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West Van mayor delays position on pipeline
Every West Vancouver council member except the mayor voted to immediately voice opposition to Kinder Morgan’s plan to increase oil tanker traffic in the Port of Vancouver by twinning its Trans Mountain pipeline from Edmonton to Burnaby.
Unlike the district’s councillors, Mayor Michael Smith called for more information about the proposed pipeline before making his decision.
“I’m not speaking in favour of oil spills, I’m not even speaking in favour of this Kinder Morgan project because I don’t know enough about it. It’s beyond my area of expertise,” Smith said at a council meeting on July 23, stressing that council has time to learn more about the project before late next year, when Kinder Morgan says it will fill out an application with the National Energy Board about route and construction plans for the pipeline.
“A few years ago, I was selling for months upon years. We didn’t have any local product at all. It all came from Japan and Russia - basically from Asia - because there was no local product available,” said Smith, who owns M.R.Smith Limited, a wholesale distributor for Imperial Oil and ExxonMobil in the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley.
“[We] should wake up and look at the world economic situation. The reality is that our country is better off than Europe, better off than the U.S., better off than Japan. But the reality is that our federal government, most of our provinces, are deep in debt. Somebody has to create economic wealth to make the wheels go round.”
But the rest of council would like the mayor to tell elected officials, including the prime minister and premier, as well as Kinder Morgan, the district strongly opposes the increase in oil tanker traffic the new pipeline would bring.
Kinder Morgan announced in April that it will seek approval to twin its Trans Mountain pipeline, and increase its current 300,000-barrel-per-day capacity to as much as 850,000.
The number of tankers filling up in Burnaby could hit 360 in 2016, five times more than the record 69 crude tankers in 2010.
This would mean many more oil-filled ships would be passing through West Van waters.
“I think we all believed that this could never happen here,” said Coun. Trish Panz, while holding up a photo of a 1970s oil spill she explained damaged the Ambleside shoreline.
“The risk is there and I’m certainly strongly opposing this expansion.”
Coun. Craig Cameron said the West Van marine environment would suffer even if there isn’t an oil spill because of pollution created by tankers.
“West Vancouver as a community has specifically chosen not to have heavy or light industry in the community for lifestyle reasons. It seems to me to be highly unfortunate having made that careful choice to now be subjected to the risk of catastrophic or ongoing environmental damage from oil spills and increasing shipping.”
Council voted to tell Kinder Morgan it must provide West Vancouver with the amount equal to the projected clean up cost of the worst-case oil spill, show how it plans to clean up a spill if one does occur and identify the damage more tankers will have on the local environment.
But Smith said council should proceed with caution when voicing its opposition to the project because gasoline has become a staple for many people, especially those who drive.
“It’s a good thing the West Van council of 1912 did not speak out against oil tanker traffic in the harbour or we’d still be lighting our lamps by whale oil and using canoes as transportation. The reality is freighters have been moving in and out of these waters for over 90 years.”