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Kinder Morgan pipeline: Another Kalamazoo waiting to happen?

[PIPE UP Network]

Lower Mainland, BC — After an intensive investigation into the 2010 Kalamazoo tar sands spill, the US National Transportation Safety Board report highlights Enbridge’s role in creating the tragedy. As if to repeat the same scenario that played out before the Kalamazoo disaster, Kinder Morgan has been silently transporting tar sands through the 59-year-old Trans Mountain pipeline that runs from Edmonton through the Fraser Valley into Greater Vancouver and the Puget Sound.

“When Kinder Morgan began pumping tar sands along an aging pipeline the risks were increased greatly, and yet no information was shared with local residents. This company has not even provided us with a map of the pipeline, let alone information about what it is doing to prevent a tar sands spill,” says Michael Hale of the PIPE UP Network.

“We know this pipeline runs over major aquifers, near elementary schools, and under rivers similar to the Kalamazoo. We don’t want to experience the same tragedy as happened in Michigan. We want Kinder Morgan to be held accountable for putting our communities at risk. The investigation into the Kalamazoo disaster demands that we raise critical questions about the integrity of both Kinder Morgan and the 59-year-old pipeline it is using to transport a highly toxic product,” says Hale.

“The Kalamazoo disaster is particularly alarming for those along the Kinder Morgan pipeline route because it is essentially the same story. We have an old pipeline which is not made for corrosive and toxic tar sands, and past fractures in the pipeline show that the company is not able to adequately monitor or react to a leak,” says Maryam Adrangi, Energy Campaigner with the Council of Canadians. “Kinder Morgan is putting communities at huge risk of water contamination and serious consequences to our health. We have seen the damage in Kalamazoo, why would we risk repeating it?” The risks of pipeline spills have recently been highlighted with three spills and more than a million litres of oil spilled in Alberta in a one-month period. Two of the three spills were reported by third parties.

Since taking ownership of the Trans Mountain pipeline in 2005, Kinder Morgan has experienced four breaks in the Fraser Valley alone, spilling hundreds of thousands of litres of oil into the environment and local communities. In all cases local residents have been at the front line of the response. They have had to deal with toxic gasses and oil seeping into waterways. In the case of the 2007 leak in Burnaby, a geyser of oil shot 30 meters into the air for about 25 minutes. More than 250 homes were evacuated. Of the total of 234,000 litres2 spilled, 70,000 flowed into nearby Burrard Inlet. Kinder Morgan was found negligent and fined for its part in the spill.

“Kinder Morgan already has a legacy of negligence with their pipeline,” says Sheila Muxlow of PIPE UP. “They might try to argue that by expanding this aging pipeline they can improve on their weaknesses. The truth is there is no safe pipeline to transport tar sands,” explains Muxlow. “In 2010 TransCanada built the brand new Keystone 1 Pipeline, touted to ‘meet or exceed safety standards’. Within its first year of operation there were 12 spills along the line. The fact is we need to see an end to the shipment of tar sands and start building the infrastructure to support a renewable, sustainable energy future.”

The Trans Mountain Pipeline was built in 1953 as a multi-use pipeline transporting jet fuel, conventional oil and natural gas. Since taking ownership Kinder Morgan has been increasingly transporting tar sands diluted bitumen, a product that is significantly more corrosive than conventional oil. The Trans Mountain pipeline currently has the transport capacity of up to 300,000 barrels per day (bpd).

Kinder Morgan announced plans to twin the pipeline in February 2012, expanding the transport capacity to up to 750,000 bpd with the intention of boosting the transport of tar sands for export. Local communities, First Nations and environmental organizations such as the Wilderness Committee and Tanker Free BC, along with the Council of Canadians and the PIPE UP Network, have criticized the plans for expansion for their increased risks to the environment, community health, and violations of Indigenous rights and sovereignty.

The PIPE UP Network is a group of Lower Mainland residents dedicated to educating themselves and their communities about the existing pipelines, plans for expansion and alternatives to tar sands; showing that we have the power to do something about it.

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Website: http://pipe-up.net/
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/stoptheflow

Background information
On July 25, 2010, the 50 year old Line 6B pipeline operated by Enbridge spilled 20,082 barrels (more than 3 million litres) of tar sands crude into the Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River. It took more than 17 hours for the company to act due to a failure to respond by Enbridge employees. The spill had economic effects for local businesses and tourism. Almost 4,000 animals were harmed and 320 people were treated for breathing problems, headaches and nausea consistent with tar sands exposure. Cleanup efforts are ongoing; costs have exceeded $767-million.

Companies ordered to pay $550,000 for Burnaby oil spill: http://www2.news.gov.bc.ca/news_releases_2009-2013/2011ENV0061-001473.htm