With Prime Minister Justin Trudeau set to approve the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project (TMX) on Tuesday, the Chilliwack school board will consider sending a letter opposing both the current and proposed route through local school grounds.
The existing Trans Mountain pipeline runs through the fields at Watson Elementary and Vedder Middle schools.
The proposed letter to be sent to the National Energy Board (NEB) is to also oppose any variation to the proposed TMX route near any other Chilliwach school district grounds or facilities.
“It is the responsibility of the Board of Education to consider the safety and well-being of the student body it serves and the staff it employs,” according to the staff report in the June 18 school board agenda. “The placement of a pipeline carrying diluted bitumen on school grounds is an unnecessary and unreasonable risk to those that depend on Watson Elementary and Vedder Middle for their education or their employment.”
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The NEB has already approved the company’s application to run the expanded pipeline in the current right-of-way.
In split decisions, the board has twice declined offers of cash from Trans Mountain, once in September 2015 and more recently on Feb. 26, 2019.
Trans Mountain currently has an 18-metre easement along its 66-year-old, 1,150-kilometre long pipeline that runs from the Alberta oil sands to tidewater in Burnaby. The TMX will require a 42-metre easement, so back in 2015 when Kinder Morgan was the owner — the federal government has since purchased the Trans Mountain Pipeline — the offer to the school district was $30,910 in bonus compensation.
In a 4-2 vote, the board chose to decline the cash. Trustee Dan Coulter suggested signing the deal could suggest to the company it had social licence from the board. He, Paul McManus, Barry Neufeld and Walt Krahn voted against acceptance.
Trustees Silvia Dyck and Heather Maahs voted in favour, with Maahs calling the pipeline expansion a “done deal.”
That was 2015, but in February of this year, the board voted to take no action on a $36,000 agreement bonus from Trans Mountain.
This time only one trustee was keep on the TMX cash, Darrell Furgason.
“I don’t fear pipelines,” he said, calling worries about the project “a bit of hysteria.”
That cash, however, is only a bonus upon signing an agreement. The district will automatically be compensated, as any landowner will, for the expansion.
The district is expected to receive $136,350 ($59,400 for Vedder and $76,950 for Watson) if the expansion goes ahead.
Five years ago, a working group backed by the B.C. Teachers Federation were looking to get the word out about the pipeline and its route.