The Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project in British Columbia, Canada

The very controversial Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion is a USD 3.5 billion dollar project that would establish a new pipeline twinning an existing pipeline from Strathcona County, Alberta to Burnaby, British Columbia.

The controversial Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion is a USD 3 and a half billion dollar project that would establish a new pipeline twinning an existing pipeline from Strathcona County, Alberta to Burnaby, British Columbia. The 1,150-km existing Trans Mountain pipeline system, which is today owned by Kinder Morgan, is in operation since 1953 and continues from Edmonton, AB to Vancouver, BC. Until 2005, it was operated and owned by the BC Gas Company and transported natural gas, jet fuel and oil. It was purchased by US-company Kinder Morgan in 2005 and is since then also used to ship other oil products such as diluted bitumen from oil sands. The pipeline has already been extended in the past few years, with new pump stations added in 2007 and the Anchor Loop Expansion crossing two national parks completed in 2008. On 16 December 2013, the National Energy Board of Canada received an application from Kinder Morgan for an expansion project of the Trans Mountain pipeline system, which would include the creation of a new dual-line pipeline alongside the existing 1,150-km pipeline as well as an extension from Edmonton, AB to Burnaby, BC. The capacity of the pipeline would therefore be almost tripled, from 300,000 to a capacity of at least 890,000 barrels per day. The new line would exclusively be used to carry heavier oils such as diluted bitumen. In the past 15 years, the company Kinder Morgan has accrued a number of oil spills in the region, including four along the Trans Mountain route since 2005. Because of this history, protests soon emerged when Kinder Morgan announced its plans for the new expansion project. Local organizations have especially pointed out health risks such as airborne contamination, environmental risks such as land-based and marine spills and the vulnerability of the west coast's ecosystem. Also economical concerns, such as the risk of loss of jobs and business for the tourist industry, farming and agriculture as well as port trade and coastal industries due to future spills etc. have been at the centre of debate. Concerns were voiced by many First Nations governments in BC as well as by municipal governments (Cities of Burnaby, Vancouver and West Vancouver have passed resolutions against the Kinder Morgan pipeline) and by environmental organizations. What is more, also local communities and public opinion seem to be concerned about the risk of spills. According to a local poll, 70% of BC residents oppose the expansion project. At the moment, the project proposal is under review by the National Energy Board (NEB). The NEB's handling of the assessment process has been widely criticized as the number of people being able to express their opinion during the assessment has been very limited to a certain number of people approved by the NEB. Especially representatives of First Nation communities have been following the NEB assessment very closely, saying that they had already been adversely affected through impacts on the environment and health of local residents that they link to the tar sands fields. In a report released earlier in 2014, the United Nations affirmed Canada's First Nations' rights, stating that Canada needed indigenous consent for pipeline projects. In July 2014, a Federal Court judge had taken the decision to let the BC First Nation challenge the review process of the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline. If the challenge were successful, the NEB could find itself forced to restart its review process. Opposition to this project is substantial including cities, First Nations bands, communities, environmental groups, grassroots organizations and the general public. The land on which Kinder Morgan intended to build the expansion is the unceded traditional territory of the Tseil-Waututh, Musqueam, Sto:lo and Squamish Nations. The Save the Fraser Declaration is a document produced by the Yinka Dene Alliance and which more than 130 First Nations have become signatories. This declaration unites and declares the First Nations’ opposition to Tar Sands projects throughout their territories, pipelines including Enbridge and Kinder Morgan, and the