TAR SANDS: The Myth of Tidewater Access

Summary
The idea that greater pipeline capacity and access to tidewater would maximize the value Alberta receives for its tar sands crude is a standard talking point for industry, politicians, and other commentators in the ongoing oil price-induced recession in Alberta. With the province bearing significant consequences of the collapse of global oil prices, attention is rightfully focused on what can and should be done to support Alberta through, and out of, its economic rut.

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lead-now-petition

Call on PM Justin Trudeau and Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr to defend our communities and stop the Kinder Morgan pipeline

The Harper-appointed National Energy Board just approved the Kinder Morgan TransMountain Pipeline despite widespread opposition from the communities it threatens.

We can still stop this pipeline. Prime Minister Trudeau added a step to the review process, promising to listen to communities and look at the climate impacts of this project.

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NEB Announcement May 19 2016

National Energy Board Report Trans Mountain Expansion Project May 2016

Canadian public interest The National Energy Board (NEB or Board) finds that the Trans Mountain Expansion Project (Project) is in Canada’s public interest, and recommends the Governor in Council (GIC) approve the Project and direct the Board to issue the necessary Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN) and amended CPCNs. Should the GIC approve the Project, the associated regulatory instruments (Instruments) issued by the Board would come into effect.

 

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Washington State can view spill-response plans for pipeline that B.C. cannot

Washington State has documents outlining emergency response plans for a Kinder Morgan pipeline –plans similar to those British Columbians have been told by Canada’’s National Energy Board they’’re not allowed to see due to security concerns.

The B.C. government lost a battle with the National Energy Board in January to have greater access to Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Pipeline emergency response plan (ERP). Kinder Morgan had already provided B.C. with a version of the plan, but significant portions were blacked out.

The denied information included specific response times, valve locations, and evacuation zone maps. The government had argued it needed the entire plan to be able to understand Kinder Morgan’’s ability to respond to an oil spill. The proposed $6.5-billion Trans Mountain expansion would twin the pipeline and triple the capacity for Alberta oil intended for Asian markets.

But in Washington State–where the pipeline would cross through to Puget Sound–Kinder Morgan has provided a more comprehensive response plan.

NDP environment critic Spencer Chandra Herbert wants to know why a similarly detailed plan isn’’t available for B.C. residents.

““We need to be able to get at least the information they are providing in Washington State,”” he said.

The U.S. plan includes information on response timelines, the availability of emergency equipment near specific pipeline sections, and a list of companies that could help out after an oil spill.

In one example, a company called BakerCorp is identified as being able to deliver “”21,000 gallon tanks to a spill site within 12 hours,”” and having enough pumps and hose to remove 6,300 gallons of oil per minute.

Yet in B.C., the energy board rejected B.C.’s demand for a complete response plan, citing sensitive information that could cause ““security concerns.””

A link to the Washington State ERP was available online recently at DeSmog Canada, but has since been deactivated by state officials.

The emergency plans were only to be online between Jan. 9 and Feb. 9 during a public consultation, said Scott Zimmerman from the Washington State Department of Ecology, but they were accidentally left up until Feb.18.

The U.S. plan details further information about “”unique”” sections of the pipeline. These include the location of shutoff valves, areas where the pipeline crosses water, peak volumes, and the thickness of pipeline walls.

In the event of an emergency, 48-hour timelines are also presented for each section of the pipeline, with descriptions of the type of equipment and number of people needed–as well as how much oil could be recovered immediately after a spill.

On the Samish River – a location identified as “”Zone 3,”” about 40 kilometres south of Bellingham-Kinder Morgan, estimated it could have 18 people and 600 metres of containment boom available within two hours of a spill.

A spokesman with the B.C. Mines Ministry did not respond directly when asked for an opinion on the plan’’s availability in Washington State.

But the B.C. government has been aware since last year that a version of the plan was available to the Americans. B.C. argued in its motion to the NEB asking for the public release of the information that keeping it secret in B.C. is ““inexplicable.””

