It's shaping up to be another pivotal time in the tar sands pipeline debate here in British Columbia. Just as energy giant Kinder Morgan is ramping up its PR blitz for a massive new pipeline in B.C., the Texas-based multinational corporation has come under fire.
Tuesday, a new Wall Street investment report called Kinder Morgan a "House of Cards," singling out what it called the corporation's "high-level business strategy...to starve its pipelines and related infrastructure of routine maintenance spending." This report was aimed at Wall Street investors and advises short-selling the stock.
Some of what it outlines should alarm people here in B.C., given that Kinder Morgan is planning a massive new Trans Mountain pipeline and tanker project to carry even more toxic tar sands through our province. The proposal also means one giant oil tanker a day through Vancouver's narrow harbour, as opposed to one a week, which it is currently.
The Wall Street analyst who labelled Kinder Morgan a "House of Cards" might have had the recent Netflix TV show in mind, but I'm guessing he's also referencing the corporate history involved. You see, Kinder Morgan emerged out of none other than Enron, the infamous energy giant that was tagged as a House of Cards in a book exposing its systemic shenanigans, which among other things tricked its own employees out of their pension funds.
Kinder Morgan CEO Richard Kinder is in fact a former Enron executive and almost became its CEO. The Wall Street Journal once called him "the luckiest ex Enron employee" because Jeffrey Skilling, who became the CEO instead of Kinder, is now in the midst of a 24-year prison sentence.
Kinder started Kinder Morgan with his 20 million dollar severance package from Enron, and took with him a division for the company, Enron Liquid Pipelines LLP. Kinder Morgan was the originally named Enron Liquid Pipelines LLP. Richard Kinder is now one of the richest people in the world, with over 9 billion dollars in personal net wealth. Given this shoddy history, British Columbians need to subject his whole business model to scrutiny.
Kinder Morgan's pipeline plans in B.C. need public debate: Two opportunities to do just that
All of this just underlines the need for vigorous public debate and discussion about Kinder Morgan's plans for B.C.
I'm no Wall Street investment banker, but what this latest report about Kinder Morgan makes clear is that this corporate giant has one thing in mind when it acquires and builds new pipelines: its own bottom line. And it looks like slashing maintenance costs is its standard business practice. That is reckless and short-term profiteering. This may be part of the reason why Carl Weimer of the US-based Pipeline Safety Trust called Kinder Morgan the "poster child of pipeline problems." What we need in B.C. is responsible, long-term economic investment.
When Kinder Morgan's House of Cards comes crashing down, we don't want B.C.'s environment and economy to be part of the collateral damage.