subsequent increase in tanker traffic. The region of Greater Vancouver is very densely populated as are a number of other cities and districts along the route, most of which have come out firmly against the project. The scope of concerns regarding the pipeline and tankers span the terrestrial and marine environments as well as climate change and health. One of the more articulated issues involving the marine environment is the substantial increase in tanker traffic within the Burrard Inlet. The increased risk of spills due to the projected growth in tanker traffic is significant given the sensitivity of this ecosystem. A diluted bitumen spill would be incredibly detrimental given its composition; it is particularly toxic to marine life. Bitumen and diluent, the composition of which is not disclosed to the public, separate once the compound is released into the environment discharging toxic fumes into the air while the heavier bitumen sinks to the floor of marine environments. Impacts from a spill on the terrestrial environment would likely be more localized unless it reached ground water tables. The process by which bitumen is released from the soil contributes a significant volume of greenhouse gases to climate change. The regions thru which the proposed pipeline would pass encompass everything from residential neighbourhoods to sensitive ecological areas. The National Energy Board (NEB) removed both intervener oral testimony and the practice of cross-examination of witnesses from all public hearings. The inability for interveners to give oral testimony or cross-examine witnesses has called into question the veracity of the review process. Frequent modifications to the pipeline route without consultation has left the impression in the publics mind that public participation is being ignored outright or at the very least dissuaded. The impacts on health from exposure to diluted bitumen is still hotly debated but in the communities surrounding Kalamazoo River citizens experienced symptoms such as headaches, nausea, dizziness, fatigue and coughs. In August, the National Energy Board ruled Kinder Morgan could conduct survey work on Burnaby mountain in Vancouver to explore an alternate route for the pipeline project via a proposed tunnel through the Mountain. The City of Burnaby is challenging that decision in B.C.'s Court of Appeal. Then in November and December 2014, a major conflict erupted in Vancouver when opponents to the pipeline occupied and set up a camp that aimed to stop the company's pipeline exploration work on Burnaby mountain. Over 70 people were arrested after the company managed to get a court injunction against the protesters, although the charges were later dropped when it was discovered the GPS coordinates of the injunction were wrong. Kinder Morgan also brought a suit against the activists for $5.4 million for trespassing on the Burnaby Mountain Conservation Area. This was also later dropped. On November 28, after weeks of sustained protest, the company packed up the equipment. However, drilling work has continued in other locations, along with sustained protests whenever drill sites are discovered. In late February 2015 protests continued in Coquitlam. The ongoing review process is expected to finish in mid-2015. Construction dates have been proposed for 2016 to 2017 with a proposed start date for operations set for 2017.
Basic Data
NameThe Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project in British Columbia, Canada
ProvinceBritish Columbia
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Fossil Fuels and Climate Justice/Energy
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Oil and gas exploration and extraction
Transport infrastructure networks (roads, railways, hydroways, canals and pipelines)
Climate change related conflicts (glaciers and small islands)
Specific CommoditiesCrude oil
Project Details and Actors
Project Details
Kinder Morgan's expansion plans include the construction of a new, twinned pipeline alongside the existing 1,150-km Trans Mountain pipeline system between Edmonton, Alberta and Burnaby, British Columbia. The project would increase the capacity of the pipeline system from 300,000 to at least 890,000 barrels per day.
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Level of Investment (in USD)USD 3,500,000,000
Type of PopulationSemi-urban
Start Date03/01/2012
Company Names or State EnterprisesKinder Morgan from United States of America
Relevant government actorsCity of Burnaby

