A pipeline leak that sent oil into an Alberta, Canada river in 2012.

Oil Company Lauds Job Creation Upside to Pipeline Spills as First Nation Goes to Court


An oil conglomerate seeking to expand its pipeline through pristine First Nations territory in British Columbia has taken the notion of looking on the bright side to a new level. In its 15,000-page application to the National Energy Board, Kinder Morgan Canada suggests that accidents actually carry within them the seeds for economic advancement.

“Pipeline spills can have both positive and negative effects on local and regional economies, both in the short- and long-term,” the company, a subsidiary of Houston-based Kinder Morgan, stated in its NEB application. “Spill response and cleanup creates business and employment opportunities for affected communities, regions, and cleanup service providers.”

That, as the environmental news site Grist noted, “is a bit like claiming cancer caused by nuclear accidents can be great because it provides work for oncologists.”

When questioned, Kinder Morgan Canada spokesman Michael Davies said that the company was merely complying with regulatory requirements—an assertion the NEB has since denied—and that talking up the potential upside of the worst-case scenario is not tantamount to condoning that scenario.

“No spill is acceptable to us,” Davies told The Vancouver Sun. “While we are required by the National Energy Board to explore both the positive and negative socio-economic effects of a spill, it in no way means we accept the inevitability of a spill, nor justify one.”

Kinder Morgan has drawn fire from both sides of the U.S.-Canada border for its $5.4 billion proposal, which involves more than doubling its capacity to draw bituminous crude from the Athabasca oil sands in Alberta to tanker terminals in Burnaby, British Columbia, and Anacortes and Ferndale, Washington. 

RELATED: Kinder Morgan Pitches Oil Sands Pipeline Expansion to Skeptics on Both Sides of Border

Coast Salish Nations Unite to Protect Salish Sea

On Friday May 2, Tsleil-Waututh Nation launched a legal challenge to the federal review process. 

“The Crown and NEB are running roughshod over our Aboriginal Title and Rights," Tsleil-Waututh Nation Chief Maureen Thomas said in a statement. "The process to review Kinder Morgan’s proposed pipeline expansion and tanker project was designed without First Nations consultation or public participation. The timelines appear to have been designed to rush through approvals."

The job-creation assertion, first reported by the news website Press Progress, has sparked outrage across Canada.

None other than the NEB also struck back, saying that there is no such requirement, The Vancouver Sun reported. Applicants must “assess the project’s expected overall beneficial and adverse socio-economic and environmental impacts,” The Vancouver Sun said, attributing the information to NEB spokesperson Sarah Kiley.

“It does not say that we expect to see an assessment of the positive benefits of a potential spill,” Kiley told the newspaper, referring to the manual outlining the application process. “In this case, [Kinder Morgan] has chosen to indicate that there will be economic benefits as the result of a spill or malfunction.”

Nonetheless, the fracas has even reached the ears of Rachel Maddow, who dished heartily about the claim on MSNBC.

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