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Port Metro Vancouver gets frosty reception from city council

City council gave Port Metro Vancouver officials an earful Monday over their ability to decide the fate of a controversial jet fuel pipeline project.

Following a general presentation, civic officials heard the port will rule on whether to allow massive jet fuel tankers to travel up the South Arm to a proposed fuel receiving facility at Riverport. The port will also decide the fate of a jet fuel tank farm proposed for an adjacent port-owned site.

“Why are you the sole executioners of the Fraser River estuary?” charged Coun. Harold Steves, who also said the river has “gone to hell” since various regional port authorities merged. “I think we’d be better off without you.”

The Vancouver Airport Fuel Facilities Corporation is proposing to build a 15-kilometre jet fuel pipeline through Richmond, connecting Riverport with YVR. The corporation—a consortium of airlines—has applied to the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office for approval, but recently put the project on hold to investigate an alternate pipeline alignment. Provincial ministers—not the city—will decide whether to grant necessary environmental approval.

Mayor Malcolm Brodie told port officials council has “huge reservations” about the project, including the port’s involvement. He said for the port to assess a project that involves its own land is “a dramatic conflict.”

Coun. Bill McNulty also expressed reservations.

“You do have a fair bit of influence, and that’s what bothers me,” he said. “You’re the judge, jury and executioner of this project.”

Port Metro Vancouver president and CEO Robin Silvester said if the pipeline is approved, the port will then rule on new river traffic and land use.

But Steves warned if jet fuel barges are approved for the South Arm, crude oil tankers could be next.

“This could be the foot in the door,” said the 39-year councillor.

But Silvester called the scenario hypothetical and said each project is approved on its own merit.

Steves also attacked the port over its “increasing appetite” for farmland, citing its purchase of the Gilmore farm and construction of the South Fraser Perimeter Road in Delta.

“Why aren’t you looking at alternatives rather than using up farmland? The world is running out of food,” said Steves. “You are probably the biggest threat to food security.”

But Silvester countered by saying “everyone in this room” has consumed a food product that has come through the port, while noting there’s been a “continued erosion” of Metro Vancouver’s industrial land base.

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