There are a lot of my fellow British Columbians who have a visceral hate for bitumen pipeline giant, Kinder Morgan. The company is right up there with Enbridge in their hearts and minds.
Trudeau has said he'll nix the Enbridge Northern Gateway bitumen pipeline to Kitimat but so far only the British Columbia government has said a tentative "no" to Kinder Morgan's southern pipeline expansion.
Just who is Kinder Morgan? Well, let's start with the founder, Richard Kinder. He launched Kinder Morgan in 1997. Before that Richard was the Chief Operating Officer of some outfit called Enron. Gee, that name sounds familiar. Oh yeah, THAT Enron, got it. Kenny Lay's Enron. When Richard stepped aside as COO his place was taken by another name from the past, Jeffrey Skilling, whose services earned him a 35-count indictment for fraud, insider trading and other crimes when Enron collapsed. But enough of the past.
Today a number of voices of protest are being heard over Kinder Morgan's proposed, 360-mile 'Palmetto Pipeline' that would stretch from South Carolina through into Florida. In the process they've dredged up plenty of information that should give even Harper appointees on the National Energy Board pause for concern.
In 2003 a Kinder Morgan affiliate, Kinder Morgan Bulk Terminals, Inc., caused the equivalent of several rail cars (about 160 metric tons) of potassium chloride to be dumped into the Pacific Ocean. According to the facts stipulated by the parties in the resulting criminal prosecution, one of the terminal operator’s supervisors paid a master of a vessel at the port $1,250 to dump the waste at sea. This avoided a cost of $80,000 to properly dispose of the material at a landfill. The affiliate pled guilty to a criminal violation of the Ocean Dumping Act and paid a $240,000 fine.
Prior to this incident, an FBI investigation conducted between 1997 and 2001 found that Kinder Morgan entities were systemically defrauding their own customers – including the Tennessee Valley Authority – by using two different methods in weighing coal provided to customers from one of its operations in Illinois. Operators at its Cora Terminal used certified scales to weigh incoming coal transported by rail cars, then weighed coal going to its customers using a barge draft method – which typically recorded weights two to three percent higher – then sold the excess coal as its own.
The same FBI investigation also found that the Kinder Morgan Entities simply took coal from customer stockpiles it stored at a terminal in Kentucky.
As a result of this FBI investigation in the two states, the company agreed to pay a $25 million settlement to the U.S. Government in 2007.
Also in 2007, another affiliate, Kinder Morgan Transmix Co., entered into a Consent Agreement in which the EPA alleged that the affiliate illegally mixed an industrial solvent, hazardous waste called a ‘‘cyclohexane mixture,’’ into unleaded gasoline and diesel. The EPA charged that Kinder Morgan then distributed about 8 million gallons of the contaminated fuel, which caused vehicles to break down by clogging their fuel filters. As part of the Consent Agreement, the Kinder Morgan affiliate agreed to pay a civil fine of $600,000 in response to the EPA allegations of violations of the Clean Air Act and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.
And just five years ago, the U.S. Department of Justice discovered that yet another Kinder Morgan affiliate, Kinder Morgan Port Manatee Terminal LLC, had been less than honest on its Clean Air Act permit applications to the federal government with respect to a terminal at Port Manatee, Fla.
According to information released from the U.S. Attorney’s office in the middle district of Florida, the company repeatedly stated to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection in permit applications that it would control its pollution, even though the company knew that its pollution control equipment was not even being used or properly maintained. Kinder Morgan was fined $1 million for the Clean Air Act criminal violations.
With a company such as Kinder Morgan, with its sullied track record of deceit and environmental abuses, why are we even thinking of allowing it to transport a million barrels of dilbit a day across British Columbia, into the Lower Mainland, and then via an armada of supertankers through Vancouver's challenging harbours and through our vulnerable coastal waters?
Dilbit is a genuinely toxic and persistent form of ersatz petroleum and no one has any idea much less the means to clean it up when - not if, when - one of those heavily laden supertankers creates a disaster.
When the federal government's National Energy Board looks the other way and gives an unquestioning nod to these dilbit pipelines, it doesn't speak for coastal British Columbians. It speaks for the rest of Canada and, when it does, it leaves coastal British Columbians feeling a little less Canadian.