Submitted. Members of the PIPE UP Network and other interested Fraser Valley residents who attended the April 23, 2013 directors’ meeting of the Fraser Valley Regional District (FVRD) were disappointed by District’s recent decision concerning the Cheam Lake Wetlands and refusal to allow public consultation. “Aren’t elected officials supposed to listen to residents,” asks Lynn Perrin, a PIPE UP member from Abbotsford.
Perrin explains: “At the March FVRD meeting, the directors approved a request by Kinder Morgan Canada to conduct a survey of the wetlands in preparation for their pipeline expansion. We think that there should have been proper consultation with local residents about this. I submitted a request to speak at the April directors and they turned me down on a technicality,” says Perrin. “What’s their rush? As a public policy analyst, when examining the one-sided information from the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline web site relied upon by the FVRD Board, I believe that there is a lack of due diligence.”
Kinder Morgan operates the Trans Mountain Pipeline, which is already transporting diluted bitumen. The company has announced plans to build an additional pipeline to transport up to 890,000 barrels of diluted bitumen per day through the line. Polling shows that a majority of residents along the proposed pipeline route are opposed to the expansion. This week, NDP leader Adrian Dix has indicated his party’s opposition to the expansion of tanker traffic in Vancouver harbour.
“My concern is that the pipeline doesn’t currently go through the wetlands, so why would they consider a route through a sensitive ecosystem,” says Michael Hale, a PIPE UP member who lives in Yarrow. The pipeline is carrying diluted bitumen—heavy oil with highly toxic hydrocarbons in it. We know from spills in the Kalamazoo River in Michigan and in Mayflower Arkansas, that bitumen tends to travel far in waterways. In Michigan, three years after the spill there, the bitumen persists in a marsh 35 miles downriver from the spill and the wetlands remain closed. In the recent spill in Arkansas, despite Exxon’s efforts to stop it, the bitumen traveled into Lake Conway, a nearby fishing lake.”
PIPE UP members would like consideration of the following questions and concerns:
The FVRD already knows that there are red and blue listed endangered species and salmon spawning grounds in the wetlands. What would happen if there was a pipeline break or leak?
The study includes a civil survey of the future route of the pipeline. What legal rights would this give Kinder Morgan? Did the FVRD get legal advice about its participation in this survey?
The proposed pipeline route would be south (uphill) of the wetlands. This means that any spills along the pipeline could quickly flow into the salmon spawning creeks of the wetlands (where salmon have recently returned to spawn for the first time in years) and into the Fraser. Has the FVRD considered the economic and environmental costs of such a spill?
What input would members of the public have and how will residents be informed about what the study finds in the wetlands?
There are alternatives to routing the proposed future pipeline through the sensitive wetlands. What other routes were considered?
Why were members of the public not allowed to speak to their elected representatives about an issue that affects their communities? Why was a decision made by these representatives that confuses need, process, precedent, and potentially threatens species survival on and off public lands?
“While the District might claim that a study would get answers to these questions, given what we already know, why on earth would we even contemplate risking these sensitive wetlands?” asks Regina Dalton of Abbotsford. Considering the endangered species, the fish habitat and the abundant bird populations, surely it would have been prudent just to take this right off the table,” adds Dalton.
“Why was there no public consultation?” asks PIPE UP member Jordan Wilson of Chilliwack. Surely the regional district would want to hear from others than just the company before giving these lands over for massive development. Once Kinder Morgan has surveyed the route and rationalized the protection measures they will take, what is to prevent them from presenting this as a ‘done deal’ to the National Energy Board? There are high risks of transporting bitumen and little economic benefit to residents of BC. I think that we should have lots of public discussion about alternatives,” says Wilson.
The PIPE UP Network is made up of residents of southwestern BC who have come together because of our concerns about the safety, environmental, and financial implications, of shipping tar sands along Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Pipeline, which runs from Edmonton, AB to Vancouver, BC.
Members of the network are dedicated to educating themselves and their communities about the existing pipeline, plans for expansion, and alternatives to tar sands; showing that we have the power to make the needed changes.