Jack DeLair lives in Flood, just 500 metres from the proposed Trans Mountain pipeline expansion route, and 400 metres from the railway tracks.
The 86-year-old, who has run the DeLair Farm since 1970, would rather have bitumen delivered from the Alberta oil sands to Burnaby 500 metres away from his farm, rather than via rail.
“In the first place, if we’re going to need fossil fuels, continue to need them and they’re going to be transported, I think that is by far the safest way to transport them,” said DeLair. “The trains … come down the Fraser Canyon, and that could be quite disastrous if we had a train wreck in the Fraser Canyon with a load of bitumen.
“We’ve had pipelines here since the 1950s, and I can’t think of a single incident where there was a serious pollution problem.”
DeLair added that he does not know about any serious bitumen pollution as a result of rail transportation, “but we’ve had several train wrecks, and the last time it was just wheat. It could have been something else,” he said.
DeLair said the construction will create jobs, and being able to sell Alberta’s oil will also create jobs.
Mayor Wilfried Vicktor echoed the sentiment that pipelines are safer.
“I think we anticipated the approvals because the product will get to market somehow,” said Vicktor. “It’d either be by pipeline, by truck or by rail and it appears that the pipeline option is probably the safest out of the three.”
Vicktor highlights that Hope stands to benefit from the $500,000 community benefit agreement. The District must put that money towards a high-profile and one-time project. Currently, the District has earmarked a park to receive the funds, however, the mayor said they could channel it towards the Station House, subject to council’s approval.
“I think the most likely recipient of that money would be the new tourist info centre, although no final decision has been made” said Vicktor. “It would go a long way to offset the expenses from that Station House project.”
Vicktor highlighted that council has shared their concerns about emergency response to Kinder Morgan and the government because if there were a spill, local first responders would not be able to handle it.
Hope and District Chamber of Commerce president Lloyd Forman took a different approach.
“Personally, if I could change the direction society is going in, I would change it and we wouldn’t have pipelines,” said Forman.
Forman believes that society has decided that money and productivity ranks high on importance and concludes that “to stop the pipeline would be insanity.”
“Natural resources … are really, the only fresh money we get. Everything else is recycling. And if you don’t have fresh money, you got no other money to recycle,” said Forman. “The pipeline is part of the choice we’ve made moving ahead as a society.
The benefit of a pipeline for the Fraser Canyon and Hope, according to Forman, is that it will create wealth.
“Anytime you’ve got natural resources pumped, you’ve got wealth, and anytime you’ve got wealth, you got growth,” said Forman. “So by extension, Vancouver, the Lower Mainland, will grow and we will benefit just simply by that growth.”
Forman said he has seen people from around Surrey, Langley and Abbotsford move up to North Bend, creating a “mini housing boom.” Forman also said businesses could move to the area due to cost pressures.
“We’re going to get the overflow, the spillover from people to find a more economical land base, more economical employment base, because the cost of living is not so high,” said Forman.
Just like DeLair, Forman said he prefers pipelines for transporting bitumen rather than railways or trucks.
“We’ve always got a risk, but the pipelines are the minimal risk, and so it’s the best way to move that product,” said Forman.
Fraser Valley Regional District Area B director Dennis Adamson also agreed that rail transportation is risky, citing the recent derailment of wheat near Yale, or coal in Ashcroft.
A CP train spilled an estimated 120 to 160 tonnes of coal into the Thompson River when it derailed seven kilometres west of Ashcroft at 3:45 p.m. on Jan. 12, sending 29 cars off the rails.
However, he noted that residents in Othello and Laidlaw do not support the pipeline.
“People see it as increased danger to them and their property,” said Adamson, referring to his experience with Othello residents.
Adamson also highlighted his experience at a Union of BC Municipalities conference, where he learned that geography affects how people think about the pipeline. Coastal areas stand against the pipelines while places in the interior would stand for it.
He argues that the reason for this split comes down to the ease of cleaning up.
“If it spills on the ground, it’s easier to clean,” said Adamson. “If it spills on the water, then it’s a disaster.”
Adamson also noted additional tanker traffic as a reason for opposition.
Asked where he stands on the pipeline, Adamson said he will carry out the will of his constituents.
According to Trans Mountain, the next steps include a final investment decision by Kinder Morgan’s board of directors. They added that Trans Mountain is planning to begin construction in September 2017, with an in-service date for the twinned pipeline system expected in late 2019.
“Trans Mountain continues to proceed with project planning, permitting, engagement and design in order to meet conditions and will begin awarding construction-related contracts after all internal approvals have been met,” said the spokesperson.
– with files from Barbara Roden, Ashcroft-Cache Creek Journal.