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An open letter to Ian Anderson, president of Kinder Morgan Canada

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Ian,

Can I call you Ian? I hope so. Let's consider it a first step towards building that trust and confidence you seek with British Columbians. I read your recent op-ed in the Vancouver Sun and I had some follow-up questions and comments.

I should probably confirm that we are in fact speaking about the same project -- the Trans Mountain "expansion" project? I put it in quotations because "expansion" seems like a misnomer when you plan to build an entirely new pipeline, even if it's alongside an existing one.

Or maybe the "expansion" refers to the alternate northern route that you so rarely talk about. The one that would require building a new pipeline to the port of Kitimat, bringing tankers to the north coast of B.C., much like the controversial Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline proposal.

Given that the Trans Mountain "expansion" would carry even more than the Northern Gateway, I would expect it would bring even more tankers to Kitimat than Enbridge. If you've been paying attention to B.C. politics, you may notice that residents in this province are quite concerned about Enbridge and the tankers. A larger pipeline and more tankers would raise even more alarm bells.

I also see you've written that you are going "to hear every voice and every concern." Will you also respect every voice and every concern?

You must have heard that Carleen Thomas, elected band council member of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, said "The Tsleil-Waututh Nation opposes the expansion," at a public forum in Burnaby on June 27. Her nation and over 100 others have signed the Save the Fraser Declaration that bans tar sands pipelines and tankers in the signatories' territories and on the ocean migration routes of Fraser River Salmon on the north and south coasts of B.C.

If for some reason this opposition has not registered, you definitely heard Chief Mike LeBourdais of Whispering Pine, with whom you had a personal conversation.

Remember, you threatened to rip the pipeline right out of his reserve so that it wouldn't get any tax money. His response: "Great, I'll operate the backhoe." I expect that you'll continue to hear more of that. I ask again: Will you and Kinder Morgan Canada respect what you hear?

I'd also like to comment on Kinder Morgan Canada's "culture of safety" that you talk about. What is that exactly?

Making sure construction workers wear hard hats? Or ensuring that pipelines aren't ruptured and spills and leaks don't happen? If the latter, where was that "culture" during the 2007 oil spill in Burnaby that forced evacuations and required $15 million in clean-up costs? Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan said he was "appalled" that it took your company 17 hours to send a clean-up crew to the site of the spill.

You must have been appalled too. That is probably why you write that you "have plans to respond, clean up, remediate and learn from every incident."

But at a Chamber of Commerce meeting in Chilliwack on Aug. 16, you said that you "have not changed your response capabilities or equipment" since the 2007 spill. Five years later, I am shocked to hear that you have not improved your capability to respond to a spill in less than 17 hours.

And we know that it is a matter of when a spill happens, not if. You even point out in your op-ed that you "cannot promise there won't ever be a spill."

I will end by addressing your last point that "British Columbians want and need reliable information and facts that will provide them with greater understanding of our proposed project and assist them in forming opinions." Absolutely, we would like full information. However, not only has Kinder Morgan Canada withheld information such as the exact route of the new pipeline, but sometimes we are the ones informing you.

At a recent Chamber of Commerce meeting in Chilliwack, members of a local pipeline opposition group, PIPE-UP, let you know that the diluted bitumen you want to transport is more corrosive and harder to clean up than conventional crude. Don't let the name fool you, the risks aren't diluted at all. The volunteer-run community group followed up with your staff by sending reports and documents verifying these facts. And yet you continue to claim that there is "no scientific or operational evidence that it is any more corrosive to the pipeline than other products."

I agree with you that the only way forward requires trust and confidence. But how can this "expansion" move forward when we have been given so little in which we have any confidence or trust?