Kinder Morgan Inc., the new American owner of one of British Columbia's top energy companies, isn't a household name in this country. CanWest Global Communications Corp. newspapers have mentioned the firm just 49 times since it was founded in 1996. But, south of the border, the company's chairman and chief executive officer Richard Kinder has made headlines as both a prominent Republican moneyman and the former president of Enron Corp. And Kinder Morgan itself has been the focus of several recent environmental and safety-related controversies.
According to the Centre for Responsive Politics, Mr. Kinder has donated $379,745 to the Republicans since the 2002 election cycle, with his wife Nancy adding an additional $146,269. Mr. Kinder also contributed $100,000 to the Bush-Cheney presidential inaugral committee in 2001 and a $250,000 in 2005. He and his wife were members of the 2005 committee's finance committee. And, according to the Texans for Public Justice, Ms. Kinder was one of President George W. Bush's rangers during the 2004 election cycle - having raised at least $200,000.
As the former president of Enron, Mr. Kinder was supposed to replace college friend Ken Lay as the company's chief executive officer. But when that didn't happen, he resigned in 1996 to setup Kinder Morgan Inc. According to Fortune magazine profile, Mr. Kinder was never supportive of Mr. Lay's doomed energy trading scheme. But his own company has not been without controversy.
Recently, a Kinder Morgan subsidiary guilty to four misdemeanor charges for a pipeline spill that contaminated San Francisco Bay wetlands. And another subsidiary was fined $355,000 by the New Jersey department of environmental protection for a spillnear the Arthur Krill River. Also in 2005: a subsidiary reached a settlement with the Oregon Center for Environmental Health which sued the company to stop soda ash from washing into the Williamette River. The firm did not admit to any liability as part of the settlement.
Two years prior to that, Kinder Morgan and its affiliates were named in a lawsuit alleging a connection between 16 cases of childhood leukemia in Fallon, Nevada and a nearby jet fuel and petroleum storage facility owned by the company. That case is ongoing and Kinder Morgan continues to deny any wrongdoing.
Then there's the deadly pipeline blast in California, which state regulators have determined was caused by the company - an allegation the firm also denies. And let's not forget about the pipeline rupture near Phoenix, Arizona in 2003 which Governor Janet Napolitano, in part, blamed on Kinder Morgan.