Truthiness – UPDATED

December 15 update:

The bright minds at Kinder Morgan have re-refined advertising in their effort to build support for the inner harbour of Vancouver becoming a site for major bitumen exports. Now the tag line used is:

“Committed to safety since 1953.”

Of course, this remains fundamentally false since the Trans Mountain pipeline, built in the mid 20th century, was not acquired by Kinder Morgan until 2005. Previous pipeline operators may have been committed to safety but those people are long gone. Today, Kinder Morgan chooses not to stand on its own record across North America; they prefer to appropriate the reputation of Trans Mountain’s departed owners.

After reading the report by Sightline.Org, people will deduce that Kinder Morgan’s commitment has been to profitability, not safety. Here are excerpts:

  • In Louisiana, Kinder Morgan’s coal export facilities are so dirty that satellite photos clearly show coal dust pollution spewing into the Mississippi River.
  • In South Carolina, coal dust from Kinder Morgan’s terminal contaminates oysters, pilings, and boats. Locals have even caught the company on video washing coal directly into sensitive waterways.
  • In Virginia, Kinder Morgan’s coal export terminal is an open sore on the neighborhood, coating nearby homes in dust so frequently that even the mayor is speaking out about the problem.
  • In Portland, Kinder Morgan officials bribed a ship captain to illegally dump contaminated material at sea, and their operations have repeatedly polluted the Willamette River.
  • Kinder Morgan has been fined by the US government for stealing coal from customer’s stockpiles, lying to air pollution regulators, illegally mixing hazardous waste into gasoline, and many other crimes.

December 12 update:

A short while ago, Kinder Morgan ended an advertising campaign that stated,

“Trans Mountain, operating safely in your community since 1953.”

That falsehood has been replaced in new advertising with,

“TransMountain, operating safely in your community.”

That, of course, is debatable. With extreme weather hitting two coasts of North America this week, no participant in the fossil fuel industry is operating safely in any community. Moreover, this is just one more illustration of Kinder Morgan playing fast and loose with the truth.

Trans Mountain was incorporated by Imperial Oil and Canadian Bechtel 65 years ago and Kinder Morgan acquired it in 2005. The Texas based operation had been taking credit for “operating safely” when the company was owner of the pipeline for less than 15% of its lifetime. Additionally, economist Robyn Allan says:

Part of the [company’s] strategy is to deal in complexity that avoids scrutiny…

During Kinder Morgan’s ownership, numerous serious deficiencies have been apparent so continuing to claim safe operation is, as polite people might say, disingenuous. Others would call it outrageous lying. Of course, given the high stakes, British Columbians cannot trust this company and we cannot believe any promises they make, no matter what warm and fuzzy claims are made by their paid advertising.

It’s not been a good week for Trans Mountain Pipelines hereabouts. Nor has it been a good week for myths that the NEB is an objective regulator and the RCMP is an even-handed enforcer of public order. Essentially, to protect the pipeline company’s interests, police exceeded court authority and established a line across Burnaby lands not covered by the Supreme Court injunction. Then, they arrested people for crossing the misplaced barrier.

BC Civil Liberties Association Executive Director Josh Paterson reacted after the court threw out contempt charges facing Burnaby Mountain demonstrators:

The RCMP made an unacceptable mess of this injunction, improperly arresting nearly 100 people. Today the court has cleaned up the mess. The RCMP arrested demonstrators for violating the court’s order when those people hadn’t crossed the line. Some of these people were deprived of their liberty over an entire weekend. The court made clear that the police had no authority do to that. This is a victory for the constitutional right of people to demonstrate and to express themselves.

Earlier, Paterson had complained about police conduct:

We have been extremely troubled to see video and photos of people being choked, thrown to the ground, and pinned to the ground, and we are looking into whether complaints should be filed against the RCMP and other participating police forces.

One might think this situation would embarrass the RCMP and be an expensive mistake for American owned Kinder Morgan but taxpayers are stuck with the already 7-figure police cost, an amount that will increase when lawyers begin to argue about damages owed children, elders and others for wrongful arrest and imprisonment. However, the reality is that Trans Mountain got what it wanted. Police actions ensured the company was able to complete the disputed work and further its preparations for turning Burrard Inlet into a more significant port for export of diluted Alberta bitumen.

