Vancouver has become a kind of second home for Kinder-Morgan president Ian Anderson. For some time, he has made weekly visits to the city, attending to issues concerning the controversial proposed expansion of the company’s Trans Mountain pipeline from Alberta to Burnaby.
The $5.4-billion project would mean an increase from one tanker every four days in Burrard Inlet to collect piped oil to one daily. Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson is among regional mayors opposed to the idea, suggesting the proposed expansion raises concerns about a “worst-case oil spill” in Vancouver’s harbour.
B.C. government approval hinges on five demands being met, including a fair share of revenues, and is also being applied to Enbridge Inc.’s Northern Gateway project. B.C. NDP Leader Adrian Dix, whom polls suggest may become the next B.C. premier after the May provincial election, has been more ambiguous. While opposed to Northern Gateway, he has avoided a yes or no position on Kinder-Morgan, noting that a specific proposal on the expansion has yet to be submitted. Last week, Mr. Anderson was in Vancouver for a board-of-trade forum on the Alberta oil sands. During an interview with The Globe and Mail, he talked about various issues including Mr. Dix, the impact of troubles of the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline project, and why there’s too much politics in the debate.
Has the Enbridge situation made the hill a little steeper for pipeline expansion?
I don’t think so. I think the issues we’re hearing about would have existed whether or not Northern Gateway was proceeding. British Columbians are very attuned with their environment, with the beautiful place they have, and the protection of that. So the concerns we have heard around routing, proximity of pipelines, around pipeline safety or tanker traffic are all things the early conversation has crystallized or informed us of, but I think they would have existed anyway.
If B.C. NDP Leader Adrian Dix was sitting where I am now, what would you say to him to win him over on this project?
If he was sitting across from me, I don’t think I would try to win him over necessarily immediately. What I would say and what I have said, frankly, is if his party does come to power and if he is the next premier, then we want to engage early and often around what are his concerns and what are his observations, what are the public issues that he’s hearing and how can I address them. Through the design, the engineering and the execution of our project.
Do you think you could win him over?
I believe that we can convince Adrian or anybody else that we can execute this project safely and protect the interests of British Columbians.
Have you or your executive team met with Mr. Dix or other B.C. NDP MLAs?
Yes we have.
How have those meetings gone?
Very well. They’re informed. They’re aware of us. They understand what we’re doing. I think they are, quite rightly, reserving judgment until more facts, more information is available, the filing is more complete or imminent. That’s where either Premier Clark or Adrian should be. That is, let the process unfold, let us complete our work, let us respond to the issues, let us do our study and analysis and reserve judgment until that time.
Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson has been emphatically against the project. What would you say to win him over?
Most of his comments were very early in the process. We continue to have very good conversations with city staff, with people that are working to understand the project and what it might mean to Vancouver. For Mayor Robertson, we have continued to extend offers to sit down with him and talk about the project. We’re more than happy and prepared – I am personally prepared to do that at any point – to more deeply understand where his concerns are and start to look for creative alternatives to help balance off the interests,.
He hasn’t met with you yet?
He has not.
Do you think he should meet with you?
I think he should. I think he has got a large constituency here who have a view that have opinions, that are looking to shape their perceptions and I think they look to their municipal leaders, including their political leaders, for counsel and guidance in forming those opinions and I think we should be helping the mayor be as informed as he can.
Does the B.C. election complicate things for you as you try to take this project along?
It’s not complicating the work that we’re doing. It’s not complicating the engagement we’re undertaking and it’s not complicating the land study or the marine study we’re doing. It’s not complicating what we’re doing with the federal government to recognize spill-response capabilities that are necessary. The only thing I would say about it is the extent to which the political arena is used as a place to try and inform the public regarding the facts of the project. That’s not the right place for the public to gather full complete facts as political debate may only give snapshots of points of view. So the extent to which the public is relying on a political debate to inform about our project then I would encourage caution.
What is the proper forum, instead of the political forum, for informing the public?
I believe the public should seek out reliable fact-based sources, including our expansion website. I am not suggesting that political forums are not useful to understand points of view on issues. I just think that a full and complete information set should look outside of that debate.