Oil rose to the surface, literally, at the start of the year in Abbotsford and remained an important issue throughout 2012 not only locally, but across the Lower Mainland and the entire province. Early on Jan. 24, approximately 90,000 to 110,000 litres of oil spilled out into a containment area at Kinder Morgan's storage facility on Sumas Mountain. Before the spill was mopped up, residents and emergency responders reported strong fumes in the area, particularly in the community of Auguston. Most students at Auguston Traditional Elementary School were kept inside for the day while others were picked up by their parents. Several residents complained of headaches and nausea. Environmentalists immediately pointed to the spill as an illustration of the risks associated with Kinder Morgan's proposal to expand its Trans Mountain Pipeline.
In 2014, Kinder Morgan plans to ask the National Energy Board to increase the volume of crude and processed oil it's permitted to transport in the pipeline to 750,000 barrels per day from 350,000 bpd. The Trans Mountain Pipeline runs from Edmonton through Abbotsford, Chilliwack and into gether to c the Lower Mainland, where a portion of the tar rural home. A convoy that incl police car, with ligh sands oil is then shipped by tanker out of Vancouver. Kinder Morgan has assured the public it will follow all environmental and industry requirements. It held a series of public information sessions, two recently in Abbotsford, to answer questions about the proposed pipeline expansion and the potential economic benefits associated with the plan. Of the $4.1 billion project, $2.6 billion will be built in B.C., offering labour and ancillary contracts plus other economic spin-offs for communities along the route during construction, according to Kinder Morgan.
About 3,500 people are expected to be employed during the height of construction
and the pipeline would result in 35 new full-time jobs provincially with $3.6 billion spent on operations from 2019 - 2048.
In Abbotsford, TMP's annual property tax will rise to $3 million a year, up from the current $2 million it pays.
However, local critics with the Fraser Valley-based PIPEUP network argue the expansion will mean digging up land, damming rivers and disturbing major community infrastructure, as well as endangering B.C. waters through increased oil tanker traffic in the Burrard Inlet.
The concerns raised after the Abbotsford spill were reflected at the provincial level as the ongoing public hearings took place throughout the year on Enbridge's controversial Northern Gateway pipeline project.
That plan involves a 1,172kilometre pipeline that will stretch from Alberta across northern B.C. and end in Kitimat.
In late November, a National Energy Board report revealed that Trans Mountain Pipeline operators ignored warning alarms for three-and-a-half hours before responding to a gasket failure that resulted in the oil spill at the Abbotsford Sumas Mountain tank farm.
In late November,
The NEB determined the leak was detected later than it should have been, the control centre operator didn't follow procedures and there were improper alarm settings in a recently-installed data acquisition system.
However, the NEB stated the Trans Mountain Pipeline has identified corrective actions to address its findings.
Regardless, spill over from both projects will continue as TMP and Enbridge will continue to undertake public and environmental hearings, and the steps necessary to move their oil projects forward in 2013.
- WITH FILES FROM CHRISTINA TOTH AND THE VANCOUVER SUN