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Jet fuel pipeline project clouded by ‘misconceptions’

Adrian Pollard stands outside the tank farm on Sea Island where jet fuel used to power aircraft is stored. - Matthew Hoekstra photo
Adrian Pollard stands outside the tank farm on Sea Island where jet fuel used to power aircraft is stored.
— image credit: Matthew Hoekstra photo

Rhetoric attacking a proposed jet fuel pipeline is being fuelled by “misconceptions,” according to the project manager behind the Vancouver Airport Fuel Facilities Corporation plan.

Adrian Pollard said other options were studied before the airlines consortium applied for its required environmental assessment certificate, including city council’s preferred option of upgrading the existing pipeline in North Richmond leading to Burnaby’s Chevron refinery.

“The (environmental assessment) process is not designed to evaluate options, it’s designed to evaluate the merits and effects of a proposed project,” said Pollard.

Upgrading the existing 1960s-era pipe was a shortlisted option, given its advantages of an existing footprint and deep water access. But Pollard said it’s also 40 kilometres away from the airport.

“We don’t have access or control of facilities up there, and again it’s a 40-kilometre pipeline through an urban environment, and we’re looking at three to four times the complexities to replace it as we are with this project.”

Also shadowing the project is a perceived lack of public consultation. But Pollard said mandatory and voluntary open houses have been held, adding his group has always been “open and frank” with the city.

“We’re always here to answer questions. To say that we’ve been less than that, in terms of public consultation, to me is a misconception.”

City council has twice passed resolutions rejecting the current pipeline plan, which calls for a jet fuel receiving terminal near Riverport and a new 15-kilometre pipeline crossing Lulu Island to the airport.

Richmond East MLA Linda Reid has also come out in opposition of the plan.

Project officials will host more open houses, likely three, with two in Richmond and one in Delta, where the pipeline route will be discussed.

A pair of earlier open houses in Richmond attracted 50 to 60 people, with mostly the same attendees each time, Pollard said.

Last week Coun. Harold Steves suggested the airlines “shirked” a stricter federal environmental review, but Pollard said the current review is a harmonized process that satisfies both provincial and federal requirements.

By this fall provincial government ministers will decide whether to grant the project an environmental assessment certificate. If they do, Pollard said his group will then work to secure various other approvals including two from the city: a development permit for a marine terminal and a municipal access agreement for the pipeline.

Said Pollard: “We just want to have it on the record that we’re making every effort we can to communicate with the city and give them a better feeling about the project.”

In a March 7 letter to the city, the Vancouver Airport Fuel Facilities Corporation offered the city a carrot. It pledged to undertake “an independent third party review of the options originally considered” and said it would seek to build much of the pipeline on CN right-of-way land, most of which would later be transferred to the city. That would minimize the impact of construction and provide the city with a corridor for utilities, recreation and possible transit use, according to the letter.

Public comments on the project are being accepted until April 26 at www.eao.gov.bc.ca, or call 250-356-7441 for information.

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