Richmond Review

Decision looms for pipeline proposal

A consortium of airlines known as the Vancouver Airport Fuel Facilities Corporation is seeking approval for tankers to travel up the Fraser River, en route to a jet fuel tank farm in southeast Richmond. -
A consortium of airlines known as the Vancouver Airport Fuel Facilities Corporation is seeking approval for tankers to travel up the Fraser River, en route to a jet fuel tank farm in southeast Richmond.
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Richmond city council is making a last-ditch effort to ground a controversial jet fuel pipeline proposal.

Two B.C. government ministers now have 20 days to decide the fate of the plan that has raised the ire of civic politicians. Liberal cabinet ministers Terry Lake and Rich Coleman are expected to soon rule on an application from Vancouver Airport Fuel Facilities Corporation, which is proposing to barge jet fuel to Riverport and pump it through an underground pipeline to the airport.

On Monday Richmond council renewed its opposition to the plan, demanding a new meeting with the ministers. Letters are also being sent to senior government officials, along with Opposition critics.

"We don't want any traffic on the Fraser River. We already have many examples of oil spills up and down the coast," said Coun. Bill McNulty, who instead favours the doubling of the existing North Richmond pipeline. "The answer is no to traffic on the river, period, and we don't want an oil fuel depot in East Richmond, period…"

The B.C. Environment Assessment Office has been handling the proposal's review since 2009.

City council doesn't have jurisdiction on the matter, but it has made recommendations—in the event the plan is approved. Yet according to Lesley Douglas, the city's manager of environmental sustainability, some recommendations weren't given to the ministers.

Those include having the proponent build and maintain a staffed fire hall close to a proposed tank farm, and supply and maintain a fire boat. The city is also suggesting local government and fire officials be given more power to monitor pipeline construction.

"The exclusion of these comments…to the ministers is substantive in terms of their future ramifications for the city," wrote Douglas.

The ministers have until Jan. 28 to make a decision, but Douglas noted Lake, the Minister of Environment, or Coleman, the Minister of Energy, Mines and Natural Gas, can change the date through a legal order.

City council previously met with Lake, along with Richmond's MLAs, last year.

Coun. Harold Steves said a new meeting would allow council to reiterate its opposition to the project, which he said poses "extreme danger to the Fraser River estuary."

"We keep talking about a pipeline, but we're talking about supertankers in the river, and that part's ignored. Also, if they are going to go ahead, then we want safety for the citizens of Richmond, and that seems to be ignored as well. It's unconscionable."

A citizens' group known as VAPOR says it has nearly 6,000 names on a petition opposing the plan. Carol Day, the group's chairperson, said in a recent letter that better options include upgrading the existing pipeline or building a new one to Washington State's Cherry Point Refinery.

Said Day: "It is inconceivable that the provincial and federal governments would even consider approving a plan that allows for a 80-million litre jet fuel tank farm on the shores of the Fraser River and massive Panamax ships loaded with jet fuel to cross over the shallow Massey Tunnel.

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