Kinder Morgan's offer of $800,000 if the National Energy Board approves their pipeline and the City of Chilliwack's refusal to be put in a position of conflict with their participation in the NEB hearing made headlines. Here's some of what went on behind-the-scenes.
Kinder Morgan's offer was made public on the Friday of the May long weekend. A City staff report recommended Council approval. Fast work by WaterWealth empowered the community with analysis of the offer's implications, and emails poured in to City Hall before the Tuesday Council meeting. Thanks to WaterWealth's supporters and allies, Council was supported to take a stand on principle despite the $800,000 waved in front of them!
Below is a condensed backstory and "what's next" on Kinder Morgan's offer and WaterWealth's involvement as an intervenor in the NEB process. The full story is in our blog post, A Question of Process: Grassroots Challenging Big Money.
Friday of the May long weekend we learned that Chilliwack Council would decide Tuesday whether to sign a memorandum of understanding worth $800,000 from Kinder Morgan if their pipeline project gets approved by the National Energy Board.
Chilliwack is a commenter in the NEB hearing. Commenters get one opportunity to submit a letter of comment and the City had not submitted their letter yet. We wondered how is it that the proponent is allowed to offer money to those with standing in the hearing? No one would stand for that in a court hearing. Why is it allowed in an NEB hearing?
There was plenty of work over the weekend to look into the offer and what has happened with other communities (What we found was disturbing). By the holiday Monday we were ready and put what we had learned into a blog post (see Is Kinder Morgan Trying to Bribe Our City), followed up on Facebook and Twitter, and sent an email to Chilliwack supporters asking them to write, call or email Mayor and Council.
We weren't sure what to expect on a holiday, but the response was amazing! People overwhelmingly agreed that Kinder Morgan's offer was inappropriate and they spoke up to say so!
On the Tuesday City Council struggled with the temptation of that $800,000 but in the end also agreed, voting to defer doing any deal with Kinder Morgan until after the NEB decision! We have no doubt that our collective voice as a community made the difference, a difference we're sure came as a surprise to Kinder Morgan!
We are proud that our home community, the first in the Fraser Valley to decide on a Kinder Morgan Community Benefits offer, took a principled stand. Still, We are left wondering why the NEB allows these offers to be made to communities involved in the hearing?
Three communities who are intervenors have signed deals. Intervenors had two opportunities to ask questions of Kinder Morgan and one opportunity to submit written evidence. Those deadlines have passed.
Looking at the three intervenor communities:
District of Clearwater: Signed a $390,000 Community Benefit Agreement.
Submitted no information requests or written evidence.
District of Hope: Signed a $500,000 Community Benefit Agreement.
Submitted no information requests or written evidence.
City of Kamloops: Signed a $700,000 Community Benefit Agreement.
Submitted no Information Request #1 and no written evidence.
One hopes the money did not influence those communities, but does a proper process allow room for doubt? We submitted a motion asking the NEB to tell Kinder Morgan to stop making these deals with participants in the hearing.
WaterWealth became an intervenor because we saw a need to protect the pure, clear water that flows down the mountains over the pipeline route, and the aquifers the City and others rely on for drinking water. Our shared home waters are a natural heritage that is key to the beauty of the region we call home and to important sectors of the local economy, directly and through spin-off activities connected to farming, recreation, tourism, and fisheries.
There is still plenty of work to do on this issue. The direction we take may depend on the NEBs response to our motion. Many, such as former BC Hydro CEO and 40-year energy sector veteran Marc Eliesen, economist and former ICBC president and CEO Robyn Allan, and recently our friends Watershed Watch have pulled out of the process, stating that the NEB panel "is engaged in a public deception" and calling the process "a farce", "rigged", and "flawed".
Do we continue in the NEB process? Do we join the growing movement calling for a made-in-BC process one that might include climate change in its deliberations? These are topics of discussion at WaterWealth and we would be happy to hear your input on what direction to take. Rest assured that whatever the decision we will pursue it with the same tenacity that saw us play a role in the Water Sustainability Act getting passed, the Mountain Slough dredging being shelved, the Aevitas hazardous waste proposal being withdrawn, and Chilliwack being supported to do the right thing in response to Kinder Morgan's money offer.
We're committed to speaking up for our shared home waters, but WaterWealth runs largely on your donations! Our work is often too political for granting foundations. None of those wins listed above had any funding. We have also chosen not to register as a charity, in order to ensure that our voice- your voice- for water is not constrained by Canada Revenue Agency restrictions. If you are able to contribute either as a monthly donor or with a one time donation ... well, as our logo says;
"Our Wealth is in Our Water, Let's Protect it!"
The WaterWealth Project · 45668 Storey Ave, Chilliwack, BC V2R 3E4, Canada · 604.858.8021