Kinder Morgan is pondering yet another route change for the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, one that involves drilling through Burnaby Mountain and avoiding the Westridge neighbourhood altogether.
Kinder Morgan is now looking at a beeline tunnel from the Burnaby Mountain tank farm to the Westridge Marine Terminal, a route that would cut across the south west corner of the mountain, instead of going around, as originally planned.
"We're required and obligated to optimize the study corridor, and what that really means is ensuring as much as possible we can minimize the impact as much as possible to people and the environment," said Ali Hounsell, spokesperson for the Trans Mountain expansion. "Based on what we heard, in order to minimize the impact in that area, particularly to the neighbours, we're looking at a selected study corridor that runs directly from the terminal through Burnaby Mountain."
The study corridor is a path of land the company is considering for the pipeline route. The line's exact route will be determined at a later date but will be placed somewhere within that corridor.
According to Hounsell, Trans Mountain is considering drilling through the mountain, a practice for more sensitive areas, instead of using a cut-and-cover method.
"They lay down the pipe in the terminal facilities, and they sort of pull it through using a drill technology," Hounsell said.
Some people are not happy no matter what route Kinder Morgan suggests. Burnaby resident Pat Howard and dozens of people in her housing complex were accepted as intervenors for the upcoming hearing, and she attended a recent open house only to sing protest songs outside.
"There is nothing that they could do with the route that would satisfy me. I have to tell you that most of us are opposed to any pipeline coming anywhere through Burnaby," she said. "We think it's outrageous to have it come to the Burrard Inlet."
Originally, Kinder Morgan put forward two Westridge area routing options in the application to the National Energy Board: a preferred route along Cliff Avenue, and an alternate route to the east, behind Pandora and Ridgeview drives. Now, the eastern option is considered the preferred route, although it has changed with the new plan to cut through the mountain.
Howard characterized the route as a "moving target" with all the changes.
According to the National Energy Board, it's normal for a pipeline company to refine the route after the application has been filed and the public has already applied to participate in the hearing.
"My understanding is it's normal for a company to apply for certificate for a corridor instead of a specific route, so that they can hear from the public," said NEB spokesperson Tara O'Donovan, adding that Kinder Morgan would have to change its application if the study corridor has moved, which it has.
While the NEB has already announced who can participate in the hearing, O' Donovan said the board would consider late applications on a case-by-case basis.
"If somebody didn't know they were impacted before but are because of route changes, they should certainly apply to participate," she said.
If the National Energy Board approves the project, it's not clear when the public will learn the final route. According to the board's rules, the company must submit a plan and profile that shows the exact pipeline route and location of the right-of-way. At that point, Kinder Morgan would be required to inform the public through newspaper ads, usually with maps, and alert any landowners whose property may be crossed and tell them how they can voice their opposition to the proposed route. Anyone who thinks their land will be adversely affected can also voice their opposition at that point in the process. If there is opposition, that would launch a detailed route hearing.
Meanwhile, Kinder Morgan is seeking feedback on the new routing options until April 17. More information can be found here.