Jump to post-Council meeting update (original text left here for context)
Tomorrow, Tuesday May 19th, 2015, the City of Chilliwack will decide whether or not to receive $800,000 from the Texas-based energy giant Kinder Morgan who is pushing for a controversial new pipeline through our community. Also on offer according to the City staff report is an undetermined but “substantial’ amount of money to be paid to the University of the Fraser Valley. There has been no public discussion on this decision, which was announced only Friday, and there remain unanswered questions about the implications of taking the money, or even considering the offer at this time.
Regardless of the risks associated with transporting the heavy oil, it is very concerning that any participant who has yet to submit evidence in a regulatory process is being offered large sums of money that hinge on the outcome of that regulatory process. That sounds a lot like a bribe.
In Chilliwack’s case, the money would be paid only if Kinder Morgan get a ‘yes’ from the National Energy Board on their new pipeline, directly aligning city interests with the fossil fuel giant. The City are a ‘commenter’ in the National Energy Board (NEB) hearing process on that pipeline. The deadline for commenters to file their letters is still months away and the City has not submitted theirs or made public what it might contain.
One can only wonder how knowledge that the Mayor and Council have signed on to a million dollar deal that depends on Kinder Morgan getting the decision they want from the NEB would weigh on the minds of staff as they prepare the City’s evidence for the NEB review panel.
Where is the engagement with citizens?
When the Aevitas hazardous waste facility was proposed, residents only found out that the project included hazardous waste when a local paper ran the story mere days before the City Council meeting at which the property rezoning was approved. Concerned residents and supporters opposed the location of that facility, on flood plain a mere 200 metres from the Fraser River, and eventually Aevitas withdrew. In a press conference afterward Chilliwack’s mayor said “We have been disappointed in the proponent’s lack of engagement with not only the City, but also, and more importantly, with our citizens." Yet here we are with the Kinder Morgan pipeline project, a project with even more far reaching implications, and news of this $800,000-plus ‘community benefit’ from Kinder Morgan was made public on the Friday of a long weekend with the decision to be made by council the following Tuesday.
It does not appear that there will be any opportunity for residents to engage the Mayor and Council in person about this deal with Kinder Morgan before the decision is made. The item appears in Tuesday’s agenda as a single line from the Operations Department recommending approval and signing authority.
It is WaterWealth’s view that the City should send Kinder Morgan’s offer back to them, and tell them to present it again after the deadline for commenters’ letters (ie the City's) to the National Energy Board.
The City needs to hear from you! As local residents we need to speak up and ensure that hasty decisions made by our politicians are not putting our future in jeopardy. We must ensure that this $800,000-plus will not unduly influence, even unintentionally, our City’s input to the NEB hearing process, and that the City’s letter of comment to the NEB will be a robust presentation of the risks we would face if Kinder Morgan puts their heavy oil export pipeline through our community.
Call or email the Mayor and Council directly, before the Council meeting 3pm Tuesday. Even a short sentence of concern can mean a lot to show our local politicians that people are concerned about this issue.
Use this link to email the Mayor and all six Councillors at once.
Or call: 604-793-2900 and ask to speak with the Mayor and Councillors.
Chris Kloot | Chuck Stam | Jason Lum | Ken Popove | Sam Waddington | Sue Attrill
Our shared home waters are worth careful consideration.
Well, it wasn't directly about the water, but Chilliwack can be proud of its Mayor and Council today for taking a principled stance that was not without some hard considerations and risk.
Kinder Morgan tried to impose a deadline of May 29 on a 'Community Benefit' Memorandum of Understanding worth $800,000 to the city if Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain expansion project gets the go-ahead from the National Energy Board. The city had identified a pedestrian bridge over the Vedder River as the project that the money would go to. The offer came to Council via an Operations Department report in today's meeting, the only Council meeting before Kinder Morgan's deadline.
The Mayor and Councillors had a clear desire to gain as much benefit for the community as possible should the pipeline proceed, a National Energy Board (NEB) decision that is not in Council's purview. However, Councillor Lum particularly raised the issue of the timing of the offer, given that the city is engaged as a commenter in the NEB process and has not yet made its official submission in that process. Lum likened it to a local developer approaching Council with an offer of some benefit if their development application were approved, something that of course would not be entertained. While it is not quite the same situation, the parallel was clear and in the end Councillor Lum's motion to defer entering into an MOU with Kinder Morgan until the NEB process has concluded passed.
That Kinder Morgan has a moral obligation to compensate for impacts in the event construction proceeds is obvious. It will be a test of the company's character to see how they handle that in communities where early MOUs are not signed.
WaterWealth is an intervenor in the NEB process for the Trans Mountain expansion, a pipeline that crosses many vital waterways and lies over and even in local aquifers, passing within collection zones of City drinking water wells. That the regulator allows the proponent to offer payments to people or organizations with standing in the process before those participants have completed their submissions to the review panel is bad enough. That those offers come with deadlines that precede the deadline for participants submissions to the hearing process compounds the issue.
We believe that this issue calls into question the integrity of the hearing process itself and will be writing the NEB to raise this issue. We will weigh our continued participation in the process once we receive a response from the NEB.
Nowhere does the post say to say ‘no’ to Kinder Morgan regarding the pipeline. It raises the question of whether it is appropriate for Kinder Morgan to offer money before the City has completed their participation in the regulatory process that will decide whether the pipeline proceeds. Part of that process, if the process is robust and if the project is approved, is for the National Energy Board to set conditions on the project to safeguard communities and the environment. It is important that the process be thorough and unbiased.
There are many other issues wrapped up in your comment Mr Hebert, but not that are relevant to the question before Council tomorrow.
Thanks for your comments.
No to Kinder Morgan? Why? You already have 370,000 litres per hour of natural gases flowing thru Chilliwack and extremely dangerous goods by rail on a nightly basis that could kill the whole fraser valley instantly including permanent contamination.
Weighing jobs creation, tax based royalties including proper governments compliant policies and your need to have more jet fuel for those all inclusive or Vegas trips you go on , indirectly everyone is in favor ,yes that means you too . If you use electricity when higher demand is needed,the burrard inlet gas generators kick in for that fuel. Chilliwack needs Kinder Morgan . U say not in my backyard. Under the federal Crown Lands that is governed by the Governor General of Canada, no one cant stop it if its meets all regulatory sections but the Queen and the GGC are the only ones that has the power to vito it.