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Chilliwack Chamber has questions for pipeline president

Mike Hale presented the case for opposing the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion to the Chilliwack Chamber of Commerce last week. - ROBERT FREEMAN/PROGRESS
Mike Hale presented the case for opposing the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion to the Chilliwack Chamber of Commerce last week.
— image credit: ROBERT FREEMAN/PROGRESS

Kinder Morgan president Ian Anderson may find some pointed questions on his plate at this week's Chamber of Commerce luncheon, after members heard from pipeline opponents last Thursday.

Realtor Mark Andersen said he wants to ask Anderson what the company will do if a pipeline leak spills into the Fraser River and destroys the lucrative tourist and sport fishing trade that pumps millions of dollars into the Chilliwack economy.

"If that happens, the Fraser and Vedder River multi-million tourism industry would dry up pretty fast," Andersen said, after the noon-hour meeting.

"I'm not saying I'm opposed to the pipeline twinning," he added. "I just want to make sure our natural resources are well looked after."

"If we don't pose the difficult questions, who will?" he asked.

Mike Hale and Sheila Muxlow, Pipe Up Network members who spoke at the Chamber meeting, clearly hope the people of Chilliwack will ask as well.

Hale said pipeline companies Kinder Morgan and Enbridge have the "raw economic power" to push their plans through the approval process, but, "what we have is people power."

"If the people of B.C. stand up and say 'No' ... that will send a huge message," he said, to governments and to the National Energy Board.

And if no one is listening there, Hale said he's heard talk of "massive civil disobedience" should the pipeline projects be approved.

"I think that's quite true," he said.

After the meeting, Hale told reporters that political leaders who don't listen to the wishes of the people "abdicate their responsibility."

"If the political leaders don't stand up and do something, it's up to the people to do something," he said.

"It's not a threat, it's a prediction," he said.

To date, neither Chilliwack's city council nor provincial MLAs and their parties have taken a stand against the Kinder Morgan pipeline.

But Hale downplayed the "revolutionary" fervor pipeline officials have ascribed to environmental groups who oppose pipeline projects.

"We're not an environmental group, we're your neighbours," Hale told the Chamber audience.

"We're pro-environment in the sense we want to preserve this beautiful, abundant environment every one in this room shares," he said.

"The environment is the container. If we destroy the container, we lose everything."

Hale and Muxlow suggested the economic reasons for Chilliwack to accept the added risk of what is essentially another pipeline through the community just aren't there.

Hale said a study of the Enbridge project suggests that few permanent jobs will be created in Chilliwack by the Kinder Morgan expansion project. Although the city gets $662,000 annually from Kinder Morgan, it's a drop in the bucket when compared to the cost of cleaning up a pipeline spill, he said.

Kinder Morgan's "lack of transparency" about its plans is also a Pipe Up concern.

Muxlow said lawyers are looking into the legality of the company's decision to pump tar sands through its Trans Mountain pipeline, without public notice.

Pipe Up is not opposed to pumping conventional oil through the existing pipeline, she said, but if tar sands are pushed through the 59-year-old pipeline at higher temperatures and higher pressures "all our red lights need to be up."

Pipeline opponents claim tar sands is more corrosive than conventional crude oil, but the pipeline industry claims there is no difference and no higher risk of pipeline rupture.

Muxlow and Hale also suggested the Chilliwack will see an increase in the cost of gasoline, if the expansion is approved, that agricultural and underground drinking water supplies could be damaged by a spill, and that local manufacturing will be "negatively impacted" as the export of tar sands will increase inflation and the exchange rate on Canadian dollars.

Muxlow suggested the solution to meeting energy needs is not more pipelines, but developing clean, renewable energy sources.

"Does it make sense to build more fossil fuel infrastructure, or (to) diversify?" she asked.

Chamber members will get a chance to pose their questions to Anderson at an Aug. 23 luncheon at the Best Western Rainbow Country Inn.

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