Sooke goes face to face with Kinder Morgan

Kinder Morgan has been on the road lately  doling out money to communities that would be affected by their pipeline project . They found no buyers in Sooke.

“Go home, you’re not welcome in our town,” was the unequivocal message delivered by a polite but passionate crowd during the April 7 open house put on by the company to present their Trans Mountain pipeline plans.

Unlike the National Energy Board hearings, the public got to hear about the pipeline twinning project in person for the first time and Kinder Morgan had to face the music. Michael Davies, Kinder Morgan’s Senior Director of Marine Development, looked exhausted by 9 p.m. as he struggled to respond to the myriad of comments.

The presentation began with Davies spending a good half an hour outlining Kinder Morgan’s plan to triple the capacity of its pipeline and increase its oil tankers from five to 34 a month, with at least 30 per cent of those tankers carrying diluted bitumen. He showed us a map of congested ship traffic through the Strait of Juan de Fuca, right past Sooke, and listed their marine safety enhancements. “We’re just the FEDEX of the oil and gas industry,” he explained. “And there will be 100 new jobs for spill response when we have a spill.” Note the word “when”, not “if”.  A slip of the tongue?

Sooke was promised 12 jobs and a warehouse, docks and oil spill response equipment – no one was impressed.

Next to speak was our Mayor Maja Tait who presented the history of Sooke’s opposition to expanded tanker traffic. She then asked Davies to comment on the recent mayors’ declaration calling for a halt to the National Energy Board (NEB) hearings in favour of an independent B.C.-led environmental review. Tait challenged him to explain why KM has not released its full oil spill response strategy as they’ve done in Washington State. Davies responded by blaming the NEB and the  government. “There’s no provincial or federal requirement for posting of oil spill response plans,” he stated.

After Tait, councillor Rick Kasper took a turn at the microphone to express his concern about a 72 hour wait for assistance in the event of a spill. “We’d be on our own and hard pressed to deal with it,” he pointed out. Another Sooke councillor, Kerrie Raey, noted that B.C.’s spill response capacity is currently inadequate and nowhere near ready for a dramatic expansion in the number of tankers. The crowd grew noticeably edgy as Davies walked us through the steps involved in responding to an actual spill. It became all too real.

Newly elected councillor Ebony Logins  asked Davies if local fishermen would be trained in spill response. “Yes, indeed,” he answered without understanding her point. “That’s good because they’ll probably be out of work after an oil spill,” she observed wryly.

After the mayor and councillors were finished speaking, the public got its turn to lob comments and ask questions – this lasted for  almost an hour. Impactful messages were delivered to Kinder Morgan straight from the mouths of Sooke residents:

“Dilbit is known to sink in less than 24 hours and yet you cite a 36 hour response time?” -Gail Armitage

“We provide local employment for 12 people in two marine based companies… Don’t be beguiled by Kinder Morgan – let’s protect our existing jobs.” -George Butcher, marine biologist

“Your project is illegal under Coast Salish law. First Nations on the shores of the Salish Sea have prohibited increased transport of tar sands in their international treaty signed last September… Metchosin’s Wildlife Recovery centre can handle only 4 oil-soaked sea birds at a time.” -Frances Litman, Green Party candidate for Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke

“The strong currents in the Strait of Juan de Fuca will make oil spill recovery almost impossible… and who will pay for it all? The taxpayer, not the transporter of oil.”

“When seven mayors of major B.C. cities like Vancouver, Burnaby, and Victoria declare their non-confidence in the NEB and demand a halt to the proceedings, that’s a problem!”  -Margaret Critchlow

“You talk about 12 jobs for Sooke, but your industry is subsidized by our tax dollars to the tune of $34 billion a year. And oil and gas contribute just three per cent to B.C.’s GDP and 1.3 per cent of total B.C. jobs” -Terry Dance-Bennink, Dogwood regional organizer

We left the meeting sobered by the reality of Kinder Morgan’s plan but proud of our resistance. Not one person spoke in favour of more tankers on our coast.

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