Canada’s government is buying the controversial Trans Mountain Pipeline. It connects tar sands oil fields in Alberta to a terminus in British Columbia. Hidden in the details of the agreement with the Kinder Morgan corporation is a surprising fact that connects the deal to Washington state.
Included in the CA$4.5 billion purchase price is 69 miles of spur on this side of the border.
“Canada is buying the Puget Sound Pipeline, which is a spur pipeline that leads from the Trans Mountain Pipeline in Canada to refineries in Washington State,” said Clark Williams-Derry, an analyst with Seattle-based Sightline Institute.
He says they only found that detail in the fine print of the regulatory filings, which also indicate there are plans to expand the Puget Sound Pipeline in tandem with the Trans Mountain expansion.
It’s not yet clear what kind of say Washington state may have in the deal. And Williams-Derry thinks this aspect of the deal is unprecedented.
“There are Canadian corporations who own U.S. pipelines, but a government – not just a foreign corporation that still has to abide by U.S. rules,” he said. “What are the international issues that get raised when a government owns a key piece of U.S. infrastructure?”
Environmental nonprofits, tribes and first nations and the local British Columbia government are all opposing the Trans Mountain expansion, which could bring as much as seven times more oil through the Salish Sea.
Williams-Derry says the opposition is not just out of concern about increased risk of oil spills. It’s also about the climate.
“Because this oil – this tar sands oil that they’re trying to ship our way – is some of the dirtiest oil on the planet, some of the most carbon intensive oil you can find anywhere,” he said.
That’s because getting it out of the ground is more like mining and takes a lot more energy than for ordinary crude oil. This may be an issue as local governments intent on shrinking their carbon footprints chime in on the new ownership issues.
Canadian officials including the Consulate General in Seattle continue to tout the advantages of expanding the Trans Mountain pipeline. Those were outlined in an op-ed published earlier this week in the Seattle Times.
Among the arguments in favor of the expansion are the jobs they say it will create for middle-class families, the increased trade balance it creates with Washington state and the new marine safety system Canada is developing to accommodate increased oil shipping.