It “”calls into serious question the legitimacy of Trans Mountain’s claim,”” reads the B.C. government motion.

In the same motion, the province said history showed the possibility of a spill from Trans Mountain facilities.

“”The potential for devastating effects on the environment, human health, and local economies is irrefutable,”” it said.

In 2007, a spill released about 1,500 barrels of oil in a Burnaby neighbourhood, with 440 barrels flowing into the Burrard Inlet.

Despite Kinder ruling, NEB wants pipeline emergency response plans made public

The National Energy Board wants companies in Canada to make their emergency response plans public for existing pipelines, even though it has ruled Kinder Morgan can keep its plans secret from British Columbians.

“Our chairman is not very happy. Canadians deserve to have that information,” said Darin Barter, a spokesperson for the NEB.

“There’s a public will for that information, and industry needs to find a way to make it public.”

Companies are not required to disclose their emergency response plans under Canadian law. Barter said the board is not calling for a legislative change, but for a commitment from industry to be more transparent.

He said chairman Peter Watson sent a letter on Feb. 5 about the issue to the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association. A spokesman for the association said it received the letter and will be discussing how to meet the NEB’s expectations.

But during a conference call on Feb. 20 Kinder Morgan maintained it is not required to release further details of its emergency response plan after the NEB agreed that sensitive security details could be at risk.

Details of the company’s spill response plan in Washington State have been publicly posted online.

The decision to keep the plans secret in B.C. has prompted the provincial government to call for more transparency around Kinder Morgan’’s ability to respond to a potential oil spill. The proposed $5.4-billion Trans Mountain expansion would twin the pipeline and triple the capacity for Alberta oil intended for Asian markets.

Ian Anderson, President of Kinder Morgan Canada, addressed the issue on Friday.

““National security and public safety reasons made it prudent to keep aspects of the plan confidential and private,”” he said.

But Green MLA Andrew Weaver thinks the company should fully disclose the details of its plans. Especially, he said, considering that Washington State–where sections of the Trans Mountain pipeline cross into–already has a much more detailed plan than B.C.

““I do not understand what the security element is,”” he said, “If it’s okay for the US to have the full version, I don’t know why B.C. can’t have it?””

Still, Michel Juneau-Katsuya, a former senior intelligence officer with the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), said security is a concern.

Information about valve locations and access points could fall into the hands of environmental extremists, who could potentially use it for sabotage, he said. He believes the The NEB was right to keep aspects of the emergency plan a secret.

Acts of sabotage have occurred in the past, said Mr. Juneau-Katsua, citing incidents like the 2008 bombings that targeted gas pipelines near Dawson Creek, B.C.

“If someone lost their life because an extremist wanted to demonstrate against a pipeline–that would be absolutely unacceptable,”” he said.

Linda Pilkey-Jarvis, who works with the Washington State Department of Ecology, said that state officials discussed the security concerns associated with publicly available plans, but ultimately ruled on the side of transparency.

“Pipeline advocates hold us up as an example that others should follow,”” she said, “”but industry gets uncomfortable with the level of information we make available.””

Mr. Juneau-Katsuya, who believes pipelines do pose security concerns, was shocked to hear that Washington State makes their plans public.

““I’’m very surprised,”” he said, ““They might actually expose themselves as a target.””

The NEB will make a decision next January about whether the Trans Mountain pipeline should be approved. The federal government will then make a final decision approximately three months after.

With a report from The Canadian Press

‘Anti-petroleum’ movement a growing security threat to Canada, RCMP say

The RCMP has labelled the “”anti-petroleum”” movement as a growing and violent threat to Canada’’s security, raising fears among environmentalists that they face increased surveillance, and possibly worse, under the Harper government’s new terrorism legislation.

In highly charged language that reflects the government’’s hostility toward environmental activists, an RCMP intelligence assessment warns that foreign-funded groups are bent on blocking oil sands expansion and pipeline construction, and that the extremists in the movement are willing to resort to violence.

