A group of BC politicians and community leaders held an emergency meeting yesterday near the mouth of the Fraser River, in the Richmond community of Steveston, to voice their concerns about the plan to build a jet fuel terminal, tank farm and pipeline on the banks of Canada’s largest salmon river.
Independent MLA for nearby riding Delta South, Vicki Huntington, a vocal critic of the project in the Legislature, was joined by Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie, retired DFO scientist Otto Langer, and the community group VAPOR in a final plea for the B.C. government to reject the Vancouver Airport Fuel Delivery Project.
Fraser River jet fuel project would mean tankers in salmon river
The B.C. Environmental Assessment Office has been reviewing a $100 million proposal by the Vancouver Airport Fuel Facilities Corporation (VAFFC) to build an 80-million-litre fuel terminal and tank farm on the South Arm of the Fraser River in Richmond and run a 15-kilometre pipeline to Vancouver International Airport. A decision is expected soon from the Ministry of Environment. Critics of the jet fuel project are concerned about the consequences of a spill in critical salmon habitat and health risks to residents.
Said Brodie at the Tuesday press conference, “These are tankers that are 950 feet in length — that’s like three football fields long.”
[quote]They’re going to be loaded with jet fuel. They’re going to be regularly coming up the river, introducing an unnecessary risk to the people and to the city of Richmond.[/quote]
The new project would supplement or replace a current pipeline from Chevron’s Burrard Inlet refinery and the use of tanker trucks. Chevron has seen its crude supply from the Trans Mountain Pipeline dwindle as owner Kinder Morgan moves to export more and more of its Alberta oil to other markets – something Chevron complained about to the National Energy Board last year.
The irony is that YVR is now seeking to import jet fuel from Asia, while Kinder Morgan exports unrefined oil to foreign markets.
Decision expected soon
A decision on the project, which has stalled at various points over the past several years, is expected from BC Liberal Environment Minister Mary Polak by December 24. Huntington and other critics say alternatives to the plan have not been properly explored. Huntington charges:
[quote]Unfortunately, our rubber-stamp EAO process has presented the Environment Minister with a Faustian bargain: By Christmas she must decide whether to trade catastrophic environmental risk for tanker access to the Asia-Pacific jet fuel markets.[/quote]
The terminal, tank farm and pipeline would directly impact the local community, posing health risks and “introducing catastrophic risk to the globally-recognized Fraser River estuary,” says Huntington.
After several delays following its 2011 introduction, the proposal cleared a major hurdle with the October release of a pair of reports by the Ministry of Environment, outlining best practices and industry standards and presenting the province’s marine spill response framework.
“The marine report is already in the news for raising red flags about B.C.’s spill response capacity,” says Huntington.
[quote]Yet even if B.C. surpasses world-class standards, our government knows no procedure in the galaxy could fully contain a large jet fuel spill in heart of the fragile Fraser River estuary. It would be a disaster…Just one gallon of jet fuel can spread up to 300 feet on the water’s surface. The Vancouver Airport Fuel Delivery Project would feature Panamax-class fuel tankers carrying over 10,000 gallons of fuel.[/quote]
A pipeline or terminal incident would also threaten vital habitat from 5 million migratory birds on the Pacific Flyway, Huntington notes.
A jet fuel spill in the Slocan Valley this summer served to heighten concerns about the risks of this proposal for the Fraser.