Kinder Morgan Canada pipeline plans hits a mountain of opposition

Tue Oct 21, 2014 2:24pm EDT
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By Julie Gordon

VANCOUVER (Reuters) - A Western Canadian pipeline once seen as the best near-term hope for sending more of the country's controversial tar sands crude to Asia has hit another snag: aboriginal communities intent on using the courts to block the proposed expansion.

Kinder Morgan Energy Partners' C$5.4 billion ($4.8 billion) Trans Mountain expansion would twin a 60-year-old line running from the oil-rich province of Alberta to the coastal city of Vancouver, tripling its capacity.

The pipeline expansion had been seen as sure bet because it uses an existing route. But a surge in municipal opposition in recent months has fueled industry worries that it will enter legal and regulatory limbo along with the unbuilt TransCanada Corp Keystone XL and Enbridge Inc Northern Gateway pipelines.

The odds against the expansion are growing. Aboriginal communities along the route, angered by a consultation process they call unfair, are strategizing as a group on legal tactics they hope will stop the project dead.

The expansion would help open international markets for Canadian oil producers, delivering billions in revenues. The National Energy Board is hearing traditional evidence from Aboriginal groups as part of the regulatory review this week.

"The opposition is widespread and it is vehement, so we're going to continue this fight until the bitter end," said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs. "We're looking at a very litigious future."

Two aboriginal communities have already filed lawsuits. Others are banding together to develop strategies around negotiations, litigation and possibly direct protest. Aboriginal leaders call it a "new era" of opposition.

Other opponents include environmental groups and municipal leaders like the mayor of Burnaby, the Vancouver suburb that houses the pipeline terminus and its marine facilities. Mayor Derek Corrigan has pledged his city will exercise every legal option to fight any increase in capacity.   Continued...

Storage tanks, holding crude and refined oil, at the Kinder Morgan tank farm are pictured in Burnaby, British Columbia October 6, 2014. REUTERS/Ben Nelms