“There is a growing, highly organized and well-financed anti-Canada petroleum movement that consists of peaceful activists, militants and violent extremists who are opposed to society’’s reliance on fossil fuels,”” concludes the report which is stamped “”protected/Canadian eyes only”” and is dated Jan. 24, 2014. The report was obtained by Greenpeace.

““If violent environmental extremists engage in unlawful activity, it jeopardizes the health and safety of its participants, the general public and the natural environment.””

The government has tabled Bill C-51, which provides greater power to the security agencies to collect information on and disrupt the activities of suspected terrorist groups. While Prime Minister Stephen Harper has identified the threat as violent extremists motivated by radical Islamic views, the legislation would also expand the ability of government agencies to infiltrate environmental groups on the suspicion that they are promoting civil disobedience or other criminal acts to oppose resource projects.

The legislation identifies “activity that undermines the security of Canada” as anything that interferes with the economic or financial stability of Canada or with the country’-s critical infrastructure, though it excludes lawful protest or dissent. And it allows the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service to take measures to reduce what it perceives to be threats to the security of Canada.

The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association has already launched challenges to the RCMP complaints commission and the Security Intelligence Review Committee–which oversees the Canadian Security Intelligence Service–over alleged surveillance of groups opposed to the construction of the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline in B.C.

“”These kind of cases involving environmental groups–or anti-petroleum groups as the RCMP likes to frame them–are really the sharp end of the stick in terms of Bill C-51,”” said Paul Champ, a civil liberties lawyer who is handling the BCCLA complaints. “”With respect to Bill C-51, I and other groups have real concerns it is going to target not just terrorists who are involved in criminal activity, but people who are protesting against different Canadian government policies.””

RCMP spokesman Sergeant Greg Cox insisted the Mounties do not conduct surveillance unless there is suspicion of criminal conduct.

“”As part of its law enforcement mandate, the RCMP does have the requirement to identify and investigate criminal threats, including those to critical infrastructure and at public events,”” Sgt. Cox said in an e-mailed statement. “”There is no focus on environmental groups, but rather on the broader criminal threats to Canada’s critical infrastructure. The RCMP does not monitor any environmental protest group. Its mandate is to investigate individuals involved in criminality.””

But Sgt. Cox would not comment on the tone of the January, 2014, assessment that suggests opposition to resource development runs counter to Canada’’s national interest and links groups such as Greenpeace, Tides Canada and the Sierra Club to growing militancy in the “”anti-petroleum movement.””

The report extolls the value of the oil and gas sector to the Canadian economy, and adds that many environmentalists “”claim”” that climate change is the most serious global environmental threat, and “”claim”” it is a direct consequence of human activity and is “”reportedly”” linked to the use of fossil fuels. It echoes concerns first raised by Finance Minister Joe Oliver that environmental groups are foreign-funded and are working against the interests of Canada by opposing development.

“”This document identifies anyone who is concerned about climate change as a potential, if not actual–the lines are very blurry ––‘anti-petroleum extremist’’ looking to advance their ‘‘anti-petroleum ideology,'”’” said Keith Stewart, a climate campaigner for Greenpeace.

““The parts that are genuinely alarming about this document are how it lays the groundwork for all kinds of state-sanctioned surveillance and dirty tricks should C-51 be passed,”” he said.

A spokeswoman for Public Safety Canada said Bill C-51 does not change the definition of what constitutes a threat to Canadian security, and added CSIS does not investigate lawful dissent.

“”CSIS has a good track record of distinguishing genuine threats to the security of Canada from other activities,”” Public Safety Canada’’s Josée Sirois said. “”The independent reports of the Security Intelligence Review Committee attest to CSIS’’s compliance with the law.””

 

City of Burnaby seeking more answers on pipeline

City asks 640 questions in second round of information requests in Kinder Morgan pipeline hearing

by Jennifer Moreau

The City of Burnaby wants more answers on Kinder Morgan’s pipeline plan, but the mayor isn’t getting his hopes up.

Last Thursday, the city filed 200 pages – with 640 questions – in the second round of information requests for the National Energy Board hearing on the plan to expand the Trans Mountain pipeline.

