At least 20 Kinder Morgan representatives faced sometimes difficult questions at a public open house held in Chilliwack Tuesday night to discuss the proposed $4.3 billion Trans Mountain oil pipeline twinning project.
But there was almost as much back and forth between members of anti-pipeline group PIPE UP and the green-jacketed Trans Mountain people as there was with the public.
About a dozen PIPE UP members set up a display outside the doors
of the Best Western hotel to provide "a balanced picture of the risks associated with the project."
Kinder Morgan plans to twin its 1,150-kilometre pipeline that runs from Edmonton to Burnaby, increasing capacity from 300,000 barrels per day up to 750,000 barrels per day.
There is clear demand for the increase as December crude shipments on the Trans Mountain pipeline were oversubscribed by 70 per cent.
The company is in the early stages of the proposal and plan to file an application with the National Energy Board late next year.
Through Chilliwack, the pipeline runs under farmers' fields, residential neighbourhoods in Sardis, Watson elementary's school yard, Kin-kora Golf Course and the Vedder River.
The pipeline, which ships a variety of products including oil sands diluted bitumen, runs under the 25-acre farm owned by Corine De Groot and her husband at the corner of Tyson and Watson roads.
De Groot was at the meeting Monday and wonders if the project could damage the Sardis-Vedder aquifer, which provides Chilliwack's drinking water.
She also asked what would happen to her property, which is an idle dairy farm but is rented out to vegetable growers. De Groot told the Times that she didn't get an answer.
"They don't know," she said. "Tonight I heard they are thinking of putting it through the Hydro [right-of-way], which makes a lot of sense. But that means we will have two pipelines going through our property."
De Groot said they have been approached by the company but no dollar compensation amount has been discussed and she is not sure how long the project would disrupt her land.
Kinder Morgan's meetings have a particular focus on the benefits, which include an increase in municipal property taxes from the current $613,000 to $1.4 million.
Company representatives also promoted the economic benefits, which include direct expenditures of $4.3 billion during design and construction, 47,200 person-years of employment, in addition to spin-off jobs and economic activity during the project.
PIPE UP has focused on the risks of a diluted bitumen oil spill, pointing particularly to a disastrous event in the Kalamazoo River in Michigan in 2010.
PIPE UP has also been critical of the Kinder Morgan meetings, calling them nothing more than focus groups to gauge public opinion rather than true consultation.
At the event, attendees were handed a 30page "discussion guide" with information about the project. People were also asked to fill out a detailed five-page feedback form.
One of PIPE UP's founders, Sheila Muxlow, told the Times that when they set up their display near the doors, a hotel manager told them to leave the property but later relented and allowed them to stay.
The company said 79 people signed in at Monday's meeting and they are asking for continued feedback through the website www.transmountain.com. Since announcing the project in April, some 250 meetings and workshops have taken place with local governments, organizations and First Nations. The company said 1,100 people have attended the 27 public information meetings since Oct. 17.