Why Kinder Morgan Is Pausing ‘Non-Essential’ Trans Mountain Pipeline Spending

The Texas oil giant is looking to the feds to fix its BC opposition problem.
April 9, 2018, 12:37pm
Image via The Canadian Press

After a couple hundred protesters blocked a Kinder Morgan construction site in Burnaby Saturday, the Texas oil company announced it will stop all “non-essential” Trans Mountain pipeline expansion spending Sunday.

Kinder Morgan’s CEO Steve Kean said in a statement that the “current environment” poses too much financial risk to his shareholders, calling out the government of BC’s legal opposition to the project as a major hurdle.


“The uncertainty as to whether we will be able to finish what we start leads us to the conclusion that we should protect the value that [Kinder Morgan] has, rather than risking billions of dollars on an outcome that is outside of our control," Kean said.

The company is seeking “clarity on the path forward, particularly with respect to the ability to construct through BC” as well as “protection” for its shareholders on the $7.4 billion pipeline expansion. Kean warned if these concerns aren’t addressed by May 31, “it is difficult to conceive of any scenario in which we would proceed with the project.” Kinder Morgan plans to consult with stakeholders until then.

Indigenous leaders and environmental protesters celebrated the announcement as a win for on-the-ground protest. So far the company has not put a price tag on delays caused by ongoing blockades at its Burnaby marine terminal, though estimates submitted in court documents suggest it could be hundreds of thousands per day.

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, who was among blockaders Saturday, told supporters Sunday that Kinder Morgan “blinked.” “They took a step back, and I think probably after some long hours in the boardroom last night they’ve come to the inevitable conclusion that you simply can’t ram a pipeline through in the face of such opposition.”

For years pipeline opposition has focused on ongoing First Nations legal challenges, a flawed environmental review process, uncertain spill risks, and the climate impacts associated with tripling the daily capacity of a 1,150 kilometre pipeline.

Canada’s natural resource minister pledged to fight BC opposition, calling Trans Mountain a “crucial resource project.”

“The Government of Canada calls on Premier Horgan and the BC government to end all threats of delay to the Trans Mountain Expansion,” reads part of Minister Jim Carr’s statement. “His government's actions stand to harm the entire Canadian economy. At a time of great global trade uncertainty, the importance of Canada's role in the global energy market is bigger than individual projects and provinces.”

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley echoed the feds, adding her province will provide investment if necessary. “If we have to, Alberta is prepared to do whatever it takes to get this pipeline built,” reads a Sunday tweet from the premier.

In a short afternoon press conference BC Premier John Horgan said his government would continue their legal battle against the project, and “respectfully disagreed” that the project was in the national interest. “The interests of Texas boardrooms are not the interests of British Columbians,” he told media.

“We will always stand up for British Columbians, our environment and the thousands of jobs that depend on our coast.”

Follow Sarah Berman on Twitter.