“Based on the disrespect for our questions that Kinder Morgan has demonstrated to date, we are not optimistic about getting meaningful responses,” Mayor Derek Corrigan stated in a media release. “Nevertheless, because it is the only option available to us, we will again try to get answers within the framework of the flawed National Energy Board process through which this proposal is being reviewed.”

The NEB used to allow intervenors to orally cross-examine companies in pipeline hearings, but those questions now have to be put in writing, hence the information requests. The city’s latest questions probe the company’s emergency response plans and the project’s impact on health, safety and the environment.

According to the mayor, 62 per cent of the city’s first list of questions, filed in the initial round of information requests in May last year, went unanswered or only partially answered. The city, along with other intervenors, complained about the non-responses.

“So while this should simply be an opportunity to ask new questions – which we are doing- it has, disappointingly, also become a second attempt to get our first questions answered,” Corrigan said.

The City of Burnaby’s first question relates to Kinder Morgan’s emergency management plan, as the city wants an unredacted copy. On Friday, the NEB released a decision allowing Kinder Morgan to keep parts of overall emergency response program redacted. (See related story here.)

When the NOW contacted Kinder Morgan with questions, the company sent an emailed statement from Scott Stoness, one of Kinder Morgan Canada’s vice-president.

“Jan. 15 was the deadline for information requests as part of the regulatory review, and we will be reviewing all questions, including the (information requests) filed by the City of Burnaby. The questions cover a variety of subjects including safety, security, and emergency and spill response, and many of the questions are very detailed and involved. We welcome the questions from the City of Burnaby. Kinder Morgan is committed to a transparent and full process as has been defined by the NEB. Trans Mountain will answer all questions that fall within the scope of (the) NEB hearing.”

Meanwhile, the City of Vancouver has filed close to 600 questions for Kinder Morgan with similar complaints, that more than one-quarter of its questions from the first round weren’t answered. The provincial government also filed more than 110 pages of questions. Kinder Morgan has until Feb. 18 to respond.

Province needs more details on Kinder Morgan’s emergency plan

by Jennifer Moreau

The National Energy Board is allowing Kinder Morgan to keep parts of its emergency management plan for the Trans Mountain pipeline system redacted for commercial, security and privacy reasons, despite the provincial government’s insistence on more details.

The provincial government asked for the missing information, along with an oil spill response plan, in a Dec. 5 motion filed with the NEB.

“The province has found the redactions made by Trans Mountain to be excessive, unjustified and prohibitive. The redactions thwart the province’s examination of the EMP (emergency management program) documents, and preclude a thorough understanding of Trans Mountain’s EMP by the board and all intervenors,” the government’s motion reads.

Some of the missing information includes people’s names and phones numbers, bomb threat checklists and valve locations. A section on the Burnaby tank farm is missing information on site drainage and maps for the terminal and the evacuation zone.

But in a decision released last Thursday, the NEB sided with Kinder Morgan.

“In this instance, the board is satisfied that sufficient information has been filed from the existing EMP documents to meet the board’s requirements at this stage in the process,” the response reads. The board went on to explain that the province will be privy to some of the missing documents as Kinder Morgan consults “implicated parties” to update the plans for the proposed pipeline expansion.

Pending NEB approval, Kinder Morgan plans to twin the Trans Mountain pipeline, which would nearly triple the line’s capacity from 300,000 barrels per day to 890,000, while increasing tanker traffic nearly seven fold.

As for the oil spill response plan, the NEB cited Kinder Morgan’s line – that it can’t file what it doesn’t have – because Kinder Morgan is waiting for information from Western Canada Marine Response Corporation, the company in charge of cleaning up oil spills on water.

Several municipalities wrote to the NEB in support of the province’s request for more information, including Burnaby, Vancouver, Surrey, Langley, Abbotsford, North Vancouver and West Vancouver, as well as First Nations bands and environmental groups.

