A $36,000 agreement bonus from Trans Mountain was left dangling by the Chilliwack school board Tuesday night, after they voted to take no action on the offer for now.
The district is involved with talks about twinning the pipeline, because the route already travels through Vedder middle school fields, and adjacent to Watson elementary. This is the second time money has been offered to the district in advance of the approval of the twinning project.
In 2015, the offer came from former pipeline owner Kinder Morgan and they turned it down outright, with only two trustees voting in favour of taking cash. Those two trustees were Heather Maahs and Silvia Dyck. Kinder Morgan’s offer then was to give the school district $30,910 in compensation if the pipeline expansion is completed. That would be in addition to money that the district is entitled to for compensation.
This time, only one trustee present was eager to take the TMP cash incentive, Trustee Darrell Furgason.
“I don’t fear pipelines,” he said, calling worries about the project “a bit of hysteria.”
He said the money would cover the cost of one new portable.
Trustees were presented with four options from senior staff, including refusing the offer, negotiating a better offer, requesting arbitration, or doing nothing for now. Trustee Willow Reichelt made a motion for the option to “do nothing.”
“If I have any chance to … reroute it, I will take it,” she said. Trustees Dan Coulter, David Swankey and Jared Mumford voted in favour of that motion. Trustees Maahs and Barry Neufeld were absent, but voted for and against accepting the cash previously, respectively.
Coulter added that organizations who have accepted these cash deals to date have been used as “political cover,” equalling the acceptance of payment as approval of the project. He also voted against taking the money last time it was offered.
The pipeline currently has an 18-metre easement, but the proposed expansion project would require a 42-metre easement. Under the National Energy Board Act, the district is already entitled to compensation for this right of way, as well as for any impact on the use of the land.
Under their proposed offer, the district would receive $136,350 ($59,400 for Vedder & $76,950 for Watson) in compensation if the pipeline expansion goes ahead. Upon signing of the agreements, the district would also receive a payment of $4,000 to cover costs and an agreement bonus of $29,525.