Burns Lake and area residents attended a TransCanada’s Coastal GasLink Pipeline project open house in Burns Lake on Oct. 26, 2012. The project is to build a natural gas pipeline from Dawson Creek to Kitimat, B.C. The Pipeline, a four billion dollar project that would take 3.5 years to complete, will be under construction by 2015 if all community, environmental and economic feasibility studies are positive.
The proposed 48” diameter underground pipeline will run south west from Dawson Creek just north of Fraser Lake and intersect Hwy. 35 south of Burns Lake at Bald Hill as it makes fairly straight line to the south Hazelton Mountain range and through to Kitimat. The exact details of the proposed pipeline’s route are not available yet. TransCanada is still in a public consultation process and will begin its detailed environmental and engineering field work in 2013. This work is expected to take about a year, after which they will make a formal application for environmental reviews with the federal and provincial governments.
Bruce Wells, Director of Project Planning and Execution, and senior TransCanada engineers were on hand to answer questions as part of a public consultation process. Wells is proud of TransCanada’s record with pipeline construction. He described pipeline work that he was involved with South America where his team worked to higher standards than they were asked to observe. “We saved all the topsoil and replaced it when we were finished,” Wells explained. “Government regulations didn’t require us to do that, but we don’t abandon our good practises to save a buck.”
Earlier in the day Wells made a presentation to the board of the Regional District of Bulkley Nechako where he answered questions put to him by regional directors and mayors of the region. Ralph Roy, Director of electoral area D (Fraser Lake Rural) asked how TransCanada would deal with land owners who holdout against pipeline land use easements. Wells said that there is an arbitration process in place for such conflicts, but TransCanada has not recently had to go to arbitration on any of its pipelines. “We’re diligent to resolve things before they go to arbitration,” Wells said. “We have a good track record of doing that and all three of our recent pipelines were completed without a need for arbitration. We were able to reach agreements with all affected landowners.”
“When possible, our preference is to meet with people in person if they have concerns with the project. We’ve had face to face conversations with over 400 affected landowners, and our [project] mailing list includes over 600 landowners,” said Wells.
Houston Mayor Bill Homberg asked how revenues would be shared among regions and municipalities that the pipeline might travel through. “We expect to pay over $17 million every year in property tax payments across Northern B.C.,” Wells said. This is the primary revenue stream directly to the region.
Rob Newell, Director of Area G (Houston rural) asked about the July 20, 2011 rupture of a TransCanada pipeline in Wyoming. “That was a state of the art pipeline,” Newell said. “How have you dealt with reliability issues since then?”
“We found that there was a mechanical explanation,” Wells responded. “Something happened between the time we put it in the ground and full operation.”
The U.S. Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) website lists the rupture of the pipeline as due to ‘material, equipment or weld’ failure. The explosion did not result in any human injury, but PHMSA reported $6.7 million dollars in property damages.
In a statement issued by TransCanada to the CBC earlier in the week the company indicated that the mechanical failure identified at the rupture point was not found at any other point along the pipeline after a complete re-inspection of the entire line. According to the TransCanada document, PHMSA carried out a review of TransCanada’s own inspection work and the pipeline was deemed safe to return to service within the same month.
Smithers Mayor Taylor Bachrach continued with the questioning Newell had started. He asked how TransCanada would reply to Canada’s National Energy Board (NEB) concerns that the company was not always in compliance with NEB regulations.
Wells said that although there were some issues regarding compliance, the NEB report itself acknowledged that the compliance issues were not regarding immediate risks to public safety, and that many of the issues identified were already well under way to being corrected at the time of the report. “We make mistakes occasionally,” he said, “but we learn from them.”