Kinder Morgan filed most of its emergency management plan with the NEB last October, which means the documents are publicly available through the board’s website. Kinder Morgan initially wanted to keep the documents secret for proprietary reasons, which the NEB sometimes allows. In this case, the board ruled that public interest outweighed Kinder Morgan’s request to keep the plan confidential.

Protester fails in court challenge to Kinder Morgan legal attack: Vows to fight back

Author
GENE MCGUCKIN

A failed two-day court challenge to an anti-democratic, corporate legal attack is the latest chapter in the 2014 Battle of Burnaby Mountain over the Kinder Morgan tar sands pipeline expansion project.

The B.C. Supreme Court ruled January 14 that stifling Alan Dutton’s right to protest was not the primary purpose of a multi-million-dollar civil suit and, therefore, his application for a summary dismissal of the case was denied. In an unexpected additional blow, he was ordered to pay the company’s costs for the action.

As revealed in an wide-ranging interview with the Vancouver Sun, the setback has left Dutton unbowed.

A retired academic and active member of Burnaby Residents Opposing Kinder Morgan (BROKE), Dutton has indeed been an active protester in the anti-pipeline battle. His challenge sought judicial recognition that he became a victim of strategic litigation against public participation (SLAPP) when he and four other defendants were sued October 30 by KM.

With the support of fellow BROKE members Dutton filed his mid-December application for a summary judgment to include dismissal of Kinder Morgan’s damage claims and an “Order for special costs payable by the Plaintiff to the Defendant.”

In its suit, the energy giant accuses the defendants of conspiracy to commit illegal acts of trespass, nuisance, assault, intimidation and intentional interference with contractual relations. Their acts, the claim says, resulted in “unlawful interference” with “field studies” required by the National Energy Board’s (NEB) review of the expansion project.

A related Kinder Morgan court document projects that each month of delay would cost the company $5,643,000 in expenses, as well as $88 million in lost revenues.

Dutton vows to appeal the court’s ruling, if there are grounds to do so. “I never committed any of the alleged conspiracy, assault, trespass, etc.,” he told this writer. “The charges against me were never proved and don’t have to be under the rules the court followed. Those rules disadvantage and silence defendants in the face of huge lawsuits by large corporations.”

Just before Christmas the energy transnational offered to “discontinue” the suit if defendants agreed not to claim costs. That deal was taken by the other four defendants, whose legal expenses had been paid by an enthusiastic public response to an on-line crowdfunding appeal.

Now, it is not so clear the deal actually settled the suit. A lawyer to two of those defendants barged into the Dutton hearing and was finally permitted to address the court. He expressed his clients’ unease that a discontinuance of the lawsuit was not as final as a dismissal and left them open to further action.

Dutton declined Kinder Morgan’s deal in order to fight the suppression of free speech and freedom of assembly, which he sees as the SLAPP suit’s real goal.

“The issue here is our democracy and the fundamental right to protest,” Dutton told the Burnaby NOW. “It’s to show people we can fight big multinational corporations, and we can be successful.”

On the first morning of Dutton’s application hearing, B.C. Civil Liberties Association Executive Director Josh Paterson, held a press conference with Dutton’s lawyer Neil Chantler. Paterson told reporters that Dutton “is basically making the argument that the reason for which this lawsuit is brought is actually improper and was to shut down people’s lawful and democratic expression.” The BCCLA also put out an “advisory” on the case.

Hoping his action would discourage future SLAPP suits and help bring anti-SLAPP legislation back to B.C., Dutton accepted that he could face growing legal expenses. Crowd-funding and other donations had covered most of his legal costs before this week’s hearing. But this challenge and the court’s unexpected turn-about on awarding costs have added thousands more in legal expenses.*

Kinder Morgan ‘s suit came after a two-and-a-half year battle against its plan to “twin” a 60-year-old pipeline not designed for, but now carrying, tar sands diluted bitumen through Burnaby to a supertanker marine terminal on the municipality’s northern border.

Kinder Morgan ‘s latest revision to the intended route for the “twinned” pipeline has it tunneling under Burnaby Mountain, home of SFU and of a large municipal conservation area.

