​Paying three times on Trans Mountain. What else would you expect?

Construction work underway on the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion in August 2018. Image: Kinder Morgan Canada

How do you like paying for the same thing three times?

Because that’s what we’re doing, if this Trans Mountain Expansion Project ever goes ahead.

Now, to be clear, it’s not for all of it — just a small portion. But we are most certainly paying for it.

What I’m referring to is the preliminary work that was done on the project. Surveyors tromped all over hill and dale, marking the right of way, centre of ditch, the existing pipe, and any other lines crossing the planned route. They hammered in colour-coded stakes by the gazillion along the first construction phases of the route.

Hydrovac trucks had gone out in earnest, finding all the other line crossings using a process sometimes referred to as daylighting. The hydrovac workers use a giant wash wand, similar to what you would see in a car wash, but much more powerful. They use it to liquify the dirt and wash it away while a giant vacuum mounted on a boom of a very large truck sucks away the mud. This is done to find the telephone, fibre optic, power, oil or gas pipelines whose precise position you really need to know before an excavator bucket does it the hard way.

If you lived anywhere along the right-of-way, you would have surely seen the high numbers of wide loads going by as large semis pulling lowboy trailers first brought the heavy equipment like excavators, dozers, and forestry equipment, first to the marshalling yards, then to the right-of-way kickoff. Those marshalling yards would be chock-full of shacks, warehouse trailers, fueling stations, skids, and every sundry thing you can think of needed to build a pipeline.

It is my understanding that when the Federal Court of Appeal quashed the permits to build the expansion project, not only did work stop, but it was reversed.

Every one of those stakes had to be pulled. All the hydrovac holes had to be refilled. Access ramps had to be taken out. All equipment had to leave the right-of-way, not simply be parked for a rapid return to work. All the signage, much of it custom made, had to be removed. There’s to be no trace of this work that has taken place. I don’t think they’re going to be putting back the trees that were cleared, but I wouldn’t be surprised, either.

But it gets better. The equipment didn’t just get sent back to the marshalling yards along the right-of-way. No sir. Those marshalling yards had to be fully demobilized by the end of September. Nothing left. So the pipeline construction contractors had to pull all their iron out and send it back to wherever it came from, i.e. Edmonton, Fort St. John, wherever.

To be clear: Trans Mountain, when it was still Kinder Morgan, paid to have all the initial mobilization, surveying, hydrovacing, access and signage work to be done. We, the taxpayer, then paid an obscene amount for the Trans Mountain pipeline. That included the associated expansion project which has not been built, and whose permit has just been quashed. Thus, we have paid a very high price for the work Kinder Morgan had already done.

Trans Mountain became a Crown corporation, meaning we now own it, and pay for everything it pays for. Trans Mountain then is paying for the full demobilization that took place in September, post-judgement, post-ownership change.

The federal government then, on Sept. 21, sent the project back to the National Energy Board for consideration of the issues the court said were missed, namely tanker traffic’s impact on the southern resident orca (“killer whale”) population, and for additional consultation with First Nations. This is supposed to be completed within 22 weeks. Given it took the better part of a month to start this, it means a full six months will be lost, minimum.

If, presumably, “This pipeline will be built,” as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau likes to say, that means that some time after six months has passed (and closer to a year, due to the timing of migratory bird movements, but that’s a whole other column), the project will go ahead. That means we will pay, again, for the surveying to be done, again. We will pay for the hydrovacing to be done, again. We will pay for the signage to be installed, again. We will pay for the mobilization of all the equipment from the contractors’ yards to the marshalling yards, and then the right-of-way, again. We will pay for all of this.

Need I remind you that there was a private company willing to pay for all of this, on their own dime, just a few months ago? But due to the colossal screw up in the handling of this file by the federal government, to get back to where we were on Sept. 1, we will have paid for all this work three times instead of once.

Put that in your pot pipe and smoke it, Prime Minister Trudeau.

— Pipeline News