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


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

Name of conflict:Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project, British Columbia, Canada
State or province:British Columbia
Location of conflict:Burnaby
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional 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 commodities:Crude 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.

The project proposal includes the construction of approximately 994 km of new pipeline, the reactivation of 193 km of old pipeline, 12 new pump stations, 20 new tanks to be added and a proposed new line to carry heavier oils with capacity for transporting light crude oils. The project also includes a proposed expansion of the Westridge Marine Terminal. The current terminal accommodates five tankers per month this expansion would increase the tanker traffic to roughly 34 per month.

Level of Investment:USD 3,500,000,000
Type of populationSemi-urban
Start of the conflict:03/01/2012
Company names or state enterprises:Kinder Morgan from United States of America
Relevant government actors:City 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 organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Burnaby 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

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing: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
Fisher people
Forms of mobilization:Appeals/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-economical 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)
Conflict outcome / response:Compensation
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 alternatives:A 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 an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain: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 & Materials

Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

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,

National Energy Board (NEB), Application for Trans Mountain Expansion Project (OH-001-2014), 16 December 2013,

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project

First Nations sign up for Kinder Morgan pipeline hearing

Decision on Kind Morgan’s trans Mountain Oil Pipeline Delayed Until After Net Election

B.C. First Nation launches legal challenge over Kinder Morgan pipeline

Kinder Morgan

Assessing the risks of Kinder Morgan’s proposed new Trans Mountain pipeline

Trans Mountain Pipeline System Map

Routing change puts Kinder Morgan pipeline under Burnaby Mountain

Trans Mountain Pipeline

Vancouver joins list opposed to expanded Kinder Morgan pipeline

Sacred Trust Initiative, Kinder Morgan Information Brochure

Kinder Morgan leaves Burnaby Mountain in win for pipeline protesters

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

Wilderness Committee

Real Hearings.Org

Burnaby Pipeline Watch

Let BC Decide

Georgia Strait Alliance

NS Nope

Pipe Up Network

Sacred Trust Initiative. Kinder Morgan Proposal

Save Salish Sea

Salish Sea Map

Tanker Free BC

Tar Sands SOS: Save Our Shore

Coastal First Nations

Globe and Mail, 11 January 2016, B.C. rejects Kinder Morgan’s bid to expand Trans Mountain pipeline, by JEFFREY JONES and BRENT JANG

Trans Mountain Pipeline, Proposed Expansion, Trans Mountain homepage, ; Project Overview,

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Interactive Map of Trans Mountain Expansion Project

MAP: Proposed Trans Mountain Expansion Project Description Overview – Kinder Morgan

Meta information

Contributor:Coral Voss, York University, [email protected] and Oilwatch
Last update18/08/2019



Rally against Kinder Morgan oil pipeline on Burnaby Mountain


Rally against Kinder Morgan oil pipeline on Burnaby Mountain


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.