Vancouver mayor, port officials square off over coal shipments

VANCOUVER – Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson wants to ban coal exports from the city’s port based on health concerns, but officials with the port are calling his motion “meaningless” and “inaccurate.”

Robertson’s motion is to be heard at city council next week and would create a bylaw banning coal exporting activity on the grounds that train transport of coal to the Port of Metro Vancouver creates coal dust and diesel fumes. The motion notes the health impacts are relatively unknown.

Coun. Andrea Reimer said the city first became concerned when the port started to expand in Surrey and North Vancouver.

“We haven’t had any proposals for a long time and suddenly there’s two: one in Surrey and one in North Van,” said Reimer. “We would be the next logical place, because we are the port hubs in Vancouver, and we have the rail lines going through.”

The mayor’s motion also states the Port of Metro Vancouver has “no responsibility for impacts from port activities outside the port.”

Duncan Wilson, the Port of Metro Vancouver’s vice president of corporate social responsibility, said the motion is inaccurate.

“None of the coal trains come through the city of Vancouver. Anywhere,” said Wilson.

“What I’m concerned about is that the motion makes some statements that I believe are incorrect. If the city wants to take a position on coal, that’s one thing. But we do take very seriously the impact of our operations on local communities, and the motion suggests we don’t do that.”

Wilson said he believes many of the health impacts the city is concerned about have already been addressed, “but it would be interesting to have that dialogue with the health authorities,” he said.”I do know in terms of dust mitigation they spray down the coal so that it doesn’t create dust as it moves down the corridor. In terms of diesel exhaust, you’d have to speak to railways about that.”

Reimer said Vancouver is actually behind when it comes to considering the potential health impacts of coal exporting.

“Frankly we’re behind when you look at the west coast of North America which is where a lot of the coal is leaving the continent,” she said. “We are well behind Los Angeles and other major ports — Seattle, State of Oregon — in looking at health impacts and how it relates to coal exports.”

She said the Port of Metro Vancouver needs to be more accountable by giving the public the absolute right of access to information.

“Quite a few health professionals and health organizations have written to Port Metro Vancouver urging them to better involve health authorities because it’s in the Metro Vancouver region,” said Reimer.

But Wilson said he believes the motion has no effect on the Port, as there are no plans to put a coal facility on any land in Vancouver.

“I mean, I understand their interest in bigger issues around coal, but it seems to me that the motion is basically meaningless in terms of its impact.”

Burnaby mayor slams Kinder Morgan and Harper government at town hall

Beth Hong

Starting in September 2012, Texas-based pipeline giant Kinder Morgan began public consultations for an estimated $4.1 billion expansion of its Trans Mountain pipeline from Alberta’s oil sands in Edmonton to Metro Vancouver. The company plans to more than double the capacity of the pipeline by 2017 from its current 300,000 barrels of oil per day to 750,000. The project rivals Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline, which aims to export oil sands crude through the Great Bear Rainforest. Kinder Morgan plans to file an application for its expansion project to the National Energy Board in late 2013, and says it plans to begin town hall meetings in Burnaby in November

The Burnaby Residents Opposed to Kinder Morgan Expansion (BROKE) hosted a town hall featuring Sven Biggs of Tanker Free BC, Rueben George of Tsleil-Waututh Nation, Ben West of the Wilderness Committee, NDP MP Kennedy Stewart, singer Ta’Kaiya Blaney, BROKE member Mary Hatch and Burnaby mayor Derek Corrigan. All photos by Beth Hong.
The province has failed to be accountable to British Columbians, Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan told more than 200 residents of Burnaby, Abbotsford, North Vancouver, and other neighbouring municipalities who packed the hall at a Burnaby Residents Opposed to Kinder Morgan Expansion (BROKE) town hall last night.

And now it’s up to citizens to voice their concerns to elected officials about a multinational oil giant that wants to expand an oil pipeline under their backyards, homes, and neighbourhoods, the mayor said.

Residents listen to speeches at the town hall

“The federal government determines what’s in the national interest, and if they determine it’s in the national interest—that is, what’s in the interest of Alberta—they can proceed with pushing through a pipeline through our community no matter what kind of bylaw the city of Burnaby proposes,” said Mayor Corrigan.

Noting that since the province of British Columbia opted out of the environmental assessment process on Enbridge and Kinder Morgan, he said that city councils are in a position of ‘powerlessness’ when it comes to demanding accountability in the hierarchy of Canadian politics.

