As opponents to the Trans Mountain oil pipeline expansion continue the fight to stop the project, or at least change the route, the company told residents this week that it’s a done deal.
“Trans Mountain determined the best routing option is to follow its existing right-of-way. Other route locations are no longer under consideration.”
That’s from a “Chilliwack Project Update” flyer hand delivered on Sunday to residential homes near the existing pipeline right-of-way in Sardis.
But WaterWealth campaign director Ian Stephen said this simply is not true, and that the National Energy Board (NEB) still has to approve the route by way of what is called its Plan, Profile and Book of Reference (PPBoR), which the company filed on Dec. 9.
Even when the NEB does that, the company has to provide formal notice of the route and anyone impacted by the route has 30 days to oppose in writing.
“It’s not over till it’s in the ground,” Stephen said of the pipeline and the controversial route, which crosses the Sardis-Vedder aquifer, the source of the city’s drinking water.
“Kinder Morgan hopes ‘that, is that,’ but there is still the NEB process on the detailed route alignment,” Stephen said.
An NEB spokesperson confirmed that the route has not yet been approved.
“At this time, the NEB has not provided its approval of the form of the notices and PPBoR,” NEB communications officer Steven D. Rowe said via email. “Until it does, the company cannot begin to provide notice of the route.”
In the flyer distributed, the company does make mention of the PPBoR and, once filed, maps will be issued to affected landowners. The company plans to hold an information meeting in the spring,
All of this may be semantics, however, as while Stephen and others have been proponents of putting the new oil pipeline nowhere near the aquifer — along Highway 1 was suggested — the company was only really considering minor variances to avoid residential areas.
The existing pipeline, which carries diluted bitumen from the Alberta oil sands to the terminal in Burnaby, runs through the backyards of two dozen homes on Roseberry and Montcalm roads, and as many again in the Canterbury Drive area.
One proposed plan was to use the BC Hydro right-of-way to avoid those residential areas, a plan Kinder Morgan said became impractical due to BC Hydro requirements that forced the pipeline to the southern edge of the right-of-way, which would not reduce impacts on houses.
One Canterbury Drive resident who asked that her name not be used said they have been aware of the two routing plans for years and were waiting for confirmation of what route was chosen.
She said Trans Mountain has treated them respectfully, and the horizontal drilling technique planned will be less disruptive during construction.
“I’m not worried about any major construction disruption in my backyard, anymore than if I was in a development under temporary construction.”
Still hope for change
Rachel Symington lives in a strata off Watson Road just south of the pipeline route. She received the glossy flyers the company distributed on Sunday, and she is not done fighting to change the route.
“I feel it would be really irresponsible to put a pipeline in the location that they have chosen,” Symington said Thursday.
She also pointed to the fact that the City of Chilliwack has designated a large area in Vedder Crossing as a groundwater protection zone.
“I’m just shocked that we have these groundwater protection zone but can make an exception for a pipeline,” she said.
Symington, who is a water resources engineer, is also concerned that despite the media coverage, many people she meets — even some staff at Watson Elementary — do not know the pipeline’s route. The right-of-way crosses the back sportsfield at Watson, and also runs very close to Vedder Middle School.
“I know that neither of those schools with the existing pipeline have emergency response protocols, as simple as ‘if you see black stuff coming out of the ground, don’t touch it,’” she said.
(See story on this subject from 2014 here.)
To try to educate people about the route, the aquifer and the NEB process on the subject, Symington organized an information session on Feb. 19 from 1 to 3:30 p.m. at Inner Vision Yoga in Garrison Crossing.
As far as who is an effected land owner when it comes to expressing opposition to the route, that’s unclear. Stephen insists that every Chilliwack resident should count as an affected landowner since the pipeline crosses the city’s water supply.
Rowe at the NEB said it is the board that will decide who meets the test.
“Note that anyone who may be impacted can oppose the route . . . the person has to have an interest in the lands, file their opposition in writing within 30 days, and have an objection to the location of the route, or the methods or timing of construction.”