A Look Back at the History between Kinder Morgan and KPU

The highs, the lows, the rejection of a $300,000 bribe

Alan Davis addresses a forum of critics in the university who disagreed with a memorandum between KPU and Trans Mountain in 2015. (File photo)

A turbulent history exists between Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline and Kwantlen Polytechnic University. It began in 2015, when the university signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Trans Mountain Expansion Project that would see KPU accept $300,000 in scholarships over 20 years for students studying environmental protection technology and trades.

The MOU outlined that four different awards would be offered: the Trans Mountain Pipeline Endowed Award for Leadership at $100,000, the Trans Mountain Pipeline Dean’s List Award for Leadership at $100,000, The Trans Mountain Pipeline Award for Excellence in Environment Protection at $60,000, and the Trans Mountain Pipeline Environmental Protection Lab at $40,000. Each award budget would be separated into several scholarships to be given over two decades. The project was set to be approved in 2016, when Trans Mountain would slap their name onto the Environmental Protection Technology Lab at KPU’s Langley campus.

Kinder Morgan claimed that the MOU was a way of supporting Canadian students using their community benefits program, which the company website describes as “committed to investing in communities that may be impacted by construction along the proposed pipeline route.”

There is also an “environmental stewardship” portion of the program, which is tailored to “protecting the environment along the proposed pipeline corridor.” According to Kinder Morgan, that includes restoring aquatic ecosystems and fish habitat as well as re-establishing provincial parks.

The irony and injustice of the MOU was not missed by KPU students, nor was it approved by the Kwantlen First Nation. Rallies were organized all around the Lower Mainland, with one in Fort Langley supported by the KFN bringing about 400 people together.

As is now well-known, pipelines can, have, and will continue to damage the environment. If a spill happens due to Kinder Morgan, the $300,000 offered to the university wouldn’t even come close to covering the costs of cleaning it up or healing the plants, animals, and humans hurt by the spill.

These were some of the concerns raised at rallies. They were echoed at September and October 2015 meetings between KPU President Alan Davis and the Kwantlen First Nation Council. The Kwantlen Student Association, the Kwantlen Public Interest Research Group, the Pipe Up Network, and KPU Geography Professor Bill Burgess joined them as well. Because KPU Is named after the Kwantlen First Nation—and just out of respect—Davis placed considerable importance on their anti-pipeline stance. He also listened to the concerns of student groups and individuals on-campus.

The university did ultimately decide to withdraw from the memorandum in October, but the Trans Mountain Pipeline is still fully operating, as it has since 1953. An expansion is currently on the table, to be built from 2017 to 2019. The Trans Mountain Expansion Project will either be approved or rejected this year, on Dec. 19. The cost of the project is about $6.8 billion for 980 kilometres of new pipeline and 193 kilometres of reactivated pipeline, 12 new pump stations, 20 new tanks, terminal expansions, and the ability to carry heavier oils.

Chapter Coordinator for Pipe Up, Justine Nelson, says that she sees the 2015 MOU with KPU as the company’s attempt to “bribe” the university into supporting them and their projects.

“As an alumna from KPU, I was frustrated that my school decided to accept that money and we started organizing to oppose the memorandum,” she says. “I would say now it’s pretty good. I’m happy that [KPU] backed out of it. I think that was a pretty good move on behalf of the school.”