That outcome fits the Harper Government and its oil industry sponsors quite nicely but provides further evidence the RCMP has become an obedient servant of political masters, a status resisted by non-commissioned personnel as well as civilians opposed to what Toronto writer George Jonas referred to as “Canada’s drift from a free society to a police state.”

Some people believe that, despite complaints about unnecessary force, the RCMP response in Burnaby was restrained, since there were no reports that snipers were deployed, as happened in New Brunswick.


In various processes recently, including Burnaby Mountain, the NEB demonstrated its loyalty to the fossil fuel industry. Regular readers will not be surprised by another example of subservient regulators serving interests of regulated parties.

On October 14, after noting a Trans Mountain commercial that included the dishonest tag “operating safely in your community since 1953,” I filed a complaint with Advertising Standards Canada, a non-profit organization established by the industry to “self-regulate” and ensure integrity of advertising.

The issue was straightforward since Trans Mountain had been charged and convicted for not operating safely in the community of Burnaby. CRED (Conversations for Responsible Economic Development) reports in Assessing the risks of Kinder Morgan’s proposed new Trans Mountain pipeline:

Kinder Morgan, Inc. is an U.S. energy transport company headquartered in Houston, Texas. Kinder Morgan was formed in 1997 when former Enron executives Richard Kinder and William Morgan bought Enron’s liquid pipeline assets, Enron Liquids Pipeline, L.P…

Carl Weimer, executive director of the Pipeline Safety Trust, a US-based non-profit organization, has noted that Kinder Morgan has a poor safety record since acquiring a huge network of pipelines in a short time period. The National Response Center, the the sole federal point of contact for reporting oil and chemical spills in the U.S. and its territorial waters, has found Kinder Morgan responsible for more than 1,800 violations since it was incorporated in 1997, nearly 500 of which are pipeline incidents…

Since purchasing the Trans Mountain pipeline in 2005, Kinder Morgan has been responsible for four major spills:

Abbotsford 2005: A ruptured pipeline dumped a total of 210,000 litres of crude oil into the Abbotsford area and into Kilgard Creek. In a 2007 report from the Transportation Safety Board of Canada, Kinder Morgan was criticized for a delay in response time because the line between the Sumas tank farm and the Sumas pump station was not part of a leak detection system.

Burnaby 2007: A road crew ruptured a pipeline, causing 250,000 litres of crude oil to flow into Burrard Inlet Bay via the Burnaby storm sewer system. Eleven houses were sprayed with oil, many residential properties required restoration and approximately 250 residents voluntarily left their homes. Cleanup took more than a year. The Transportation Safety Board ruled the accident was the fault of Kinder Morgan as it was responsible for ensuring the excavation crew knew the pipeline’s exact location before they started digging.

Burnaby 2009: 200,000 litres seeped from a storage tank into a surrounding containment bay at the Burnaby Mountain tank farm, causing strong fumes locally.

Sumas 2012: 110,000 litres of oil leaked from a Sumas Mountain holding tank, caused by freezing water placing pressure on a gasket. The National Energy Board’s investigation found that “the leak was detected later than it should have been,” the company’s management of procedures was “inadequate” and that the operator “failed to recognize the leak situation” on two occasions. It took three alarms and a shift change before someone was sent out to investigate.


So, following my complaint, and similar complaints from others, was Advertising Standards Canada (ASC) effective in ensuring integrity of Kinder Morgan’s message? I doubt the sincerity of the ASC process and it certainly did not prevent Corus, Global, CTV and others from running KM advertising that they knew, or should have known, was false.

As noted in the “confidential” response from ASC, almost seven weeks after my complaint:

The advertiser advised ASC that it is in the process of replacing the statement, ‘operating safely in your community since 1953,’ from its advertising. Given this ASC has closed its file on this matter.

Bada bing bada boom!

By the way, I noted but reject ex parte statements about confidentiality, which I assume are aimed at protecting advertisers. I made no agreement to keep this particular matter behind closed doors and I believe matters of public interest deserve complete reporting and full disclosure.

Trans Mountain exposed its lie to millions of people over many weeks. When the campaign was drawing to a close, they agreed to change the offending words but didn’t promise to avoid mistruths in the future, nor did they issue retractions and apologies. Since the falsehoods continued long after being noted publicly, Kinder Morgan demonstrates it is dishonest, not unlike Enron, its direct ancestor.

