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Richmond city council blows up on jet fuel pipeline proposal

A new jet fuel pipeline would expose Richmond to “unnecessary environmental risk,” Richmond’s mayor charged this week.

“What concerns me the most is the fact that this is not a good proposal for the City of Richmond,” said Mayor Malcolm Brodie. “It exposes us to environmental risk, which I believe is unnecessary given some of the alternatives that are available.”

On Monday, city council agreed on a new set of harsh comments to forward to the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office, which is currently reviewing the proposal.

If approved, a 15-kilometre underground pipeline would connect the airport with a fuel receiving facility in the Fraser River’s South Arm.

Brodie said the proponent, the Vancouver Airport Fuel Facilities Corporation, is focusing on economics, not environmental and social concerns.

“We’re not interested in you telling us how to deal with an emergency situation. We’re interested in not having the risk in the first place.”

City council is also taking issue with a “lack of effective public consultation” and the fire hazard presented by the line and fuel offloading facility, which will be located far from a fire department.

Richmond Fire-Rescue officials disagree with the consortium’s assessment that the risk of fire is “extremely low,” noting a site that has fuel storage, welding activities and heavy machinery is a “recipe” for fire.

“It is true that jet fuel is difficult to catch on fire, however, once on fire [it] is also difficult to control, and with the current response status of (Richmond Fire-Rescue) to this area any fire will have a significant foothold, which will only exacerbate the situation,” reads a report from the department.

The mayor is urging the consortium to return to the analysis of other options, chief among them upgrading the existing pipeline in north Richmond or create a fuel offloading facility on Sea Island.

“I for one cannot believe that you can’t get a fuel delivery system that goes quite close to Sea Island, to the airport. The airport is on the water, so why are you going this circuitous route to get your fuel out to the airport,” said Brodie.

City staff note that the consortium has not provided a  comparative assessment of options and alternatives to their proposal that fully accounts for impacts and costs to the city.

Project manager and Vancouver Airport Fuel Facilities Corporation spokesperson Adrian Pollard was unavailable for comment.

The environmental review period ends April 17. A decision will then rest with the BC Minister of Environment, expected by Oct. 1.

The Environmental Assessment Office is accepting written submissions until April 11 at eao.gov.bc.ca or by fax at 250-356-6448. Submissions are also being accepted by mail: c/o Jennifer Dessouki, PO Box 9426 Stn. Prov Govt, Victoria BC, V8W 9V1.

Copies of the application can be viewed on the website or by visiting the Brighouse branch of the Richmond Public Library.

Federal Richmond candidates weigh in

Dale Jackaman, NDP: "If there was an earthquake, the chances of us being able to repair that are minimal. It would be a disaster up and down the coast here. My gut feeling is we can make the delivery vehicles cleaner with more modern technology. We cannot make a pipeline cleaner, should it break. I'm going to be against the pipeline." Those fuel delivery trucks, said Jackaman, also bring risk, but it's negligible in comparison to what a breach in the pipeline could bring.

Joe Peschisolido, Liberal: "This plan may make economic sense, but it does not make environmental sense... and it doesn't make sense for the quality of life here in Richmond. And I've been surprised that we haven't had public engagement from our current member of Parliament. That there hasn't been a full discussion of alternatives." He called the current process "a sham" and the environmental review "fundamentally flawed," adding an independent assessment of alternate options is needed. "I believe the federal government has abdicated their role," he said. "I'm going to do everything possible to stop this current proposal. I believe it's bad for Richmond."

Michael Wolfe, Green: "I voiced my opinion at both open houses, and I completely think the environmental approval process that this is going through now is a complete sham. It's a complete joke." Wolfe said the no project that's been subject to an environmental review has been rejected. So this is not an environmental approval process, it's an economic approval process with the one coverup—the whole greenwash thing—about this being for the environment when it's completely not." Wolfe added he doesn't see the airport expanding much more than it is today. He suggested the existing pipeline be upgraded, or further examination given to a docking station at YVR instead.

Alice Wong, Conservative: "For any application like this, the first important thing is to go through the environmental assessment. There are two here right now. One is the provincial, the other is the federal. We want to do our due diligence that it is safe and won't cause any danger to the residents." As for whether she supports the plan, Wong said she understands the safety concerns of residents. "We should listen to the people. That's where I stand," she said. "And I know the city's against this, so I think we should do a really good environmental assessment before it can happen."

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