Huntington takes jet fuel petition to Victoria
Delta South MLA Vicki Huntington on Monday (Nov. 21) presented to the B.C. Legislature a more than 5,000-signature petition opposing a proposed jet fuel delivery project in the Fraser River estuary.
"The petition voices significant concerns about the ecological and human impacts of future spills or disasters and includes a letter from Environment Canada with the formal advice that the project poses a risk ... to the Fraser estuary and its wildlife that is quite simply too great," Huntington told her fellow MLAs.
The 5,000-plus signatures were collected by VAPOR (Vancouver Airport Pipeline Opposition for Richmond), a residents' group opposed to the Vancouver Airport Fuel Facilities Corporation's (VAFFC) proposal to meet demands for fuelling current and increased air traffic through Vancouver International Airport.
The proposed project consists of barges or oil tankers loaded with jet fuel docking at an offloading facility and fuel tank farm in Richmond on the South Arm of the Fraser River. A pipeline from the facility would then channel fuel across Richmond to the airport.
Last week, VAPOR members stopped in at Huntington's Ladner constituency office to drop off three thick binders full of signed petitions and supporting documents.
VAPOR chair and Richmond resident Carol Day said the group submitted the petitions to Huntington after striking out with their hometown MLAs.
"We've had no support from (Richmond-Steveston MLA) John Yap or (Richmond Centre MLA) Rob Howard," said Day, noting both politicians told her they are awaiting the results of an environmental assessment before passing judgement on the project.
"That's just not good enough. That's not acceptable to us whatsoever, so we are just thrilled that Vicki (Huntington) was willing to move forward with this for us and keep it in the public eye."
Day said Richmond East MLA Linda Reid has been supportive of their cause but, as Deputy Speaker, declined to present the petition.
VAPOR member Otto Langer said he is pleased the signatures made it to Victoria "through the back door" after B.C. Minister of Environment Terry Lake refused to meet with the group.
"He said he wants to be unbiased and if he met with us, we might bias his thinking," Langer said.
VAPOR is not against an expanded fuel delivery system to YVR, but is hoping the VAFFC will consider alternatives—like upgrading the existing pipeline between the airport and the Chevron refinery in Burnaby, or constructing a new 70-kilometre pipeline to the Cherry Point refinery in Washington State.
"We're saying pipelines are the safest. Get the fuel out of the ocean, definitely don't allow the fuel into the estuary of the river. Put it in a pipeline and you can get rid of your trucks and you won't have to ship any more fuel into Burrard Inlet, which is really hazardous," said Langer. "Pipelines do break, but the incidence of them breaking are much, much less than railways flipping over into rivers and smashing up or ship spills."
Richmond City Council in the spring passed a motion confirming its opposition to any new jet fuel pipeline across Richmond. But Delta council has yet to take a definitive stance.
"We hope to get them to take a stronger position," Langer said.
As Huntington thumbed through the thick stacks of petitions last week, she said the situation is another indication that the government doesn't understand the value of the estuary.
"At what point do the governments begin to understand that there is a duty to protect human and wildlife values?" she asked.
VAPOR has already submitted a copy of the petitions to Fin Donnelly, MP for New Westminster-Coquitlam and Port Moody. The group is hoping for a federal environmental assessment of the project.
"This isn't just a Richmond issue, this is a global issue," said Day.