Pipeline expansion opponents are asking how Fraser Valley politicians voted on a resolution to oppose projects that increase oil tanker traffic at a Union of BC Municipalities convention.
The resolution, that UBCM “oppose projects that would lead to the expansion of oil tanker traffic through B.C.’s coastal waters,” would include the Kinder Morgan proposal to expand the Trans Mountain pipeline that runs through the Fraser Valley on its way to Vancouver ports.
The resolution was endorsed by most municipalities at the UBCM convention, but it’s not clear how Fraser Valley politicians voted.
Chilliwack Mayor Sharon Gaetz was not available for comment Friday, and deputy mayor Jason Lum said he was unable to remain at the convention when the vote was held.
But when asked how he would have voted, Lum said that, given the lack of information about the proposed expansion and its possible impact on Chilliwack, he would not have supported the resolution.
He said it is premature to oppose the Kinder Morgan project at this time.
“To be a good political representative, you have to weigh all (the) facts,” he said. “I haven’t had the opportunity yet to gather information from both sides.”
Gaetz has used the same reasoning in the past to defend the city’s decision not to join other municipalities in opposition to the Kinder Morgan proposal.
But she said the city does have specific concerns, like protection of the Sardis aquifer, which Kinder Morgan president Ian Anderson has committed to answering.
But the silence of officials in the Fraser Valley speaks volumes to opponents like Michael Hale, a member of the PIPE UP Network.
He said a crowd at a PIPE UP event Sept. 27 in Maple Ridge “applauded loudly” when they heard about the UBCM resolution.
“However, I’m wondering why none of the mayors are expressing concern about the current shipments of bitumen,” he said.
He said more bitumen will be carried in the expanded pipeline, but Kinder Morgan officials deny this will mean twice the risk.
“This should be of great concern to City governments, who are the first responders in case of a tar sands spill,” he said.
U.S. transportation officials have recommended first responders need special training to deal with a bitumen spill, like the 2010 spill in the Kalamazoo River that cost $800 million to clean up, hospitalized 300, shut down the river for two years, and affected business, tourism and property values.
Hale said that kind of risk is already present as bitumen is being pumped now through the existing pipeline.
“The risk is already there and not very many people are cluing in to that fact,” he said.