The oil tanker Everest Spirit in Vancouver harbour

Metro Vancouver board votes to oppose oil pipeline twinning

Some directors fear oil-by-rail risks may grow if Kinder Morgan is thwarted from twinning Trans Mountain pipeline

The Metro Vancouver regional district will formally oppose Kinder Morgan’s proposed twinning of its Trans Mountain oil pipeline after a vote of the board Friday.

The decision came after the release of a new projection of the environmental impact of a local oil spill and a report from the City of Burnaby warning it could not contain a major fire at the tank farm near the pipeline terminal.

“If there is a serious or catastrophic incident at the tank farm we are incapable of being able to control that,” Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan told the board.

“The more we learn about it the riskier it gets,” Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson said of the Kinder Morgan proposal.

Other directors cited the Coast Guard’s deficient response to the relatively small spill of fuel oil in April from a freighter in Vancouver harbour.

Not all directors supported the motion.

Belcarra Mayor Ralph Drew and Langley Township Coun. Charlie Fox both opposed it, warning that if Kinder Morgan’s pipeline push is stymied, large volumes of oil may end up rolling through B.C. on trains, at much greater risk to the environment and communities.

“The oil is going to come to the coast one way or another,” Drew said. “If it doesn’t come by pipeline, it’s going to come by rail car. And nothing scares me more than unit rail cars coming down the Fraser Canyon.”

He said a derailment of an oil train there could quickly foul the entire lower Fraser and send oil into Georgia Strait.

“Just saying no to a pipeline, I believe, will create an actual bigger problem that would be far more disastrous to the environment in British Columbia than the twinning of that pipeline.”

Port Coquitlam Mayor and Metro board chair Greg Moore agreed a rise of oil-by-rail shipments is a significant risk, adding oil is likely to find its way to market.

“I’ve got the biggest rail yard in B.C. sitting in Port Coquitlam,” Moore said. “If that’s going to be filled up with a mobile pipeline, I have huge concerns about that.”

Metro is filing evidence to the National Energy Board by a May 27 deadline to back up its opposition to the project.

Regional district staff said in a report Kinder Morgan has failed to adequately respond to requests for information on potential impacts during the National Energy Board process.

The new projection of the movement of spilled oil, commissioned by the cities of Vancouver, Burnaby and the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, estimated 50 to 90 per cent of oil lost would reach area shorelines within hours.

It assumed an entirely uncontained spill of 16 million litres of oil – about one fifth of a typical tanker’s load – with no effort by responders to boom it off.

City officials say they ordered the animated simulation to depict a spill’s impact because Kinder Morgan would not. Each tiny dot represents 2,000 litres of oil, close to the amount of fuel oil spilled from the freighter Marathassa last month.

The Trans Mountain project would result in a seven-fold increase in oil tanker traffic to more than 400 a year.

Richmond directors urged Metro to be wary that a new bridge to replace the Massey Tunnel could allow tankers to go upriver to Surrey, which might serve as an alternative pipeline terminus to Burnaby.

Marine safety concerns in the region aren’t limited to oil shipments.

Lions Bay Mayor Karl Buhr said Woodfibre LNG’s plans for a liquefied natural gas plant near Squamish would send two loaded LNG tankers a day through Howe Sound, risking a massive explosion if something went wrong.

“Lions Bay and Howe Sound would potentially be obliterated in an accident,” he said.

Spill simulation