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Pipeline expansion won't bring bigger tankers to Burrard Inlet
If Kinder Morgan is granted approval to twin its Trans Mountain pipeline from Edmonton to Burnaby, the project won't bring bigger oil tankers to Burrard Inlet, just many more of them.
Mike Davies of the Trans Mountain Expansion Project made that promise to The Outlook Saturday at a North Vancouver public information session. It was there he was tasked with the difficult job of convincing North Vancouver residents to support a second pipeline to the inlet and a fivefold increase in tanker traffic off their shores.
The information session was one of 37 scheduled over 60 days in communities along the existing 1,100-kilometre pipeline carrying oilsands products to the Burrard Inlet via Burnaby's Westridge Terminal.
Currently, the Kinder Morgan terminal is responsible for about three per cent of all vessel traffic through Port Metro Vancouver, which amounts to eight vessels per month, including one jet-fuel barge, two crude-oil barges and five oil tankers with a maximum capacity of 650,000 barrels each.
Tankers that size are known as Aframax class vessels and, at about two and a half football fields long, these would still be the largest boats allowed to fill up at Westridge Terminal, according to Davies.
However, he said, an expanded pipeline would mean a huge increase in the number of tankers, jumping from five to 25 per month, with the number of barges expected to stay the same.
That would mean a total 28 vessels per month filling up at the Burnaby terminal starting in 2017, comprising about 10 per cent of all marine traffic on the inlet.
"The change is increased traffic not increased ship size, so the consequence of an accident doesn't change," Davies said. "But with the increased frequency, that increased frequency reflects the probability [of an accident]," he said.
However, Davies added that Kinder Morgan's responsibility for shipping ends at the end of its Burnaby pipe.
"Our strict regulatory obligation ends after the loading process," Davies said. "Once the ship is loaded, it's under the Canada Shipping Act which is administered by Transport Canada."
And once loaded to 90-per-cent capacity, the hull of an Aframax vessel sits 13.5 metres below the water surface, the absolute limit of safe clearance through the Second Narrows without risking an accident.
That risk is still what motivated many of the dozens of residents at Saturday's information session to ask questions about the project, including Deep Cove resident Len Laycock.
"I'm absolutely anti-pipeline for all of the reasons that can be distilled down into environment and health," Laycock told The Outlook. He said he also doesn't believe the pipeline would bring anything positive to the region economically, but could negatively impact tourism in the event of a spill.
"There's not a business case here," he said. "There's a case for a particular set of businesses that want to extract the resource and benefit from it. But we're taking risks from these pipes and we're not even getting any rewards."
Davies admitted the $4.1-billion Trans Mountain expansion does not specifically benefit those North Shore residents who, along with their neighbours across the inlet, bear some risks in being so close to the business end of the pipe if something did go wrong. But, he said, there would be economic benefits for the country at large.
"It's an important piece of Canadian infrastructure," he said. "It will have some stimulus in the economy. We will generate a lot of income tax and property taxes. We won't pay any property tax in North Van but those other spinoffs will come."
North Vancouver city council didn't exactly give Davies an easier time when he appeared before them at their Monday, Nov. 5 meeting. Councillors Craig Keating and Pam Bookham both railed against ramping up fossil fuel production at a time when, one; its negative environmental impacts are known, and two; the city council has been actively encouraging residents to cut back on their own fossil fuel consumption.
A report on Trans Mountain's public consultation process is expected to be made public early next year.