Pipeline owner Kinder Morgan says it will vigorously defend itself against environmental charges stemming from a 2007 rupture of its pipeline that spewed oil across a suburban Vancouver neighbourhood.

Representatives for Kinder Morgan, Trans Mountain Pipeline and two contractors appeared in provincial court Monday charged with offences that have maximum fines of $1 million each.

Kinder Morgan and Trans Mountain Pipeline each face seven counts and the two contractors each face six.

The charges were laid in July but Monday was the first court appearance for the group. They will appear again Jan. 13.

"Kinder Morgan Canada believes the charges have been inappropriately laid against it and intends to defend the regulatory charges vigorously," the company said in a statement issued Monday.

The company said its investigation into the rupture concluded that "it resulted from the actions of a third party contractor working on behalf of the City of Burnaby."

Kinder Morgan has launched a civil case against the city and the excavation contractor.

Some 234,000 litres of crude oil gushed out of the underground line leading to a waterfront shipping terminal.

The resulting 15-metre-high geyser coated neighbouring yards in thick, black crude, while more oil seeped into nearby Burrard Inlet, soaking a number of birds.

The Transportation Safety Board concluded earlier this year that a 50-year-old pipeline map combined with lax construction procedures triggered the eruption.

The charges include introducing waste into the environment and unlawfully carrying on work that resulted in the harmful alteration, disruption or destruction of fish habitat.

Each count carries a maximum fine of $1 million, said Scott Norris, of the B.C. Conservation Officer Service.

The safety board report concluded the pipeline rupture wouldn't have happened if National Energy Board rules and the agreement with Kinder Morgan had been followed.

The contractor digging the new sewer line assumed the 1957 map showing the pipeline route under the roadway was accurate, when in fact in some places it was out by several metres.

The mechanical digger struck the oil line five times before puncturing it twice.

The accident forced 250 people from their homes, with damage serious enough to 11 that the families had to move temporarily.

There are 26 lawsuits outstanding as a result of the accident.