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Province shelves jet fuel pipeline proposal until summer

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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B.C.'s Environment Minister is putting off a decision on a controversial jet fuel pipeline until after the spring election.

Announced Monday, Terry Lake is suspending the assessment of the project until summer at the earliest, according to a news release Monday. It's the second time Lake has delayed his decision.

The ministry is waiting for the outcome of a provincial study of land-based spill preparedness and response before deciding the fate of Vancouver Airport Fuel Facilities Corporation's proposal. Officials are bringing together experts in land-based spill response for a symposium March 25 to 27 to "explore best practices and discuss how they can be applied to B.C. for the purpose of creating a world-leading spill response regime," according to the ministry.

Results of the study won't be available until "later this summer."

The primary regulatory responsibility for marine spills is federal, but B.C. would still play a significant role if and when oil comes ashore, according to the ministry. So B.C. is also planning to get an expert opinion "to ensure the province's interests are met" in the event of a spill before ruling on the jet fuel pipeline project.

A citizens' group fighting the proposal saw Lake's announcement as a win.

"We cannot hide our delight and sense of accomplishment with this latest suspension by Minister Lake," said Carol Day and Otto Langer of VAPOR in a statement Tuesday. "It is sincerely hoped that common sense and better environmental leadership will be shown after the (May 14 election) and the Fraser River can be again be better protected…"

Under the Vancouver Airport Fuel Facilities Corporation's proposal, jet fuel would be barged to Riverport and pumped to the airport via an underground pipeline. The corporations' project director, Adrian Pollard, said he is confident "spill prevention and response measures we are proposing will match the high standards that the government is seeking to implement.”

“The safety and environmental protection on the Fraser River is a top priority," said Pollard in a written statement.

Last month Lake gave Premier Christy Clark’s government a one-month extension in deciding the fate of the project, which has been subject to an environmental review by B.C.'s Environmental Assessment Office since 2009.

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