As the Trans Mountain pipeline twinning project awaits approval from the federal government, a company representative was at city hall this week, telling Kamloops council work could begin this summer.
Trans Mountain senior community liaison Kate Stebbings said the community will see a slow ramp-up of work in the area, which is expected to take about 18 months.
With approval, the 1,150-kilometre pipeline will be fully twinned from Edmonton to Burnaby, with 28 kilometres of the pipeline running through Kamloops.
The city is also home to Trans Mountain’s Kamloops Terminal, two storage tanks at the west end of town that have a capacity of 160,000 barrels of oil product. The terminal is a hub for local distribution and a receiving point for product from northeastern B.C.
“If we receive approval on May 22, we will be beginning construction in summer, late fall in the Kamloops urban area,” Stebbings said. “Doesn’t mean you’re going to see shovels in the ground. Some of the early work, we’ll be doing things like fencing, surveying, line locating, making sure that we’re not going to be hitting anybody else’s utility when we move through things.”
Trans Mountain has faced significant hurdles with its pipeline twinning project, including fierce opposition from B.C.’s NDP provincial government, due to potential impacts on marine life and what was considered to be a lack of meaningful consultation with First Nations.
However, last month, the National Energy Board endorsed the project following reconsideration of impacts on marine life off B.C.’s coast. The NEB said it will impose 156 conditions should the project be approved from the federal government, which owns the project after the federal Liberal government purchased the pipeline last year from Kinder Morgan for $4.5 billion.
Asked about further legal hurdles that could delay the project, Stebbings said she would be speculating, but does anticipate continued legal challenges. She called consultations with First Nations of “critical importance” adding she expects some Indigenous communities will continue to oppose the project.
“We have dealt with that [opposition] since the beginning of the project,” Stebbings said.
In the Kamloops area, Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation has signed a $3-million community-benefits agreement with the pipeline company.
Mayor Ken Christian wondered about the route through Kamloops. The approved route follows 73 per cent of the existing pipeline. In Kamloops, deviations occur to bypass Westsyde residences, utilizing an existing Telus right-of-way in the Lac du Bois area above Westsyde, in addition to the east side of Tranquille Road and around Jacko Lake.
Asked about the Thompson River, Stebbings said Trans Mountain would not abandon the existing crossing.
“This is a twinning project,” Stebbings said. “So, the existing pipe is in the ground, it’s been there since 1958, it’s very well-maintained. People who manage that pipeline say it’s in better shape now than it was the day they put it in. … That pipeline will stay where it is and that includes the existing crossing of the Thompson River. It will continue to be in operation. It will be used to carry the lighter products.”
Coun. Kathy Sinclair asked about resource allocation in the event of an emergency, given increased capacity to transport bitumen.
Stebbings touted Trans Mountain’s emergency response plan as “robust” and “industry leading.” She said in the past three years, additional steps have been taken to ensure community safety, including a geographic response plan developed with local first responders, First Nations and service providers that includes detailed information to all parties, including mapping of the pipeline, control points and from where to land helicopters and launch boats.
Additionally, Stebbings said, plans are practised to decrease the chances of mistakes and to identify potential updates required.
Coun. Arjun Singh, noting he is a climate-change advocate who receives “heat” for supporting the pipeline, requested but did not receive a statement from the company on climate action.
Some 600 workers are expected to be involved on the project in Kamloops and the city stands to gain $700,000 from a community-benefits agreement. Trans Mountain is working with Tourism Kamloops and the Kamloops Accommodation Association to house workers.
With the Kamloops Chamber of Commerce, Trans Mountain is co-hosting a business-readiness workshop for the pipeline expansion project on Tuesday, March 26, from 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m., at the Coast Kamloops Hotel and Conference Centre, 1250 Rogers Way in Aberdeen.
The event is being held for anyone interested in applying for work or responding to requests for proposals. The event is free to attend, though registration is required. For more, go online to the Kamloops Chamber website.
“We’ll hire as many local people as we can, as are available and qualified,” Stebbings said.