“Eventually they have to be accountable to you, and there is no more important force in Canada than the people of our country,” Corrigan said.

“Despite our lack of constitutional authority, we still have faith that you can make them come to heel.”

Burnaby Mayor criticizes lack of national energy strategy

Corrigan took sharp aim at the Harper government’s management of the Alberta oil sands, alleging that it has “absolutely no idea,” and leaves crucial decisions to multinational corporations.

“They say the market will decide. The reality is, they are mining it and failing to refine it because they want to send it offshore to China. They want to refine that oil without any of the difficulties in North America,” Corrigan said.

“And those problems will be drifting back across the Pacific as a result of those decisions. Not only are we doing ourselves a disservice, not only are we hurting our own community if we allow this to go through, but we are hurting people who are 5,000 miles away from us, who didn’t do us any harm whatsoever. By sending them this caustic oil and by allowing that oil to be refined in a country without the standards that we hold to in North America, we are only creating a problem for someone else that eventually will end up on our back door.”

When asked after the town hall what the response has been from the federal government regarding his constituents’ concerns, Corrigan said that the Ministry of Natural Resources uses the National Energy Board as a “foil” in order to avoid answering questions.

“They switch it back to the National Energy Board. They use the National Energy Board as a foil in order to avoid discussing the issue at all,” he said.

“Yet at the same time they passed legislation that says eventually the decision will be made by the cabinet. So on the one hand they’re telling us deal with the NEB, on the other hand they’re saying we’re going to make the eventual decision.”

Minister of Natural Resources Joe Oliver is currently on a trip to India, and will respond to Mayor Corrigan’s allegations shortly, according to Ministry spokesperson Carly Wolff. The Vancouver Observer will update this story with his response.

Burnaby resident raises spectre of “traumatic” 2007 oil spill

Much of Corrigan’s ire toward Kinder Morgan and the federal government’s management of Alberta oil sands originates from a 2007 oil spill near Burnaby’s Westridge neighbourhood.

Mary Hatch, a BROKE member and Burnaby resident, recounted her experience of the spill in her neighbourhood.

“Some of my neighbours were out of their homes for months as their houses were being repaired. It’s been five years since the pipeline was ruptured,” Hatch recounted on the panel stage.

“That was a traumatic time for our community—our health and safety had been breached. Now, boom. We’re back to worrying about a new assault on our homes and community.”

Burnaby NDP MP Kennedy Stewart, who has been surveying Burnaby and Kamloops residents about the proposed pipeline expansion over the last year and a half, said that he intended to continue his pursuit for answers.

“I just met with the Greater Vancouver Real Estate Board about what this means for property values, what kind of insurance do you need to prepare for the kind of rupture that we had in 2007, and I’m getting no answers because they don’t usually run pipelines of this size through urban areas,” he said.

“So the National Energy Board doesn’t really have the answers at the moment, and I’m saying you better give them to us, because I have a concerned community here, and before we go too far down this road, we have to know the facts.”

Kinder Morgan maintains that it is doing an “extensive and thorough engagement process.”

“An open, extensive and thorough engagement process on all aspects of
the proposed Trans Mountain Expansion Project is underway along the
pipeline corridor between Strathcona County, Alberta (near Edmonton) and
Burnaby, British Columbia and the marine corridor,” Trans Mountain spokesperson Ali Hounsell said.

“We are reaching out to all landowners along the pipeline and meeting with community leaders, elected officials, environmental groups and Aboriginal people to get their input and perspective pipeline corridor between Strathcona County, Alberta (near Edmonton) and Burnaby, British Columbia and the marine corridor. We are reaching out to all landowners along the pipeline and meeting with community leaders, elected officials, environmental groups and Aboriginal peoples to get their input and perspective.”

Kinder Morgan and First Nations consultations at a standstill

However, not all First Nations community leaders agree that Trans Mountain has done adaquate consultations for aboriginal input and perspective.

Rueben George of Tsleil-Waututh Nation, located near the Burrard Inlet where most of the tanker traffic is expected to increase, said that there was no consultation, and the federal government was not helping.

“There was no consultation from them or anybody, and they didn’t talk to us since 2005 when they started running oil out of Alberta tar sands into our traditional waters. They didn’t talk to any of us about that before that happened,” George said.

Tsleil-Waututh’s Rueben George

“The other side of it is that they’re rushing through this with the support of the Harper government, so there’s been none at all, no consultation or no talk at all.”

Kinder Morgan countered George’s allegations, and that this was an atypical case.

