Speakers at the federal town hall meeting came armed with stories, warnings, research, outrage, and anecdotes about the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.
An overwhelming majority of those who took the microphone to address the TMX panel were firmly against Kinder Morgan’s pipeline proposal — for a wide range of reasons.
Some argued the days of big oil were numbered, with one speaker calling it a “sunset” industry.
Landowner Robert Meredith said he was a supporter of the pipeline expansion, and favoured pipeline transport of product over rail transport, in particular.
“The rail cars are going to go in the river one day and you’ll never clean it up,” he said.
With land-based spills, by contrast, he said, the soil can be “rejuvenated” and cleaned up.
“I support the pipeline. I am not an objector,” Meredith said.
Some speakers challenged industry assertions such as the one that says diluted bitumen floats, or that the economic benefits might outweigh the risks.
The dire need to protect the Sardis-Vedder Aquifer, Chilliwack’s drinking water source, figured prominently, and several said at the very least the route should be moved away from it.
A few said they hoped the panel could do more than the National Energy Board to stop the pipeline twinning, from Edmonton to Burnaby.
“We are not here to conduct an environmental assessment, we are here to listen, and we’re very pleased to see the turnout today,” said Panel member Kim Baird, former Tsawwassen Chief and consultant. “Thank you for taking the time to come here.”
About 65 people showed up.
Here is a sampling of some of the public comments during the morning roundtable. The afternoon session was slated to be a First Nations Roundtable.
Resident Deborah Bledsoe called the pipeline “a series of disasters waiting to happen,” suggesting “iconic” West Coast industries, employing 200,000 people, like fishing and prawning, could be significantly impacted by a spill.
She urged officials to say “no to Kinder Morgan,” and later made the point that ‘dilbit’ or diluted bitumen can’t truthfully be called oil, and argued the real cost of the expansion project is “simply too great.”
“It is not oil!” she underlined. “Less than five per cent of this stuff is recoverable in a spill so with our waters, since it is too heavy to float, it will sink to the bottom and it will sit there releasing toxins, killing our waters forever.”
She likened the effect of the product under pressure to “sandblasting” the inside of a pipe.
“They even tried to line piping with various materials to cut down on the abrasiveness to the steel, but were unsuccessful.”
Ryder Lake resident Harald Tilgner was incredulous about plans to have 400 oil tankers a year coming through Burrard Inlet.
“That’s more than one a day,” he said, calling the reasons for the pipeline “suspect.”
He said he couldn’t understand why Canada was “in such a hurry” to export its resources to big applause from the crowd.
“An oil pipeline is one thing, but as was mentioned, transport dilbit is quite another thing. It hasn’t been done yet, too much, but when it was done there was a great big spill. How would you like your lawn and everything covered with tar?”
Rosanna Forstbauer said increased tanker traffic will “negatively impact” marine life, like orcas and salmon. She deplored the amount of leaked oil in the environment due to maintenance and waste oil in the ocean, not counting spills.
“My question is this, why are we willing to risk so much, especially when the outcome to our environment and our future generations is so negative and so great?”
Landowner Whitney Fordham said the existing pipeline runs straight across her property, which has been in the family since the 1940s, with paperwork signed for the right of way in the early 1900s.
“People saw an economic benefit and thought that the pipeline was a way to move forward into the future, for a better life through industrialization,” she said.
British Columbians “know better now,” Fordham said, adding the proposal poses significant risks to wildlife, habitat, and the aquifer.
“While it’s easy to put a value to the economic benefit that this pipeline brings — which I might add are mainly benefits to Kinder Morgan, and not public benefit — it is difficult to put a value to the risk.
“That is why a cost-benefit analysis is so difficult, because we are comparing the tangible to the intangible. I believe that the health and safety of citizens should be considered to be of utmost importance, you can’t put a price on that.”
Speaker Steve Bramwell said the risk wasn’t that the pipeline might result in a spill, but a “blowout,” that would require first responders to wear full haz-mat gear to conduct any cleanup.
“This is insanity,” he said, adding, “we should look at this pipeline as not just carrying bitumen, but dollar bills. We’re funneling it out of the country.”
Retired local teacher Wendy Major said she was representing all the children.
“I’d like to start by saying there is no proven diluted bitumen world-class cleanup for pipeline ruptures.”
Dilbit is more corrosive and abrasive than the conventional crude, more acidic, and of higher viscosity, and more pressurized than oil, Major said.
Landowner Michael Hale, a member of the Pipe Up Coalition, said he appreciated getting a chance to speak to the panel, in contrast to how “affected people” were excluded from the NEB process, and evidence was disregarded. The NEB sided with Kinder Morgan over 80 per cent of the time, he said.
Hale also pointed out only 90 permanent Canadian jobs would be created on the $6.8 billion TMX project, but that far more than that could be created with clean energy.
“How are you, the panel members, going to address what the NEB‘s failed to do?” Hale asked.
And if anyone wanted a reason why Canada should not lock itself into outdated, 20th century technologies, he said the answer was, “Because it’s 2016.”
Submissions can be sent to the TMX panel by email: firstname.lastname@example.org, or views can be expressed online at: www.nrcan.gc.ca/questionnaire/18721