An oil tanker flanked by tugs in Burrard Inlet.

Ex-B.C. Premier urges ‘plan B’ route for Trans Mountain pipeline

Mike Harcourt adds his voice to calls for oil to flow to alternate terminal such as Deltaport or Washington State

Former B.C. Premier Mike Harcourt is urging the prime minister to insist on a different route for the Trans Mountain pipeline to carry diluted bitumen out to tankers at Tsawwassen or Cherry Point in Washington State, instead of risking massive civil disobedience by opponents in Burnaby.

He argued Kinder Morgan’s proposed pipeline twinning largely has local support along most of the route from Alberta to the B.C. coast so a “plan B” that diverts the pipeline south to a different terminal is worth exploring.

“The pipeline by and large has been approved from the oil sands to Surrey,” Harcourt told Black Press. “Where it hits conflict is when it gets to Burnaby and into Burrard Inlet, where one one spill would be a disaster.”

He said it was imprudent not to look at alternate routing to a less contentious tidewater port than the existing Westridge Marine Terminal in Burnaby.

“It avoids some of the real and legitimate fears and concerns people have expressed about tripling the traffic in Burrard Inlet,”said Harcourt, who was NDP premier in 1993 during mass protests against logging in Clayoquot Sound. “I’d like to avoid a violent and sustained set of protests.”

Former B.C. Premier Mike Harcourt.

Activist groups have vowed the $6.8-billion project will hit a wall of opposition, particularly in Metro Vancouver, and comparisons have been made to the violent standoff over a pipeline project in North Dakota.

Burnaby Mountain was the site of more than 100 arrests two years ago to make way for Kinder Morgan survey crews.

The idea of diverting the pipeline to a different terminal that would keep additional tankers out of Burrard Inlet and Vancouver harbour has previously been raised by Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan and Alberta NDP Premier Rachel Notley.

And the concept got a fresh lift this fall when it was flagged for further consideration by a ministerial panel review of the project appointed by the federal government to fill in gaps in the National Energy Board process.

That new review, co-chaired by former Tsawwassen First Nation chief Kim Baird, urged the federal government to consider whether Trans Mountain’s current route “is the right one.”

Kinder Morgan has so far rejected suggestions of an alternate terminal at Deltaport, saying it would add to the costs and environmental impacts.

Harcourt said any higher cost to accommodate a new terminal must be considered against the risk for the oil industry and the country as a whole of not getting a new pipeline at all. He said extra construction costs could be borne by oil shippers over time.

Vicki Huntington, the independent MLA for Delta South, said rerouting the pipeline to Deltaport is a “non-starter” because of the critical ecological habitat at the mouth of the Fraser River that would be vulnerable to a spill of bitumen.

Michael Hale, a Trans Mountain opponent with the Pipe Up group in the Fraser Valley, said Harcourt is wrong to conclude the pipeline will face less resistance if it only extends as far southwest as Abbotsford or Delta.

“Over 90 per cent of B.C. presenters were opposed [during the latest panel hearings] – it didn’t matter if you were from Chilliwack or Burnaby,” he said.

Climate change activists in particular who want to keep Alberta oil in the ground will aim to block the pipeline expansion wherever they can in B.C., he said. Nor do specific environmental concerns for the Salish Sea end with a different terminal.

“When you think of the ecosystems out from Deltaport – the salmon, the endangered orca populations – that region is already heavily threatened,” Hale said. “That’s going to mobilize people everywhere, whether it’s Burnaby or Delta or virtually anywhere else they can think of on this coast.”

A final federal government decision is required by mid-December on the NEB’s recommendation for conditional approval of the Trans Mountain expansion.

@jeffnagel

jnagel@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Stacked townhouse project gets approval despite traffic concerns

Neighbours say project will increase traffic and problems turning out of seniors’ complex

Fraser Valley pride celebration includes dance and festival

Events held in Abbotsford on July 19 and 20

Free summer concert series celebrates Fraser Valley indie music

Two more performances left in Jam in Jubilee in Abbotsford

Getting a new ‘Gig’ easier with new innovative program in Chilliwack

Program will take 12 young adults and help them prepare for their career path

VIDEO: B.C. MLA Michelle Stilwell takes first steps in nearly 30 years

‘It actually felt like walking. It’s been 27 years… but it felt realistic to me’

Taekwondo instructor, 21, identified as B.C. bat rabies victim

Nick Major, 21, an instructor at Cascadia Martial Arts in Parksville

Science expedition to Canada’s largest underwater volcano departs Vancouver Island

Crews prepared for a two-week research mission to the Explorer Seamount

B.C. shipyard to get one-third of $1.5 billion frigate-repair contract

The federal government has promised to invest $7.5 billion to maintain the 12 frigates

Anglican Church to review governance structure after same-sex marriage change fails

Some say the current system to change doctrine gives too much voting power to a smaller class of bishops

B.C. adding fast-charge stations for electric highway trips

Okanagan, Vancouver Island, Kootenay stations ready for use

Worried about bats? Here’s what to do if you come across one in B.C.

Bat expert with the BC Community Bat Program urges caution around the small creatures

B.C. on right road with tougher ride-hailing driver rules, says expert

The provincial government is holding firm that ride-hailing drivers have a Class 4 licence

B.C. Ferries cancels two sailings Monday due to mechanical issues

Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay run affected in order to repair Queen of New Westminster

Most Read