FER Gains Intervenor Status for New Review of Kinder Morgan’s Proposed Pipeline Expansion -Compiled by Louise Beinhauer
The Board of Friends of Ecological Reserves has been included as one of the 400 intervenors accepted out of the 2,118 who had applied, to present to the National Energy Board at the hearings of Kinder Morgan’s proposed pipeline expansion project. Our application was submitted in early February. The Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion project proposes to twin their Trans Mountain pipeline along their existing right-of-way between Strathcona County, Alberta to Burnaby, British Columbia where possible. They will add new pump stations along the route and increase the number of storage tanks at existing facilities. The Westridge Marine terminal in Burnaby will also be expanded. This proposed expansion will result in an increased capacity from 300,000 to 890,000 barrels per day. Much of this new capacity will be diluted bitumen from the Alberta oil sands. The Aframax tankers proposed to serve the Kinder Morgan pipeline are approximately 245m long. Tanker traffic will increase through the Salish Sea from the current five tankers per month to approximately 34. The 2013 government-commissioned risk analysis report on tanker traffic safety in Canada concluded that the area off Southern Vancouver Island is a “very high risk zone”. Within this area lie 17 of the province’s 33 marine Ecological Reserves. Friends of Ecological Reserves is very concerned for the ecological integrity of the marine reserves within this zone. Our provincial Ecological Reserves rely on science-based research and are designed to serve as baselines for environmental health on our coast. With the increase in tanker traffic that would result from the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, these reserves, already at risk, are particularly vulnerable to irreversible ecosystem damage and extirpation of rare species from the effects of ship accidents, collisions, groundings or accidents at terminals resulting in the release of toxic substances into the Salish Sea. Most of these marine ERs are islands that are home to colonies of nesting or overwintering sea birds, marine mammals and sub-tidal fish and invertebrates. Mitigation of accidents in these ecosystems is essentially impossible. Four marine Ecological Reserves at the southern tip of Vancouver Island in particular, would be directly exposed to contamination in the event of a marine accident of any vessel in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The most northerly and only birthing colony of elephant seals in Canada is on the Race Rocks Ecological Reserve. Race Rocks is also a winter haulout site for two species of sea lions, and a birthing colony of harbour seals. It is also prime Orca habitat. Three seabird species have nesting colonies on the island and the subtidal marine life in this Rockfish Conservation zone has extremely high biodiversity values. The risk for these rare colonies from increased tanker traffic is very high. Containment of an oil spill in adverse weather conditions with tidal currents running up to 7 knots, make mitigation of a catastrophic event in this reserve impossible. Moreover, the population of marine birds and mammals is highest in the winter months when the sea conditions are at their worst.
We believe that the value to the citizens of British Columbia and Canada of the natural capital and ecosystem services provided by these marine Ecological Reserves, as well as their contiguous marine habitats, far outweigh the dollar value of any profit for Canadian citizens from increased transport of bitumen offshore. May 12, 2014 was the deadline for the submission of the first written information requests from Intervenors to the NEB hearings for the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion. FER submitted a 14-page letter with 26 Information Requests based on the following 12 concerns: 1. The size of the Marine Regional Study Area (MRSA). The MRSA identified in the Stantec Consulting report was used to bound the information search and reporting on environmental values. This area is approximately half the size of the high-risk spill area identified in the Transport Canada Report referenced previously on page 7. 2. Number of environmental Indicators and lack of specificity with regard to habitat indicators. FER agrees with the 11 indicator species selected by the Stantec Report, however we think others needed to be included. The Kinder Morgan selected indicators are: Intertidal habitat, Pacific herring, Salmon, Southern resident killer whale, Humpback whale, Steller sea lion, Fork-tailed storm-petrel, Cassin’s auklet, Surf scoter, Pelagic cormorant and Glaucous- winged gull. Some indicators are linked to species at risk, i.e. Steller Sea Lion and Southern resident killer whale, and other indicators linked to species that are culturally and commercially significant such the Pacific salmon. There needs to be a finite number of indicator species to monitor and periodically report on through time, and there is potentially a long list of species/ecosystems to choose from. However, the choice of indicators is exceedingly important and FER believes major indicators are missing. 