Kinder Morgan ‘s expansion project would triple the bitumen being piped through suburban Burnaby to nearly 900,000 barrels per day. It would also triple — to five million barrels — the storage capacity of a tank farm on the side of Burnaby Mountain (uphill from residential neighbourhoods, schools, parks, etc.). And it would increase seven-fold, to 400 loads a year, the super-tanker traffic under two bridges across the narrow, busy Burrard Inlet, which is flanked by Vancouver and four other cities in addition to Burnaby.

Opposition to the project has centred on concerns about climate change, as well as about spills on land (already happened) and water, toxic fumes from the marine terminal and tank farm, fire and leaks from the latter (with no response plan in place), and earthquakes affecting the tunneled pipeline section.

Burnaby-Douglas NDP MP Kennedy Stewart has been a steady, engaged and persuasive voice against the Kinder Morgan expansion, while Burnaby North Liberal MLA Richard T. Lee has been living on another planet.
Burnaby Mayor Derrick Corrigan and his entire city council have held and attended several public meetings explaining their objections in detail.

In addition, the city fought several losing court battles to stop Kinder Morgan work on Burnaby Mountain. Those activities resulted in a September opinion poll that revealed an astonishing 93 per cent of citizens were aware of the Kinder Morgan expansion project and 68 per cent of those were opposed. Affirming this result was Corrigan’s November 15 re-election to a fifth term with 68.5 per cent of the vote and a three-peat of his party’s sweep of council seats.

BROKE, through holding community meetings and rallies and through its website, has worked diligently to educate and mobilize the community against the project since it announcement in 2012.

This past summer and fall, another small group calling themselves “caretakers” came together on the mountain to provide vigilant patrols of areas where Kinder Morgan crews were expected to work. As the fall unfolded, another layer of “land defenders” formed around the “caretaker” nucleus.

In late October, some protestors came into confrontation with a crew of contractors hired by Kinder Morgan to do work at several sites on and around Burnaby Mountain. This led with startling rapidity to the lawsuit and an application to B.C. Supreme Court for an injunction barring protesters from several areas on and around the mountain.

That injunction, which the B.C. Supreme Court did grant, gave birth to a pair of 24/7 work camps ringed by police. It also drew hundreds of protesters to the mountain day after day. Between November 19 and 27, over 100 people “crossed the line” into no-go zones ordered by the court and were arrested, only to have their contempt-of-court charges thrown out when Kinder Morgan revealed it had given the court the wrong GPS coordinates to designate the no-go zones.

Meanwhile, various other constitutional and procedural challenges to the Kinder Morgan project and to the NEB review process of it have been launched by the City of Vancouver, by the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, by a citizens group and by Robyn Allan, an economist and former president and CEO of the Insurance Corporation of BC who has become a formidable anti-pipeline crusader.

Dutton pledges to continuing the fight and is still committed to new anti-SLAPP-suit laws, “a fight both the BCCLA and West Coast Environmental Law have indicated they would support,” he said.

Gene McGuckin is a resident of Burnaby who worked for 29 years in a Burnaby paper recycling mill. He is a member or BROKE and of the Vancouver Ecosocialist Group.

*In an email to this writer Dutton emphasized that a new fundraising effort is underway, again primarily through crowd-funding.

Six huge tanks of combustible, toxic jet fuel planned for Richmond site

Author
Pete McMartin
Ho hum. Another day, another plan to ship a dangerous commodity through a B.C. port. Environmentalists must be suffering outrage fatigue.

First, it was oil pipelines.

Then, coal expansion.

And now, jet fuel.

And as usual, it involves tankers.

This time it’s on the Fraser River.

A consortium of airlines — the Vancouver Airport Fuel Facilities Corporation — wants to ship offshore jet fuel to a storage terminal it hopes to build in Richmond. It would be just upstream from the George Massey Tunnel.

The jet fuel would then be pumped by underground pipeline to the airport. The 15-kilometre-long pipeline would go through Richmond. In all, it will cost $93 million.

Why do the airlines want this?