In the Titanic, the captain went down with the ship. And Enron looks to me like the captain first gave himself and his friends a bonus, then lowered himself and the top folks down the lifeboat and then hollered up and said, “By the way, everything is going to be just fine.” – U.S. Senator Byron Dorgan.


Following is the In-Sights article published October 15, 2014 after my complaint was filed online with CSC:
This week, radio Station CKNW played commercials aimed at promoting public confidence in the absolute safety of Trans Mountain pipeline operations and marine shipments of petroleum products on the west coast. The spots end with this tagline:

“Trans Mountain, operating safely in your community since 1953.”

News report, October 2011

Three companies pleaded guilty Monday, Oct. 3, 2011 for their part in a 2007 oil spill in Burnaby that damaged nearby homes and leaked into Burrard Inlet. Trans Mountain Pipeline, which owns the pipeline, and two contractors, B. Cusano Contracting and R.F. Binnie and Associates, each pleaded guilty to one count of polluting the environment under the Environmental Management Act. A total of 26 charges were laid after work on a sewer project ruptured the pipeline in July 2007, setting off a 12-metre geyser of crude oil that showered 11 nearby houses and led to the evacuation of 250 residents.

The Canadian Code of Advertising Standards contains this clause:

1. (a) Advertisements must not contain inaccurate, deceptive or otherwise misleading claims, statements, illustrations or representations, either direct or implied, with regard to any identified or identifiable product(s) or service(s).

Anyone who believes Trans Mountain advertising noted above is inaccurate or deceptive is entitled to lodge a complaint with Advertising Standards Canada.

Filing a complaint is a relatively simple process.


Addendum, November 29:

Please read Rafe Mair at The Common Sense Canadian, Critics of Burnaby Mountain citizens are out of touch with public will for change. He comments on a Vancouver Sun editorial that states:

It is time for those protesting against Kinder Morgan work crews on Burnaby Mountain to stand down. They have made their point and are now breaking the law…It should be remembered that pipelines are of national importance, with international trade implications, which is why, ultimately, the federal cabinet bears responsibility for sanctioning such enterprises.

I wonder if Posthaste editorialists might next advocate legalization of marijuana since trade in that commodity is another matter of national importance, with international trade implications.

The BC Liberal Premier says cutting “red tape” is a priority. The BC Government also promised increased access to parks and other Crown lands for mining, forestry and oil and gas exploration and alteration of building codes, workers’ compensation, Agricultural Land Commission and other regulations in a plan to reduce and simplify business obligations. It’s what governments do when the priority is serving the bottom lines of their sponsors.

Categories: NEB, Pipelines, RCMP, Truthiness

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15 replies »


    The devil is in the details. Details of any papers/contracts the government puts on the table. Wishy washy language that can be taken out of context or just plain dishonest.
    This gov along with LNG operatives as well as KM/Trans are at the point of doing pretty well anything to get their way, imo. The deceit continues with these guys.


  2. And done. I lived in North Burnaby when that happened and remember it well. I can attest first hand that Trans Mountain has not operated safely in my community since 1953.


  3. Norm, I'm glad you have the time and the tenacity to pursue investigation into all areas of this and other matters.
    Kinder Morgan would have us believe that a rupture in Burnaby was due to a negligent operator. That may be so, but does not detract from the main issue…American, Kinder Morgan (originating with Enron, “The Smartest Guys In The Room”), aided and abetted by Harper, wants BC to assume the risk of exporting dilbit. For export = no domestic benefit. Christy Clarke (and her backroom operators) is compliant.
    Good on the protesters at Burnaby Mountain and the court challengers.
    Don't get me started on the LNG debacle…fracking and the destruction of the land…
    Don't get me started on the export of raw logs – something I witness regularly…a perverse metaphor for EVERYTHING currently wrong in this province and country!!
    I appreciate your hard work, along with many others.
    Thanks, Norm.


  4. Thanks Norman, for the good work you do. Without the valuable efforts of yourself, Laila Yuile, Harvey Oberfelt and others, British Columbia would be a much less safer place to live.