3. Absence of known marine bird colonies as indicators for long term monitoring and reporting of marine health. The Stantec “Marine Birds – Marine Transportation Technical Report Volume 8b” states: “The 5 selected marine bird indicators, Cassin’s auklet, Fork-tailed storm-petrel, Pelagic cormorant, Surf scoter and Glaucous-winged gull, each represent a subset of the diversity of marine bird species in the Marine RSA because they are resident or seasonal.” Since the consultants reports indicate that the locations of colonies is known and shown in their reports, why are most known colonies omitted as indicators against which to measure impact and recovery? The consultants list the breeding bird colonies in the MRSA as: Pigeon guillemot, Pelagic cormorants, Glaucous-winged gulls, Black oystercatchers, Double-crested cormorants, Cassin’s auklets, Brandt’s cormorants, Rhinoceros auklets, Tufted puffins, Fork-tailed storm-petrels, and Leach’s storm-petrels. In the case of sea bird colony species, each species represents itself as an appropriate ecosystem health indicator. It is mentioned in the summary statement of this Marine Bird report that there are 223 different waterbird species in the MRSA. Monitoring and helping maintain baseline information on 11 sea bird species with known colonies in the MRSA is not considered onerous. All colonies are at higher risk and need monitoring over the life of the project. Shore birds are highly susceptible to shore zone pollution and recovery of breeding colonies may be indicated by trends in these colonies. 4. Absence of a representative of the shorebirds guild and a specific species against which to assess shore zone health. The intertidal guild of shorebirds has no indicator species identified. FER was encouraged that the NEB letter also noted this as a concern/deficiency in indicators. FER sees a need to expand the current list of marine birds to include representatives from the shorebird guild. The Great blue heron is also in the intertidal guild though it has some elasticity with regard to use of fresh water habitats, which the Black oystercatcher lacks. While there is a relatively small population of Black oystercatchers (BOC) nesting on the Pacific Coast of Canada, they are wide spread along the route (breeding areas are shown above). For more information on Black oystercatchers and the urgency of protecting their habitat see: https://ecoreserves.bc.ca/2013/12/17/black-oystercatchers-on-front-lines-for-oil-spills/ 5. Absence of resident fish and forage fish species as indicators of marine health. FER is pleased with the fish species chosen as indicators of marine health. However salmon and herring species are considered to be migratory, passing through the MRSA on annual migration patterns and not permanent residents. FER believes that there is a need to include a member of resident species guild to represent the health of marine ecosystems and suggest that rockfish species are appropriate resident species in need of baseline monitoring. Rockfish species (family Sebastidae) are already species of concern and the figure above shows on example of rockfish conservation areas near Victoria. FER is concerned that an oil spill may further risk recovering this species. 6. Representing information that minimizes spill impacts in high risk zone by comparison of selected indicators to post spill to global species condition outside of the impact area. Environmental Impact assessments are designed to help NEB and the public clearly understand the risks to resources from this project. Deficiency in the number of indicators has been noted earlier. Given that a robust set of indicators is determined, then each indicator requires a numeric baseline be established within the potentially high risk impacted oil spill area (see the figure on page 7). Then for the public to understand oil spill impacts, there is a need to estimate potential mortality and recovery linked to oil spill scenarios worst case and smaller spills case against this baseline. Using the Marine Birds report as an example, FER finds the characterization of indicator baselines absent for high risk impact zone. For example the “Marine Birds – Marine Transportation Technical Report Volume 8b”, provides bird counts for 237 bird species from inventories between 1962 and 2012. This information is related to inventory effort and data shows individual bird counts over a 40-year period but not the current population estimate or the range of variability (lowest to highest population fluctuations) within that period, nor the current population or trend. This report concludes that no supplemental studies will be needed. FER cannot support that there is no need for further study in light of the absence of baselines and trends and periodic reassessment over the life of the project. It is not possible to do an impact assessment without establishing an individual baseline against which to compare impact and measure recovery without some numerical disclosure. 7. Absence of importance of forage fish and identification of suitable micro habitats. Forage fish are the basis for much of the fish and sea mammal productivity in the Salish Sea and Strait of Juan de Fuca. The continued health and maintenance of their habitat is critical as these species are the base of the food chain. Of particular concern on the beaches of the ERs are two species, Pacific Sand Lance (Ammodytes hexapterus) and surf smelt (Hypomesus pretiosus). http://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/CSAS/CSAS/status/2002/SSR2002_B6-09_e.pdf. Their population levels and habitat condition together determine the condition of salmon, rock fish, many marine bird species and other marine mammal species. To learn more about forage fish and their role visit. http://www.lenfestocean.org/en/topics/small-pelagic-species. FER is concerned with the recovery of forage fish and what has been learned since the Exxon Valdez’s spill. The shore zone mapping may be at too coarse a scale to identify many of the smaller suitable habitats. 8. Marine mammal breeding colonies. Marine mammal breeding colonies exist in considerable numbers but are not mentioned. Reference by the consultant is to numerous sea mammal haul-outs only. Within a short distance of proposed tanker routes are several breeding and pupping colonies of harbour seals. They haul-out on shallow intertidal areas from the Oak Bay Islands to Race Rocks. The only pupping colony for the Northern Elephant seal in Canada started in 2009 at Race Rocks Ecological Reserve, after extirpation early in the 20th century. The significance of allowing this species, with such a limited range, to re-establish and the responsibility to protect this species is considerable. FER believes that these colonies need to be included as indicators as top predators are a good indicator of marine health. 