January 5, 2013
The Burnaby Now reported that the outgoing chair of the Burnaby school district plans to consult Kinder Morgan, the US based oil pipeline giant, on oil risks and school safety. (January 2, 2012)
If this intended consultation is part of a broader plan to solicit advice on how to protect schools, daycares and residence that may be affected by a pipeline, substation or tank farm rupture, spill or leak then it would have some merit. If the plan is to consult only the oil industry, then there is concern.
It is well known that the oil industry has an extremely poor safety record and I worry that existing risks to the public and to environment have been severely underestimated. For example, there have been major oil and gas related incidents that we know about in Burnaby in the years 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010. All required an emergency response by the Fire Department and the 2008 incident required establishing a joint command center of the Fire Department, RCMP and city personnel to coordinate the evacuation of approximately 500 residents near Seaforth Elementary and at least two daycares.
The Burnaby Fire Department, RCMP and city personnel not private oil companies – respond to these and other gas and oil related emergencies on public property and private homes. These agencies are our first line of defense and it is to these agencies that we turn in an emergency. These agencies should naturally be part of any school district safety planning and training process.
If anything, we should be expanding the training and resources available to our first responders. The bill for the emergency response to leaks, spills and ruptures from pipelines and tank farms and for training should fall on the oil companies themselves, NOT the taxpayers. Taxpayers should not have to bear the costs of responding to oil and gas related emergencies or to prepare for them.
The Burnaby residents organization, BROKE, and the Burnaby Teachers Association, have proposed to the Ministry of Education that a comprehensive emergency plan be developed for schools and staff based on the very different dangers posed by jet fuel and gases leaks, on the one hand, and heavy oil and diluted bitumen, on the other. The school district would do well to consult with community partners, not just the oil industry.
There are many daycares licensed to operate near oil pipelines, tank farms and substations in Burnaby as well as community centers and other public facilities. Daycares and other facilities may need to develop their own plans based on their specific risk and the capacity of clients.