Workers install a length of pipeline along the route of the Trans Mountain oil pipeline, between Edmonton and Burnaby. The National Energy Board is still looking at plans to complete twinning of the route.

Added costs to municipalities if Trans Mountain project goes ahead

Five Lower Mainland municipalities are facing as much as $93 million in extra costs, the National Energy Board has been told.

The expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline will mean over $93 million in extra costs for taxpayers in Langley, Surrey, Coquitlam, Abbotsford and Burnaby, according to a report filed with the National Energy Board (NEB) late last month.

The study by Associated Engineering, now posted on the NEB website, was funded by the five municipalities.

Projected over 50 years, the report concludes the added cost of building municipal infrastructure around the new pipeline “exceeds $93,000,000.”

Coquitlam would bear the biggest expense, $28.5 million, followed by Burnaby with $17.6 million, Surrey with $17.1 million, Abbotsford at $17 million and the Township of Langley would have the smallest added expense at $12.8 million.

That reflects the extra cost of installing new and replacement “buried utilities” like water pipes, sanitary and storm sewers as well as roads, ditches and creeks in areas where the pipeline is located.

National Energy Board regulations for working around petroleum pipelines require the communities through which the pipeline passes to follow strict rules when they carry out day-to-day maintenance tasks and construction projects.

That often means “altering methods of design and construction to accommodate the pipeline,” a memo in the report states.

“The communities affected by the existing pipeline have been responsible for the additional costs associated with these activities since original construction, and are concerned with the additional financial strain that may be included with the addition of a second pipeline,” the memo adds.

The report says while Trans Mountain pipeline owner Kinder Morgan has acknowledged there will be disruption during construction of the new pipeline, “there has not yet been acknowledgement of additional costs incurred by each municipality to operate, maintain and construct municipal infrastructure [after the line is built].”

The report discloses there have been several occasions where Kinder Morgan “has caused delay and cost to the Township” because of the existing pipeline.

It lists three examples; one where Kinder Morgan complained to the NEB about Township paving activities; one where the company reported the Township for failing to get a permit to clean a ditch 180 metres away from the pipeline; and one where it complained because the Township was replacing a tree damaged by a car accident near the line.

The report says because Kinder Morgan installs its pipe at shallow depths, this “forces municipalities to install their utilities under the pipelines to meet KM vertical clearance requirements, requiring additional effort and cost for trenching, shoring, corrosion protection, site footprint, finishing and dewatering.”

It also means the pipeline might have to be buried deeper, at the expense of the municipality, when a road next to it needs widening, the report says.

It suggests the added costs to municipal taxpayers could be trimmed through a number of measures, including burying the pipeline deeper and more consultation with municipal engineers.

Township Mayor Jack Froese said the report was raised with Peter Watson, chairman of the National Energy Board, during a Tuesday meeting involving Froese, Watson and senior municipal staff.

“We’re concerned about the costs down the road,” Froese told The Times.

Froese said the hour-long meeting was at the request of Watson.

They mayor said he was pleased to hear Watson say the federal government is preparing a law that would make pipeline operators “absolutely liable” for up to $1 billion in clean-up costs if there is a spill, more if the company is found negligent.

“I think that’s a good thing,” Froese said.

Watson described his Langley meeting as a follow-up to his sit-down with the Metro Vancouver Mayors’ Committee on April 14.

Peter Watson, chair of the National Energy BoardThe NEB head told The Times it is all part of a bid to improve communications between the Alberta-based regulatory agency and the B.C.communities affected by the proposed pipeline.

He said there will be more face-to-face consultation with representatives of local communities along the pipeline route in the future.

“This is just the beginning [of the process],” Watson said.

He said the NEB has heard from 400 intervenors about the Trans Mountain expansion, making it “the largest hearing we’ve conducted in our history.”

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