  5. “Re. Our Ref # 137461 — Trans Mountain Pipeline — Radio Advertisement?
    But what of the television advertisements with the same message?
    I always thought the ethical thing to do was to apologize for and retract such dishonest and dubious blunders.
    Ethical oil? Ethical media?? Ethical government???

    Suggestion for new BC license plate tag line. Welcome to British Columbia — Venezuela of the North.


  6. Norm,

    It's about time for my annual “thank you” for speaking for those of us who don't have the ability, or the balls, or the understanding of important current affairs, to speak up for ourselves.

    This article will prompt me to contact the advertising standards people and ask them just why they even exist. Their “ho-hum, it's being dealt with” response totally ignores the value to Trans Mountain of being able to put a lie to their message for a number of weeks, with no consequences.

    In a year when a couple of very important voices of the people went silent (Mr. Reid and Mr. Tsakumis), we need you more than ever.

    Thankfully, you are up to the task.

    In appreciation,



  7. Thanks. I appreciate your words of support. I hope others follow your lead and ask these regulators why they bother to exist if they are like fire fighters always late to a fire. Of course, the answer comes by identifying the interests they serve. Global, Corus, CTV, et al were paid handsomely to carry dishonest messages. Had ASC stepped up immediately, hundreds of thousands of dollars would not be in the pockets of Canada's large media companies.

    If clear mistruths were prohibited in advertising, the industry would be smaller but if they intend to follow minimal standards for honesty, they should at least stop boasting of integrity.


  8. Norm, your rapier like investigative reporting should be a lesson for all the mainstream media, but alas, they take their orders from elsewhere.

    The once venerated RCMP have devolved into a cheap secret police force that murders, gestapo style and now employs those who in yesteryear's would be deemed unacceptable.

    Kinder Morgan is just the beginning and unless we curb the unholiness of of the almost incestuous relation ship of big business and government, our so called democracy will evaporate into fascism, made all the more sinister by the the electronic monitoring by government and business.

    We are no longer citizens of a country, rather we are serfs serving our political masters, who in turn serve their multinational oligarchs.


  9. This CBC report leaves more questions than answers.

    In particular:
    1) ”Carrie Rosa, a spokeswoman for the regulator, says officials have been delayed reaching the scene due to poor weather in the last few days.”
    2) “No one from Canadian Natural Resources could be reached on Saturday for comment.”
    3) “The report says there are no reports of impact to wildlife and that a cleanup has begun.”

    If weather delayed Regulators, how did the “cleanup crews get there?
    If the regulators had not been there at the time of the CBC report, who is feeding them wild life and cleanup information?
    There is an airstrip at Red Earth Creek and I’ll wager there would be a chopper ready for PR, if needed so shouldn’t Canadian Natural Resources, or any other resource company in similar circumstances be doing everything possible to get the regulators to the site, instead of going into hiding? Shouldn’t they be legislated to do so?

    It all smells like the same old same old doesn’t it?

    Earlier in the year you said you were going to change how you did things and you certainly did. The tireless digging and reporting you have provided this year has been immensely appreciated. We would be in the dark without you.
    Thank you so much.


  10. Come on, Norm. Don't be so hard on the RCMP. If you were a cop, which would you rather do; arrest a granny or do some real police work, like chasing an armed drug gangster.


  11. The RCMP has been at harper and his herd's command for sometime. This is just another e.g.
    The NEB is there to ensure the resource industry gets what they want.
    We have a government which treats its Vets like shit. Cast aside like so much garbage when they can no longer fight.
    WE have a government which has citizens eating out of the garbage dump in Rankin Inlet. What does the minister do/say? Threatens to sue the Mayor of Rankin Inlet and reads a newspaper in the House while the issue is being dicussed.
    We voted the bastards into office more than once. Now we can live with it or perhaps die from it in one big oily mess if some don't die of malnutrition first. Will those perhaps not directly affected do or say something? Not so much. if Canadians really cared about this, Burnaby Mountain would have tens of thousands of protestors. It doesn't. That is why harper and his herd will continue to do as it pleases.

    Your post is excellent and brings many important points to light. But we won't be seeing much of this in the MSM. Canada has been lost and now shares more in common with two bit dictatorships than it does with free and democratic countries. But hey we asked for it.


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