Opinion: Pipeline answers still needed

Amid the protests and posturing, and the cheers and jeers, Chilliwack still needs some firm answers about the TMX expansion.

A ministerial review of the proposed Kinder Morgan pipeline asks if the planned route is the best option.

A ministerial review of the proposed Kinder Morgan pipeline asks if the planned route is the best option.

Reaction to the approval of the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion this week was as to be expected.

Environmentalists were shocked and appalled; they were dismayed, disappointed and even “betrayed” by Tuesday’s announcement.

The provincial Green Party took the opportunity to launch an “urgent” appeal for donations, sensing an issue in next year’s election.

Vowing to fight on, opponents talked of legal challenges, protests and even referenda.

But for all the sound and fury, there is little they can do to counter the economic realities that the federal Liberals have come to appreciate. The wildfires that incinerated parts of Fort McMurray this summer made that clear. The economic disruption caused by the mere threat to oilsands operations dropped the country’s gross national domestic product by a 10th of a percentage point, and accounted for $1.4 billion in lost revenue in just two months.

To assume the federal government would threaten that revenue stream is as foolish as the David Suzuki Foundation’s call for  “no pipelines in Canada.” (There are currently more than 800,000 pipelines operating in Canada.)

As the major economies of China and India transition away from the coal we ship them daily, they’re looking for alternatives. Those alternatives might one day be windmills and solar panels, but in the meantime they want oil and natural gas. And if those resources don’t come from us, they will come from somewhere else.

That may sound cynical. But rather than dreaming of a world without fossil fuels, our energies might be better spent focusing on the pipeline’s potential impact here in Chilliwack.

The expansion project is planned to follow the existing route, built as a reaction to the Korean War in 1953.

Much has changed since then. New subdivisions have taken shape, roads have been built, and the source of Chilliwack’s drinking water is now drawn from the aquifer beneath the pipeline.

What Chilliwack residents want to know is what impact construction of this new pipeline will have on them. What kind of disruption can we expect? What roads will be affected? What plans do city officials have to mitigate these disruptions.

And most importantly, what efforts and accommodations are being made to find alternate routes that would expose Chilliwack residents to the least amount of risk, either to their drinking water or their day-to-day lives.

Kinder Morgan plans to start construction in September of 2017 and be done by 2019.

The protests will no doubt continue. But that noise does not drown out our need for real answers.

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