Revised pipeline plan 'unacceptable,' says Tsawwassen opponent
A revised proposal by the Vancouver Airport Fuel Facilities Corporation to route an underground fuel pipeline beneath Highway 99 may alleviate safety concerns for some Richmond residents, but the new plan does nothing to protect the vulnerable Fraser River Estuary.
That's according to Tsawwassen resident Jim Ronback, a retired engineer and director of Vancouver Airport Pipeline Opposition for Richmond (VAPOR), a residents' group opposed to the VAFFC's proposal to meet demands for fuelling air traffic at Vancouver International Airport.
Ronback says the new plan to route the fuel pipeline under the highway instead of residential neighbourhoods is unacceptable and does not address his main concern—the construction of an offloading facility and fuel tank farm in Richmond on the South Arm of the Fraser River.
The proposed project consists of barges or oil tankers loaded with jet fuel docking at the marine terminal. A pipeline from that facility would then channel fuel across Richmond to the airport.
Ronback worries those fuel-laden barges and tankers could pose a serious environmental threat.
"Any pollution that would affect the Fraser would pollute both shores," he said. "If one of those tanks bursts, the oil will spill out over to the banks and pollute the groundwater."
"There's a saying that one gallon of oil pollutes a million gallons of freshwater, so the impact on the palatability and the usability of the freshwater for your drinking would be devastating," he added.
VAPOR members are advocating for a pipeline-only alternative, such as 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.
Mayor Lois Jackson and Delta council received a letter from project director Adrian Pollard dated Jan. 6. According to the VAFFC, the Highway 99 route shortens the total length of the pipeline by 1.3 kilometres, provides the most direct route from the marine terminal to the airport, offers more separation between the pipeline and urban development in Richmond and creates a smaller environmental footprint.
Pollard's letter also summarizes an independent third-party analysis of the project options and gives an overview of the emergency plan in the event of an oil spill.
Delta municipal staff are preparing a report to council on this subject.
The B.C. Environmental Assessment Office is accepting public comments related to the Highway 99 addendum from Jan. 11 until Feb. 1. To comment online, visit www.eao.gov.bc.ca.