Mayors silent on tar shipping

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Where do Fraser Valley mayors stand on pipelines and tankers?

Residents of the southwestern B.C. are pleased with the motion against tarsands shipments passed by the Union of BC Municipalities on Sept. 27, but wonder where Fraser Valley mayors stood in the voting.

City councils around Metro Vancouver and southern Vancouver Island recently passed motions against tarsands exports, but mayors and councils in other parts of southwestern B.C. are apparently fence-sitting.

Chilliwack resident Sheila Muxlow said residents of B.C. are showing growing concern about the proposed shipment of tarsands bitumen across the province through the Northern Gateway Pipeline, the current shipments of bitumen by Kinder Morgan, and the prospects of increased tanker traffic in the coastal waters of B.C.

She cited a recent poll that shows 60 per cent of British Columbians along the Kinder Morgan Pipeline route oppose the Enbridge Pipeline, and although the Kinder Morgan route has been in the news less, already more than 50 per cent of those polled are opposed to its expansion.

Lynn Perrin, a public policy analyst from Abbotsford said, “Clearly BC’s municipal leaders are responding to public opinion, but I don’t know if Fraser Valley mayors are hearing the people quite yet.”

Michael Hale noted that crowd applauded loudly on hearing the news about the resolution at an event co-sponsored by Cinema Politica and PIPE UP in Maple Ridge on Sept. 27.

However, Hale wondered why none of the mayors are expressing concern about the current shipments of bitumen. Kinder Morgan has been increasing shipments of tarsands, and company representatives are denying that this means increased risk.

This should be of great concern to city governments, who are the first responders in case of a tarsands spill.

Muxlow shared that concern: “When I asked Kinder Morgan president Ian Anderson about the risks of a bitumen spill, he told me that it was no different to clean up than other forms of crude oil.

“The company seems unaware of the lessons learned in the Michigan tarsands spill. One of the recommendations in the report of the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) after the 2010 spill into the Kalamazoo River, was that first responders should have special training to better prepare for a tarsands spill.”

Langley resident Susan Davidson said that, when she spoke to Township Mayor Jack Froese, he said he had not voted on the resolution advanced by Saanich council at the Union of British Columbia Municipalities to “oppose projects that would lead to the expansion of oil tanker traffic through B.C.’s coastal waters.”

She reported that he also said that, although he has already had a meeting with Kinder Morgan representatives, he does not consider the pipeline carrying diluted bitumen from the tarsands through the Township of Langley to be part of his jurisdiction.

Enbridge’s Michigan spill cost more than $800 million; more than 300 people were hospitalized, and the river was closed for two years, affecting business, tourism, and property values. A recent order by the EPA in America has directed Enbridge to do further remediation on the river.

According to Muxlow, PIPE UP is planning a series of events to increase the awareness of the risks currently faced by communities along the pipeline route.

Muxlow added, “We want to pass along our research findings about the dangers of transporting tarsands through this aged pipeline.”

Since its inception in April, 2012, members of the PIPE UP Network have found that, besides the destruction caused by tarsands extraction and the risks of transporting it, there are no net economic benefits for residents of B.C. If subsidies currently going into the tarsands were stopped, and incentives provided for renewable alternatives, B.C. could become a world leader in energy.

We think that the mayors need to hear this message.

Michael Hale, Maple Ridge

Sheila Muxlow, Chilliwack

Lynn Perrin, Abbotsford

[Note: Muxlow, Hale, Perrin, and Davidson are members of The PIPE UP Network of residents of southwestern B.C. concerned about the implications of shipping tar sands along Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Pipeline from Edmonton to Vancouver.]
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