City of Vancouver

Province of British Columbia

City of North Vancouver

City of Surrey

City of Victoria

District of Abbotsford

City of Chilliwack

City of Port Moody

National Energy Board (NEB)

Surrey Board of Trade

National Energy Board

Village of Anmore

Vancouver Park Board

Business Council of British Columbia

District of West Vancouver
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersBurnaby Pipeline Watch

Burnaby Residents Opposed to Kinder Morgan Expansion (BROKE)

Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives

Defend Our Coast

Dogwood Initiative

ForestEthics Advocacy

Georgia Strait Alliance

Let BC Decide

MacDonald-Laurier Institute

NS Nope

Pipe Up Network

Save the Salish Sea

Squamish Nation

Swinomish Indian Tribal Community

Tar Sands SOS: Save Our Shore

Tulatip Tribes

UBC University Neighbourhood Assoc.

Westcoast Environmental Law

YinkaDene Alliance's Save the Fraser

Coastal First Nations

Living Ocean Society

Lummi Nation

Pacheedaht First Nation

Sacred Trust Intiative

Sierra Club BC

Tanker Free BC

Tsleil-Waututh First Nations

Wilderness Committee

Lower Mainland Government Association

Union of B.C. Municipalities

Conversations for Responsible Economic Development (CRED):

Wilderness Committee:

Council of Canadians:

Tanker Free BC:

Living Oceans Society:

Georgia Straight Alliance:

West Coast Environmental Law and Forest Ethics Advocacy
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)HIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
When did the mobilization beginPREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups MobilizingFishermen
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Recreational users
Local scientists/professionals
Tseil-Waututh, Musqueam, Sto:lo and Squamish Nations
Forms of MobilizationAppeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment
Development of a network/collective action
Arguments for the rights of mother nature
Public campaigns
Artistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Land occupation
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Boycotts of official procedures/non-participation in official processes
Media based activism/alternative media
Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Street protest/marches
Occupation of buildings/public spaces
Official complaint letters and petitions
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Global warming, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Oil spills, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Health ImpactsPotential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Occupational disease and accidents, Other environmental related diseases, Other Health impacts
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures
Potential: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..), Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusProposed (exploration phase)
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCompensation
Criminalization of activists
Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
Court decision (undecided)
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
Project temporarily suspended
Pipeline re-routing, dismissed lawsuit against activists
Development of AlternativesA National Energy Board (NEB) process (press) release stated that as of July 15th, 2013 the board has suspended the NEB review of the Trans Mountain Expansion pipeline project. The postponement is a consequence of significant modifications to the projected route of the pipeline thru Burnaby. A decision on the expansion is not expected until 2015 with an anticipated release date for the NEB report in 2016.
Do you consider this as a success?Not Sure
Why? Explain briefly.The City of Burnaby has won a ruling to halt further test drilling on Burnaby Mountain. Additional cases are still before the courts regarding such matters as modifications to the planned route or termination of the project.
Sources and Materials

National Energy Board (NEB), Application for Trans Mountain Expansion Project (OH-001-2014), 16 December 2013,
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The situation of indigenous peoples in Canada, United Nations General Assembly, Human Rights Council, Final version, 4 July 2014, A/HRC/27/52/Add.2,
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Assessing the risks of Kinder Morgan’s proposed new Trans Mountain pipeline
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Decision on Kind Morgan’s trans Mountain Oil Pipeline Delayed Until After Net Election
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Trans Mountain Pipeline System Map
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First Nations sign up for Kinder Morgan pipeline hearing
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B.C. First Nation launches legal challenge over Kinder Morgan pipeline
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Kinder Morgan
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Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project
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Vancouver joins list opposed to expanded Kinder Morgan pipeline
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Routing change puts Kinder Morgan pipeline under Burnaby Mountain
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Sacred Trust Initiative, Kinder Morgan Information Brochure
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Trans Mountain Pipeline
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Kinder Morgan leaves Burnaby Mountain in win for pipeline protesters
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Wilderness Committee
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Coastal First Nations
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Burnaby Pipeline Watch
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Georgia Strait Alliance
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Let BC Decide
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NS Nope
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Pipe Up Network
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Real Hearings.Org
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Sacred Trust Initiative. Kinder Morgan Proposal
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Save Salish Sea
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Salish Sea Map
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Tanker Free BC
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Tar Sands SOS: Save Our Shore
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Trans Mountain Pipeline, Proposed Expansion, Trans Mountain homepage, ; Project Overview,
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Globe and Mail, 11 January 2016, B.C. rejects Kinder Morgan’s bid to expand Trans Mountain pipeline, by JEFFREY JONES and BRENT JANG
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Media Links

Interactive Map of Trans Mountain Expansion Project
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MAP: Proposed Trans Mountain Expansion Project Description Overview – Kinder Morgan
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Other Documents

Rally against Kinder Morgan oil pipeline on Burnaby Mountain
These photos are from the rally against the proposed Kinder Morgan oil pipeline on Burnaby Mountain. Monday, November 17th, 2014.
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Rally against Kinder Morgan oil pipeline on Burnaby Mountain
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Rally against Kinder Morgan oil pipeline on Burnaby Mountain
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Meta Information
ContributorCoral Voss, York University, [email protected] and Oilwatch
Last update06/03/2016