B.C. municipal leaders have narrowly voted to defeat a proposed resolution from Burnaby to oppose Kinder Morgan’s $5.4-billion oil pipeline twinning.
The issue went to an electronic vote Thursday at the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention after a show of hands was too close to call. The final vote was 49.3 per cent in favour of the resolution and 50.7 per cent opposed.
Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan said the pipeline project – which would triple the size of a tank farm near homes in Burnaby and result in a seven-fold increase in oil tanker traffic through Burrard Inlet – is too risky.
He also argued the federal government has no strategy to maximize jobs in Canada by ensuring bitumen is refined here instead of in China.
“The risks of increasing oil tanker traffic are all to the down side for the B.C. coast,” said Islands Trust chair Sheila Malcolmson. “We get no benefit, there’s no refining, no jobs for us, our salmon industry’s at risk, our tourism industry is at risk and our first responders who would be on the front lines are at risk.”
But delegates from communities along the Thompson River said they fear a surge in oil tanker trains will run on the rail line through the region if the 60-year-old Kinder Morgan pipeline is not twinned to carry oil sands bitumen from Alberta.
“That can be used to move oil and there are no restrictions at all,” Clearwater Mayor John Harwood said.
Thompson-Nicola Regional District director Tim Pennell argued the current cleanup response capability for a marine oil spill is very limited in the Vancouver area and the Trans Mountain project would bring a “huge improvement.”
After the vote, Corrigan said he was disappointed but insisted the split vote still sends a “strong message” of concern from B.C. civic leaders.
He said opposition came mainly from self-interested rural B.C. delegates who are worried about increased oil-by-rail shipments and who greatly outnumber urban representatives at UBCM.
“It shows the scare tactic that’s been put out by these companies has worked,” Corrigan said. “They’ve said they’re going to do it regardless, whether it goes by pipeline or by rail.”
But one of the ‘no’ votes against the resolution came from one of Burnaby’s closest neighbours – Belcarra mayor Ralph Drew – who said rural communities are right to fear oil trains.
“We have to face the reality that the oil is going to move and that the increasing use of rail to move oil is probably a ten-fold greater risk than by pipeline,” Drew said in an interview.
“The rail lines that come to the west coast come down the Fraser canyon on either side of the Fraser River,” he said. “The potential for a derailment and a real disaster is much much greater than anything that could possibly happen in transportation by pipeline.”
Islands Trust chair Sheila Malcolmson speaks in favour of a resolution opposing the Kinder Morgan pipeline at UBCM. Jeff Nagel photo