Walking the (pipe)line

Yesterday was such a “beautiful” Vancouver day that I decided to go for a walk on Burnaby Mountain. I had heard a story on the radio that morning about Kinder Morgan’s plans to twin their TransMountain Pipeline, which carries  crude oil from Alberta oil fields to the Westridge Marine Terminal on Burrard Inlet. I decided to find the pipeline route and follow it.

Kinder Morgan’s plans, if approved by the National Energy Board, would triple the current capacity of the 60-year old pipeline and increase tanker traffic off the west coast an estimated 7 times. The Cities of Vancouver, West Vancouver, North Vancouver and Burnaby have all sought intervener status at the hearings into the project. Burnaby, especially, has come out in opposition to the project because of the risk of spills and effects on the community. In 2007, a spill released 250,000 litres of crude oil, 70,000 of which ended up in the ocean. The map shows the existing pipeline in blue and the proposed new expansion in red.

The line is easy to find. Since the 2007 spill, the company has been required to clearly mark it’s route.


It passes along major road ways, under recreation trails and through parks. At one point, it even seemed to pass beneath an elementary school.


It crosses several watercourses, some one which are included in efforts to revitalize salmon spawning streams in the area.


And at one point, a recreation trail that shares its name with the pipeline passes along the perimeter of a holding facility.


This pipeline has become such a part of the landscape that in now defines the route that roadways take, and the ways that residential neighbourhoods have developed on the slopes of Burnaby Mountain. Homes line the spill way below holding tanks presumably filled with oil.


The pipeline itself dates from the very origins of the development of an oil industry in Alberta, and the first efforts to move hydrocarbons from the land-locked interior to global markets. Realizing that I was stand just feet above moving sludge that had come across the Rocky Mountains somehow made immediate the history of oil in this region, but also the current debates about what to do with this resource today. There is no doubt of the impact of the pipeline on the local landscape, and any expansion is bound to effect the communities the new line passes through in incalculable ways. It is easy to read this history imprinted on the landscape, and also to recognize the impact and threat that further development poses even beyond the effects of tar sands development on global warming. This stuff is in our backyards, and beneath our playgrounds and schools, not just in Burnaby, but along all major pipeline routes such as Line 9 in Ontario.

On April 12, there will be a public walk along the pipeline route organized by Burnaby Residents Opposing Kinder Morgan Expansion (BROKE), the goal of which is to increase public awareness about the impact of the pipeline by making its physical reality a social one too. Everyone is welcome.


2 thoughts on “Walking the (pipe)line

  1. Pingback: Vancouver | two drifters (and a dog) off to see the world

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