult to manage oil once it reaches water than if it remains on land. If the expansion goes through, the Westridge terminal would expand from 2 berths to 3 berths, and increasing the risk of a spill by increasing the number of tankers that go in and out of the inlet. "It only takes one act of negligence, one accident, and once mistake to destroy one of the most beautiful places on Earth," he stated.

Burnaby city council has been adamantly opposed to the project, and Mayor Corrigen continued to say that he was "appalled" at Kinder Morgan's response to the 2007 spill. A clean-up crew took 17 hours to arrive on sight, and the city and Tsleil-Waututh Nation were the first on sight. Corrigan further highlighted the company's negligence by exposing that Kinder Morgan turned off pipeline flow at the wrong end, causing overall damage to be "twice as bad as it could have been." Members of the audience responded with "Shame."

Carleen Thomas, an elected band council from the Tsleil-Waututh, was the last on the panel to speak and made sure that it was public record that the forum did not serve as a consultation with the Tsleil-Waututh Nation. Thomas echoed the concern that federal and provincial governments are not planning to decrease dependence on fossil fuels, explaining that her Nation is looking at alternative energies and remaining stewards of the land and the Inlet.

"The Tsleil-Waututh Nation opposes the expansion." This statement at the end of the evening invited cheers and applause from the vast majority of attendees...except for the ones from Kinder Morgan.

Kinder Morgan will be applying for a tolling permit in the next few days with public consultation beginning in the fall. While this is typically not the process for pipeline approvals, many are going to be keeping their eye on Kinder Morgan and responding to this pipeline expansion proposal in order to protect their communities.

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