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Trans Mountain’s credibility on the line

Twenty-six people attended an open house about the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project at the Jasper Municipal Library and Cultural Centre, Jan. 26. K Byrne photo.

Twenty-six people attended an open house about the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project at the Jasper Municipal Library and Cultural Centre, Jan. 26. K Byrne photo.

Was it a sorely misinformed employee or a systemic failure to communicate?

No one knows for certain, but what is certain is Kinder Morgan got its facts wrong—big time.

Last week during a public forum about the company’s Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project, a media relations employee stated there had never been an oil spill in Jasper National Park. Full stop.

Within hours of publishing the story, the Fitzhugh was quickly informed by credible sources that Jasper National Park was home to not one, but six oil spills, including the second largest spill in the pipeline’s 63-year history.

According to an academic report, on April 29, 1966 a large rock struck an exposed portion of the pipeline near the park’s west gate releasing more than 1.2 million litres of crude oil into the environment. The rock came from a nearby blasting operation for the highway.

Less than a decade later a Canadian National Railway worker spotted another oil spill just inside the park’s borders about 150 yards from the Athabasca River on June 25, 1973. For 12 hours, the pipeline leaked crude oil undetected, ultimately releasing approximately 125,000 litres over an estimated 200-square-foot area of the park

Details about both of these spills and the four others is well documented, yet it seems no one from the company knew anything about them during the public forum.

Caught with their pants down, Trans Mountain blamed the failure to provide accurate information on human error.

The problem is, it wasn’t just one mistake or one person.

When the chair of the Jasper Environmental Association asked for more information about two spills that she was aware of, her question was met with blank stares and vague responses.

If the idea of an open house is intended to answer questions and build trust with the local community, Trans Mountain’s most recent exercise failed.

Not only did the company fail to answer a basic question, it skirted responsibility by blaming an employee.

Clearly the issue is much larger than one employee, it’s a systemic issue that should raise serious questions about Trans Mountain’s credibility.

How can a group of employees tasked with answering questions at an open house be unaware of the pipeline’s history, especially oil spills?

If they can’t answer this question, what other questions would they be unable to accurately answer?

It’s a scary proposition given the fact the company intends to twin the pipeline from Edmonton to Burnaby, B.C., tripling the amount of oil passing through JNP.

Providing inaccurate information like this is inexcusable. The public not only deserves to know the truth, but they should expect it.

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