Schools along Kinder Morgan pipeline unprepared for disaster

Jenny Uechi
“What does a teacher do when a child is covered in [bitumen] oil? What do teachers do with that?” Burnaby Teachers’ Association president James Sanyshyn has been trying to get a clear response to that question for over a year, since publicly calling for specific training for teachers in the event of an oil spill.

Texas-based pipeline giant Kinder Morgan is applying to twin its existing Trans Mountain pipeline and expand operations to carry 890,000 barrels of oil per day from its Edmonton terminal in Alberta to Burrard Inlet. The new pipeline would move heavy diluted bitumen from Alberta’s oil sands to markets in Asia and the U.S.

With the fate of Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline unresolved, some analysts see Kinder Morgan’s pipeline expansion proposal as a key to unlock a treasure trove of riches that can be made if more of Alberta’s tar sands product can get to market.

Because the Trans Mountain pipeline is now 60 years old, and runs through an earthquake risk zone, Sanyshyn has been lobbying for teachers to receive safety training and evacuation training for oil spills and jet fuel exposure. But so far, Sanyshyn said, the response has been mainly “lip service”.

“We did lobbying work last year, and got it on our district health and safety agenda,” he said. Sanyshyn has been asking if there has been any training, but while people say things are “in order”, no one appears to know any specific procedures.

Diluted bitumen and jet fuel both pose serious safety threats to human health. Bitumen contains benzene, a carcinogen, while jet fuel pipelines are under high pressure and can be explosive. As the first adults on the scene in such an event, teachers should have basic training and knowledge of the risks, he argues.

Stoney Creek Elementary in Burnaby is along the Kinder Morgan oil pipeline route, indicated by the yellow warning sign.

Burnaby School District health and safety officer Terry Gomez admitted that the basic procedures — calling 911 and poison control — were all that were available for schools near the pipelines so far. But it’s changing, he assured. He said the School District was in talks with Kinder Morgan and would have more information available soon. In fact, he’s just asked the company questions including what to do if a child was covered in oil, beyond just washing it off.

But Gomez said he felt the chance of another oil spill like the one in 2007 happening near a school were “extremely remote”.

“When I look at the schools closest to pipelines, there’s just no chance there’s going to be any digging,” he said. “You have to keep in mind that the accident (in 2007) was just an error caused by a contractor. What are the risks of that happening next to a school? It’s almost zero.”

He said the schools would be given more information from Kinder Morgan to keep children safe, but that “a lot of common sense decisions have to be made, regardless.”

In light of recent spills along Trans Mountain pipeline in Hope and Merritt, however, some educators aren’t convinced that incidents are rare. And British Columbia recently topped the list of Canadian provinces where pipeline incidents have occurred, with 279 recorded events from 2000 to 2012.

Empty phrases
“Call 911 and poison control if necessary.”

“Stay calm and keep students calm.”

Although there are 22 schools in Burnaby near oil infrastructure such as Kinder Morgan’s oil and jet fuel pipelines, teachers so far have little more than phrases like the ones above to work with in the event of a major spill or fuel tank leak near a school.

Fraser Surrey Docks’ coal plans make no sense in today’s world

The premier of China, Li Keqiang, said it like this: “It is no good to be poor in a beautiful environment, nor is it any good to be well-off and to live with the consequences of environmental degradation.”

Li Keqiang was commenting on the horrific air pollution problems in China. Last month the air quality index hit 1,000 in the Chinese city of Harpin. The upper limit on safe air is supposed to be 25.

Meanwhile, thousands of miles away and a gulf of cultural differences apart, the plan to move coal by trains to the Fraser Surrey Docks to be shipped to China continues. There is something seriously wrong with this picture. While China’s entire environmental disaster can not be blamed on coal, it is certainly a large part of the problem. And B.C. wants to ship coal over to a country that is struggling, hopefully, to wean itself off coal? We understand that the mighty profit motive can turn folks blind to the consequences of their actions, but surely even Port Metro, which is ostensibly in charge of approving such matters, has to see that this plan is doomed.

Citizens have held rallies, and the opposition is growing. At the last rally, a cloud of dust was forming over the docks transfer facility, possibly grain dust, offering protesters a sneak preview of what could become of the air quality if coal was the cargo and not grain. Given the rising opposition, and rather lame attempts at securing a serious environmental assessment, one would almost think that Fraser Surrey Docks is expecting its first run at this project to be a feint or trial balloon. Are they expecting it to fail?

Or, much worse to contemplate, do they have such confidence in the lack of democratic accountability and transparency in the process that they are expecting – albeit after some twists and turns – to have their plan approved?

Surely that would be too cynical a conclusion, wouldn’t it?

© Copyright 2013

– See more at:

Air Quality Metro Vancouver

-list of monitoring stations MetroVancouver

we are interested in:

T22-Bby Burmont (KM tank farm)

T24-Bby North (Chevron tank farm)

T23-Capitol Hill (monitor also the refinery?)

T4-Kensington (south of Shellburn, monitors that too?)

Westridge terminal doesn’t have a monitoring station! Probably we should ask MetroV. to test the air, or consider to ask the university or a lab. Could be useful to have VOC and THC data for Westridge.

VOC-Volatile Organic Compounds , THC-Total Hydrocarbons are sampled not everyday (not-continuous = every 3rd or 6th day, cannot catch bad emissions happening in other days!)
and are sampled only at T22 and T24

-2009 lower fraser valley air quality report
pg (29-30) VOC
pg parameters monitored, VOC and THC, not-continuous monitoring (samples taken every 3rd or 6th day)

-2011 lower fraser valley air quality report
VOC pg 76, doesn’t say the limit by law, T22 and T24 high concentration

-air quality complains (website)
probably Westridge residents should complain everyday with MetroV., city, etc.

The Philippines, Climate Change and Class

Robert Reich

“Rescuers in the central Philippines estimate more than 1,200 people dead and thousands more injured after the most powerful typhoon on record ripped through the region. The background story is the perilous interaction of intensifying climate change with widening inequality. We are seeing the consequences within nations as well as among nations (recall Katrina and Sandy in the U.S.). As weather becomes more severe and sea levels rise, the poor who live in less stable housing and in low-lying regions are hit worst, while the wealthier occupy safer and higher ground. As arable land and clean water become scarcer, the poor are subjected to ever-greater risk while the rich buy what they need. As food stocks dwindle, competition becomes even starker.

Climate change can no longer be denied, but because the world’s wealthy assume they can escape from it they don’t feel the necessity of slowing or stopping it. So we hear more and more about “adapting” to it — without acknowledging how much adaptation will cost, and that only a small sliver of humanity will be able to afford the bill.”

Pacific Coast Action Plan on Climate and Energy

Subject: Pacific Coast Action Plan on Climate and Energy

Puget Sound Partnership:

“The leaders of British Columbia, California, Oregon and Washington signed
the Pacific Coast Action Plan on Climate and Energy today, committing their
governments, and a region that represents the world’s fifth largest economy,
to a comprehensive and far-reaching strategic alignment to combat climate
change and promote clean energy.”: