PLANS to add even more capacity to Kinder Morgan's proposed Trans Mountain pipeline expansion to Burnaby earned a quick condemnation from the Tsleil-Waututh Nation.
Kinder Morgan announced plans last week to add about 20 per cent more capacity to the pipeline it hopes to build from Alberta to its shipping terminal on Burrard Inlet.
The revised plans came after signing three new long-term contracts with shippers wanting to transport the diluted bitumen to more lucrative Asian markets.
But the Tsleil-Waututh, who were already steadfastly opposed to the company's plan to twin the existing pipeline, says this puts even more undue risk on Burrard Inlet and the people and wildlife who depend on it.
"If they are increasing the amount of barrels that are coming, what's next? They'll have to increase either the size of the tankers or the number of the tankers. If they have to increase the size of the tankers, does that mean dredging of the Second Narrows?" asked Carleen Thomas, elected councillor with the Tsleil-Waututh Nation.
Throughout the public consultations in 2012, Kinder Morgan had claimed it wanted a second pipeline to transport 750,000
barrels of diluted bitumen per day, more than double the current 300,000. But if the National Energy Board approves its latest expansion designs, that will climb to 890,000, according Mike Davies, Kinder Morgan spokesman.
The announcement came without prior notice for Tsleil-Waututh leadership though it was not surprising, Thomas said.
"We definitely figured it would be more than what they were saying initially," she said. "And what's to stop them from pushing for more barrels per day. One million? Two million? Where will it end?"
For tanker traffic, it means instead of the approximately five Aframax-size tankers that traverse the Second Narrows each month now, there will be upwards of 34, each with a capacity of 585,000 barrels. Under the previous plan, Kinder Morgan expected up to 25 tankers each month.
"There's no change of the size of the ships and we're not asking for the narrows to be dredged as part of the project. Those things remain the same," Davies said.
Despite a change in application, the company doesn't plan to restart its public consultations or to hold new public information meetings with up-to-date information. The company held two open houses on the North Shore in November. The first meetings were largely meant to introduce the project and begin taking feedback, which was a success, Davies said.
"Our consultation program is ongoing so I don't feel the need to repeat the sessions that we've had. Aside from the increase in the number of tankers, there's not a huge change from the information that was provided," he said
The company never included the possibility of a higher capacity pipeline in its original public information because they didn't want to create confusion, Davies said.
Kinder Morgan plans to submit its application to the National Energy Board in late 2013, but it still has several hurtles to clear, including consultation with First Nations.
But that will prove difficult, as the Tsleil-Waututh have cut off communication with Kinder Morgan, according Thomas. There are "a couple" other bands along the pipeline route using the same tactic, Davies said.
"We're making great headway with the majority of the bands along our pipeline route. We've been running since 1953 and we have existing relationships with most of the bands," he said. "We will continue to reach out to them and we continue to be interested in understanding directly their concerns about the project and to work with them to try to mitigate those."
Ultimately, the duty to consult with First Nations lies with the federal government, Davies added.