Citizens’ group blasts jet fuel pipeline plan

Carol Day, flanked by Richmond resident retired biologist Otto Langer, speak to the media at a press conference in Shellmont Monday morning.  - Matthew Hoekstra photo
Carol Day, flanked by Richmond resident retired biologist Otto Langer, speak to the media at a press conference in Shellmont Monday morning.
— image credit: Matthew Hoekstra photo

A citizens’ group is speaking out against a plan to barge jet fuel up the Fraser River and send it across Lulu Island via a proposed 15-kilometre pipeline.

On Monday, local residents of the newly-formed Vancouver Airport Pipeline Opposition for Richmond group, or VAPOR, staged a press conference to urge government officials to “do the right thing” and scrap the pipeline proposal.

“We are here today to announce our commitment to lobby all levels of government to oppose the (project),” said Carol Day, the group’s spokesperson. “We’re going to make an application or request to the MLAs for a moratorium on the application and ask them to stop this insanity before it gets any further than it has right now.”

The B.C. Environmental Assessment Office is reviewing the proposal and is no longer accepting public comments. Once the office finishes its review, a trio of provincial government ministers are expected to rule on the project by fall.

Day said the proposal poses an “unacceptable” risk to the environment, nearby residents and the Fraser River estuary. She also noted the fire and rescue services don’t have resources to adequately respond to a spill or fire at the fuel offloading facility and tank farm planned for Riverport.

“We have examples of jet fuel barges that have run aground, jet fuel explosions, pipeline explosions, and on and on. And these are normal accidents that have happened in the last few years,” she said.

The group is instead suggesting the Vancouver Airport Fuel Facilities Corporation, a consortium of airlines that’s behind the proposal, upgrade the existing pipeline in North Richmond. It’s the same stance already taken by Richmond city council.

VAPOR member and retired biologist Otto Langer said up to one billion fish come down the Fraser River in the spring, and a spill of toxic jet fuel would poison them.

“The real concern is we could have a catastrophic spill,” said Langer. “It’s not if it occurs, it’s when it occurs.”

He noted the proponent’s own risk assessment suggests a spill of 8,000 litres of jet fuel is possible once every six years, and 160,000 litres every 32 years.

Scott Carswell lives in Waterstone Pier, 400 metres away from a site where jet fuel will be offloaded from barges, if the project is approved. He said the proponent’s message at open houses was the same: the proposal brings risk, but it’s minimal.

“I don’t have any faith in what they’re saying,” he said. “It’s like the fox saying to the farmer his hens are fine. It’s a reckless plan.”

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