“We have been seeking the opportunity to meet with Tsleil-Waututh for
some time now. While they have advised they are not ready to meet with
us yet, we stand ready to provide information to them and to meet with
them at any time,” Gary Youngman, Project Lead, Aboriginal Engagement, Trans Mountain Expansion Project told The Vancouver Observer.

“Their position isn’t characteristic of our engagement with other First Nations. We have been in many discussions with many other Aboriginal groups along the line—and many of these discussions are positively progressing.”

Brace for David versus Goliath battle ahead, warns BROKE organizer

Concluding the town hall before a question and answer, Karl Perrin, BROKE member and Burnaby resident, emphasized the scale of a community-wide effort against a major oil pipeline expansion project.

“Of course, Richard Kinder of Kinder Morgan is one of the top 100 richest in the world—he’s number 36 in the United States, and he’s climbing fast,” he said.

Karl Perrin of BROKE

“He’s going for number one. Right now he’s number one in Houston. So he can outspend the whole province if he wanted to, but we live here, and we can invest in our future.”

Perrin and Burnaby City Council plan on applying for intervenor status at the Kinder Morgan National Energy Board hearings in late 2013.

“All opinions and input are valuable and we think it will help make our
application better,” wrote Trans Mountain spokesperson Hounsell. “We encourage people to participate in the information sessions or online and to fill out a feedback form—all comments and concerns will be submitted and considered by the NEB.”

Hounsell added that Trans Mountain will have information sessions in Burnaby in November.

B.C. mulls joining Kinder Morgan pipeline hearing

The provincial government must decide soon if it wants to have a say at a hearing that could influence Kinder Morgan’s plans to twin its Trans Mountain crude oil pipeline through the Lower Mainland.

The province has secured intervenor status in one National Energy Board (NEB) hearing starting Jan. 15 in Calgary, where Chevron Canada will argue its Burnaby refinery should get priority access to oil flowing through the pipeline in order to keep operating.

But another deadline is looming Oct. 15 for potential intervenors in a separate NEB hearing starting Feb. 13 into the rates Kinder Morgan would charge its pipeline customers.

Environment Minister Terry Lake said in July the province would consider taking part in that regulatory hearing.

It’s been suggested B.C. could argue at the commercial rates hearing for the imposition of a per-barrel levy on oil flowing through the pipeline to help fund an improved spill prevention and response system.

But a ministry spokesperson said Tuesday no decision has been made on whether to apply as an intervenor in the February hearing.

“We are reviewing the application now to determine how it might affect B.C.’s interest,” he said.

Officials note Kinder Morgan’s formal project application to twin the pipeline is not expected until 2014, launching an environmental assessment and a third round of NEB hearings that will be the main arena for project scrutiny.

The $4-billion expansion would more than double Trans Mountain’s capacity to 750,000 barrels per day and bring 300 tankers per year to Burrard Inlet to take on oil for export, with more of it expected to be diluted bitumen from Alberta’s oil sands.

The province isn’t the only player that could pipe up at the initial two hearings.

NDP MP Kennedy Stewart (Burnaby-Douglas) and Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan have also been named intervenors at the Chevron hearing.

Stewart said he’s backing Chevron’s application, adding the loss of B.C.’s only major refinery could drive up local gas prices.

“It does supply a third of the gasoline for the Lower Mainland and about 400 jobs,” he said.

He added he also wants to press Chevron on whether the firm will improve environmental standards at the Burnaby refinery.

Chevron has resorted to shipping some oil from Alberta by rail to Langley and then by truck to Burnaby because of its inability to get enough crude via the oversubscribed pipeline.

Kinder Morgan has indicated it will not oppose Chevron, but at least one U.S. oil firm with a refinery in Washington State is expected to argue against priority for the B.C. refinery, on grounds that would violate free trade agreements.

Stewart is also seeking standing at the rates hearing and argues the province should be there too.

“Because they’re talking about the prices they would charge per barrel of oil coming down the pipeline this is a perfect opportunity to discuss what other moneys might be charged,” Stewart said.

“The premier has said no pipeline without more benefits. Well, this is exactly the place they could talk about this issue with the Kinder Morgan pipeline.”

The provincial government has been criticized for not seeking a formal role much earlier at the NEB hearings underway into Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline to Kitimat.

A government spokesperson said the province has notified Kinder Morgan it is subject to the same requirements B.C. has laid down in response to Enbridge’s plans.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly indicated B.C. had not sought intervenor status in the Chevron hearing.

Mayors silent on tar shipping



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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