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Simon Doyle.Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

The battle for Kinder Morgan Inc.'s Trans Mountain pipeline is bleeding into lobbying over another major infrastructure project in British Columbia – a proposal for a new shipping terminal near Vancouver's Fraser River Estuary.

Advocacy groups campaigning against the proposed marine terminal, called Roberts Bank Terminal 2, have said they are concerned it could serve as a contingency port for the expanded Trans Mountain pipeline, even as the port authority and Kinder Morgan say using the expanded port for shipping oil is not in the cards.

"That would add a whole other level of concern to the existing concerns we already have," said Anne Murray, a volunteer organizer with BC Nature, a group of naturalists lobbying against the new shipping terminal. "I'd be extremely concerned about that."

What's the issue?

The Trans Mountain project, a proposal to expand an oil pipeline from Edmonton to the Kinder Morgan Westridge port in Burnaby, B.C., would triple the pipeline's capacity to 890,000 barrels a day and increase by seven the number of tankers navigating the Burrard Inlet.

Fears of spills and local opposition to the Trans Mountain expansion – from celebrities like Jane Fonda as well as local politicians including Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan and Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson – are giving groups additional ammo to oppose an expansion of the Roberts Bank port.

Federal port authority Port Metro Vancouver is now fending off criticism that its proposed Roberts Bank Terminal 2 project, part of the Asia-Pacific Gateway initiative to increase international trade, could someday ship oil from the Trans Mountain pipeline if the Burnaby plan fails.

Vancouver-area advocacy groups BC Nature and Against Port Expansion have been campaigning against the new Roberts Bank terminal near the Fraser Estuary, expressing concerns about impacts on marine life and migratory birds. The proposed, three-berth terminal would provide 2.4 million TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units) of container capacity.

The Roberts Bank port currently handles container cargo, not oil, but BC Nature and Against Port Expansion have said the new terminal's rules could be changed.

Complicating matters for Port Metro Vancouver, a group called Concerned Professional Engineers has said there could be problems with more tankers navigating the Burrard Inlet, and has instead suggested Roberts Bank as better location to ship more oil if Trans Mountain goes ahead.

Both Port Metro Vancouver and Kinder Morgan said there are no plans to use the new Roberts Bank terminal to ship oil.

"Roberts Bank Terminal 2 project will not serve as a contingency port for the expanded Trans Mountain pipeline. There are no plans for the transport of liquid bulk at Roberts Bank (this includes crude petroleum)," John Parker-Jervis, a spokesman for Port Metro Vancouver, said via e-mail.

Trans Mountain spokeswoman Ali Hounsell added that Kinder Morgan initially considered a new terminal but the idea didn't make sense because the company has existing infrastructure, including its terminal in Burnaby. "That's the one we're moving forward with, and that's what we're pursuing," Ms. Hounsell said.

Who's lobbying whom?

There's plenty of industry support for port expansion.

The federal lobbyist registry shows 25 lobbying registrations with Port Metro Vancouver mentioned as a target. They include those of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, shipping terminals company Global Container Terminals Inc. (which operates the existing Roberts Bank terminal), the Western Canadian Shippers' Coalition (an association of bulk commodity shippers) and Kinder Morgan.

In B.C., FleishmanHillard Canada is registered to lobby the provincial government on behalf of Port Metro Vancouver for the "necessary infrastructure for the Asia-Pacific Gateway, through projects like Roberts Bank Terminal 2," according to the registration.

The Western Canadian Shippers Coalition is registered to have talks with the provincial government about Vancouver ports.

Also in B.C., Kinder Morgan is registered to lobby provincially with in-house staff and has hired independent consultant Stephanie Snider to talk to the government about Trans Mountain.

The biggest challenge?

Opposition to big infrastructure projects can be fierce, and those leading the projects will be actively trying to curb it. On top of that, they're seeking support from First Nations.

The federal Department of Natural Resources, in a briefing note to Energy Minister Greg Rickford in January, identified over 30 First Nations potentially affected by the Roberts Bank Terminal 2 project, which is being reviewed by a panel under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency.

"We're concerned over the potential impact of the construction and operation of a second terminal," said Chief Bryce Williams of the Tsawwassen First Nation, located next to the existing Roberts Bank terminal. He said he's working with the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency in its review.

While Kinder Morgan says it has reached agreements with scores of First Nations, several others have expressed concern about Trans Mountain, including Tsleil-Waututh Nation, whose territory reaches the terminal in Burnaby. In May, the First Nation launched a legal challenge of the National Energy Board's legal process that it said "opens the project to significant delay and uncertainty."

What's next?

An expert review panel will continue to evaluate the Roberts Bank Terminal 2 project, and present its recommendation to the federal minister of Environment, who makes the final call. The B.C. government is also reviewing the proposed terminal.

Port Metro Vancouver, which says existing container terminals on Canada's Pacific Coast will be at capacity by the early 2020s, wants construction of the new terminal to start in 2018 so that it could be operational by around 2025.

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