At present, Vancouver International Airport gets 60 per cent of its jet fuel from the ARCO refinery at Cherry Point, Wash. – by truck or barge — and the remaining 40 per cent by the Kinder Morgan pipeline from the Chevron refinery in Burnaby.

The consortium claims the ARCO and Chevron sources are outdated and unreliable sources for the future.

Critics say bull, it’s because offshore jet fuel will be cheaper.

Whatever the reason, that offshore fuel will arrive by barge or Panamax tanker, which will then sail up the main channel of the Fraser, dock and off-load into six enormous tanks with a total capacity of 80 million litres. Never before have such tankers carrying such a cargo been up the Fraser.

As much as the airlines assure everyone that the proposal is safe, and that jet fuel is much harder to ignite than gasoline and oil, critics beg to differ. Tank farm fires have occurred in the past, and to spectacular effect, including a fire at the Miami International Airport in 2011. (The Miami airport fire chief said the fire, which was massive, came within minutes of being truly catastrophic when one 700,000-gallon tank was almost breached.)

The immediate neighbours downstream of the tanks will be a public park, a 180-unit condominium development and the Riverport cinema and sports complex. They’re about 400 metres away.

Those tanks will also be just upstream from the Fraser River estuary — that great incubator of salmon, the feeding ground to millions of birds and home to people living on its banks in Richmond and Delta. If there was a spill, or a tanker ran aground, or the tanks caught fire, the estuary will suffer incalculable damage. Environmentally, jet fuel is extremely toxic.

Salmon and birds don’t vote, however. And Richmond has an international airport that needs fuel. And as the jobs-before-environment wits would have it, “Cry me a river.”

Indeed.

Critics of the proposal believe there is a safer alternative. One citizens’ group, VAPOR, or Vancouver Airport Project Opposition Richmond, proposed a pipeline be built from the ARCO refinery directly to YVR. The airline consortium rejected that proposal, however, because of what it said were time and bureaucratic constraints on both sides of the border.

This time, more than just citizens’ groups are critics. Richmond city council’s reaction to the plan has been apoplectic. It has expressed its anger to the provincial Environmental Assessment Office, which is the Ministry of Environment wing that, in tandem with Port Metro Vancouver, is jointly reviewing the proposal.

Richmond council is not only upset with the nuts and bolts of the plan, but with the fact that it has absolutely no say in the matter. Nor did the city’s mood improve when it discovered that safety measures it had suggested were ignored. Council was so angry that earlier this month it demanded a meeting with Environment Minister Terry Lake and Energy Minister Rich Coleman to air its concerns.

Critics of the EAO also include B.C. Auditor General John Doyle, who released a report in July 2011 slamming it for failing to properly assess projects that were potentially harmful to the environment. Doyle criticized the EAO for relying on proponents’ own reports for ensuring compliance and for the obvious conflict of interest therein.

And in 2011, the federal office of Environment Canada wrote the EAO that “the (jet fuel) project would present a new and unacceptable risk” to the estuary and that there was “limited ability” to control a spill. It suggested the EAO and the consortium go back to the drawing board.

They have. The consortium proposed an alternative, less obtrusive pipeline route through Richmond, and the EAO reconsidered the new information.

So what began in 2009 as a 180-day review has yet to see the finish line. The government was to hand down its decision on the proposal Jan. 25, but Lake extended the deadline yet again last week. The new deadline is Feb. 25. Either this is a case of a government exercising extreme caution or of having no idea what it is doing. I’ll emulate the government and reserve judgment.

When the decision does come, critics say it will be made with very limited public input. There were calls for written submissions and a few public information meetings, but speakers were allowed only two minutes apiece and restricted to addressing only technical aspects of the proposal.

A familiar complaint lately. And a familiar scenario.

Depending on what side you fall on, the B.C. coast — all of a sudden, and in alarmingly concentrated sequence — has been either blessed with new industrial developments or beset by them.

And that will be the defining question of this province:

Which view will prevail?

pmcmartin@vancouversun.com
© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

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