Give capital region a say on pipeline: Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin

Greater Victoria residents deserve a better chance to be heard on Kinder Morgan’s plans to expand the Trans Mountain pipeline, says Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin.

“One of the things that has been highlighted is that it is of low benefit and of high risk,” Fortin said.

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A single spill could threaten Victoria’s economy, which depends on its environment and quality of life to boost sectors such as tourism and the high-tech industry, he said.

“It is of high risk, because we just need one [spill] to impact our fishing, to impact our shoreline, to impact our tourism, to impact what attracts people to this Island, [and] for very little benefit. I think in the end there’s 13 permanent jobs created by this after construction,” Fortin said.

“So we want an opportunity to go and highlight some of those risks and to highlight that on a cost-benefit basis, it doesn’t make sense.”

The $5.4-billion Kinder Morgan project would roughly triple the capacity of an existing oil pipeline between Strathcona County, near Edmonton, and a Burnaby marine terminal to 890,000 barrels per day.

The proposal includes 987 kilometres of new pipeline, new and modified pump stations and tanks, the reactivation of 193 kilometres of existing pipeline and the expansion of the Burnaby marine terminal.

In the past, environmental groups have dropped plywood cards in the ocean to simulate dispersion of an oil spill. The results suggested Victoria would be particularly vulnerable to a spill along the Kinder Morgan tanker route.

The city has intervenor status at the National Energy Board hearings into the expansion plans. Fortin wants the city to host a town hall meeting to gather people’s views.

“We have an opportunity in Victoria to, frankly, be the voice of the people that didn’t have that opportunity,” Fortin said.

“My interest is in holding a town hall meeting to highlight some of the questions that our region have so we can take those forward as an intervenor.”

Fortin is also hoping that council will endorse forwarding an emergency resolution to the Union of B.C. Municipalities calling on the province to hold its own environmental assessment of the plans.

There’s an “administrative unfairness” in the National Energy Board’s hearings into the proposed expansion, he said.

“Kinder Morgan is allowed to cross-examine intervenors, but we’re not allowed to cross-examine them on their answers. That, to a certain extent, breaches the rule of fundamental justice and we think that this is an emerging issue that UBCM should address,” he said.

“We don’t think the citizens of Victoria or the citizens of the province are getting a fair opportunity to get a good environmental assessment done, so we’re requesting the province to do their own.”

Victoria council isn’t alone in considering action on the pipeline.

Burnaby’s city council this week voted to forward an emergency resolution to UBCM in an effort to prevent the energy company from conducting land surveys as it looks to tunnel through Burnaby Mountain. The resolution came after the National Energy Board granted Kinder Morgan access to city land for examination purposes.

The City of Vancouver is seeking a judicial review of the National Energy Board process, arguing the panel should have to take global climate change into account as it considers the application.

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