9. Recovery and removal of species impacted by an oil spill and human safety. FER is aware that recovery of oily birds is extremely low and bird experts recommend that recovery of birds post oil spill is not warranted. There has been a publically-held belief that marine birds that are oiled can be successfully cleaned and will recover. A report on the Gulf oil spill concluded that well-meant public efforts to save a specific individual wildlife animal actually prolonged suffering of that individual as death was not avoided. The study concludes “According to serious studies, the middle-term survival rate of oil-soaked birds is less than one percent,” Gaus says. “We, therefore, oppose cleaning birds.” http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/gulf-of-mexico-spill-expert-recommends-killing-oil-soaked-birds-a-693359.html. 10. Numeric baselines for all indicators and specific numeric mortality estimates link to worst case spill and smaller spill scenarios for species indicators. The Oil Spill report (B19-14_V8B_TR_8B7_01_OF_24_ERA_MAR_SPILL_-_A3S4K7) also notes that the absence of baseline information in advance of the Exxon Valdez’s oil spill made the recovery estimate difficult. We concur and believe it is the role of the National Energy Board and Kinder Morgan to put these in place and link probable mortality (impact) to selector indicators and define recovery and provide an estimate of recovery within the impact areas. We do not believe baseline work and mortality estimates are frivolous as they are needed to prepare properly for an oil spill. Much detailed planning and forecasting is needed pre-project approval. 11. Involvement of ENGOs with continued monitoring and citizen oversight during the life of the project. The residents living along the tanker route have increasingly been providing greater amounts of baseline data on natural ecosystems through NGOs like FER. Ecological Reserve wardens provide extra eyes and ears for BC Parks. The best established monitoring/research in the 17 marine ERs along the tanker route is found at Race Rocks ER website (https://ecoreserves.bc.ca/portfolio_item/race-rocks-97/) which is supported partly by Pearson College. Pearson College uses the Ecological Reserve as a student lab and supports an award-winning Race Rocks website (http://www.racerocks.ca/wp/home/). Baeria Rocks ER (https://ecoreserves.bc.ca/portfolio_item/024-baeria-rocks/) is linked to the Bamfield Marine Field Station (http://www.bms.bc.ca/), another research-oriented NGO. More NGOs are taking on responsibilities for environmental monitoring and research. FER knows that governments will retain authority in legislation over natural resources, but both provincial and federal agencies have steadily decreased funding over the decades for monitoring. This trend is not expected to change over the next few decades, so that NGOs who have the interest and expertise, will to the extent possible, continue to provide a monitoring role and ideally this role could be formally expanded. Large projects like Kinder Morgan’s pipeline expansion must include support for long-term monitoring in their business plans and look to cooperative science-based NGOs as practical, cost effective approaches as part of their monitoring obligations. The consultants for Kinder Morgan did not identify an ongoing role for Kinder Morgan in long-term monitoring. There is a role for Kinder Morgan, and a monitoring framework is needed to define that role and identify partners. 12. Chronic oil spill hazards to ERs. It has been recognized that the threat to marine ecosystems from chronic oil spills has had a large cumulative impact. For a better understanding of chronic oil access: (http://www.earthpace.com/index.php/about/our-projects/37-chronic-oil-pollution.) FER is concerned with the current estimate of the chronic oil pollution associated with shipping and the increase in oil pollution that will likely be added by tanker traffic from the Kinder Morgan project. As Friends of Ecological Reserves prepare for our Intervention at the National Energy Board hearings for the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project, we have been made aware of sources of research that have been carried out for environmental assessment (https://docs.neb-one.gc.ca/ll-eng/llisapi.dll?func=ll&objId=2393350&objAction=browse&viewType=1). One set of documents provides examples of models showing spill scenarios at various locations along the tanker route. The example above in Model #1 shows a model of a spill scenario for Race Rocks Ecological Reserve in the Strait of Juan de Fuca in the summer time. On the following page is the model for this same oil spill, but in the winter time at Race Rocks (Model #2). Also shown are two models for an oil spill occurring in Haro Strait. Model #3 shows the probability of oil reaching various locations and Model #4 shows the time it will take for the oil to reach those shores. Lastly, Model #5 shows the average thickness of oil spilled in the Strait of Georgia after 48 hours. ( See these models in a previous post : http://wp.me/p4y4il-525
These are just a sample of the graphs and charts provided for each site and for each season. They are based on wind conditions present at the time of the simulation. These models show the vulnerability of our marine Ecological Reserves. Members of the Friends of Ecological Reserves who have concerns about the effects of chronic and catastrophic oil spills on the marine Ecological Reserves on Southern Vancouver Island are encourage to contact us with their concerns at: firstname.lastname@example.org or garryf (use the @ sign) gmail.com.