Government panel hears anti-pipeline message in Abbotsford

Majority of speakers expressed opposition to Kinder Morgan project

Some attendees at a panel on the Trans Mountain Pipeline Exapansion project expressed opposition.

The majority of residents addressing a special panel Tuesday on the proposed expansion of the Trans Mountain Pipeline expressed opposition and serious concerns about the project.

A special ministerial panel touring the route of the pipeline — 30 kilometers of which run through Abbotsford — and recording comments from the public stopped at Tradex to hear from locals. The panel is meant to complement the now-complete National Energy Board (NEB) review and a Crown consultation with First Nation groups. The panel will report back to the minister of natural resources in November.

The NEB review recommended approval of the project, which includes the construction of a new tank at Kinder Morgan’s Sumas Mountain facility, as well as ‘twinning’ the pipeline and tripling its capacity. The approval came with 157 conditions, but the federal government has not yet given the final go-ahead.

Roughly 30 people attended the event, with more than a dozen taking turns at the microphone to express their opinions and have them recorded by the panel — comprised of University of Winnipeg president Annette Trimbee and former Yukon premier Tony Penikett.

Pipeline could impact farmers

Bruce McTavish, an agricultural consultant who works primarily in the Fraser Valley, told the panel about a report his company compiled for the NEB, with a series of recommendations for how to mitigate effects on farmers.

“Some of the things we looked at, I think nobody had really thought of before,” he said.

The construction and operation of the pipeline could negatively affect turkey and other poultry farms along its route, McTavish said. His report has recommendations for how to mitigate the noise.

He also said concerns about sanitation are important, with the risk of spreading avian flu. The report also addresses issues around drainage, irrigation and water supply. Organic farms along the pipeline also have concerns about how its construction could jeopardize their certification, he said.

McTavish told the panel that the list of recommendations in his report are realistic and do-able.

“You might think it’s all pie-in-the-sky stuff and will it really be implemented and because of what we do as really on-the-ground people, most of what we’ve looked at and written are things that we’re doing on a daily basis,” he said, referring to other farms and projects his company consults on.

Not impressed with Kinder Morgan

Mary Helen Hatch, an Abbotsford resident who has been involved as an intervenor during the NEB process as part of an environmental organization called Pipe-Up told the panel she is not opposed to pipelines and oil extraction in general, pointing out that her father worked for an oil company.

“I’m 83; I am a Canadian citizen and I am not — repeat not — favourably impressed with Kinder Morgan, in general, and their plan to expand the pipeline,” she said.

“I hope my children and grandchildren and potential great-grandchildren and the next generations have access to beautiful things in nature — not pictures and books or watching films. I don’t think we should be worried about oil companies making profits I think we should be looking after the environment.”

Hatch also complained about the choice of Tradex as a location for the panel, saying it likely prevented people from attending because it is not accessible by transit.

Pipeline inconsequential in global perspective

Another Abbotsford resident, Chuck Phelps, argued pipelines are essential to Canada’s economy, saying that the debate should be about what the safest way to transport oil and get it to market is. He said pipelines are proven to be much better than alternative options, like transport by rail.

“I feel we as Canadians want to live in a utopian society where we don’t have any risks in life, we don’t have any problems. It’s just, we don’t live in that kind of a world,” said Phelps.

Phelps said Canada produces only 1.6 per cent of the world’s pollution and only 5 per cent of that comes from the country’s oil and natural gas.

“That’s microscopic,” he said.

(See video of McTavish below)

Phelps acknowledged that anti-pipeline advocates say the downstream effects — pollution produced by exported Canadian natural resources — should be calculated but said he is opposed to doing this because other countries don’t.

He also acknowledged that Abbotsford has had three oil spills in the past but said they have since been cleaned up and are no longer a problem.

Several subsequent speakers addressed Phelps’s claims and arguments directly, including Peter McCartney, a climate campaigner with the Wilderness Committee.

“With all due respect, when I hear misinformation, I feel the need to correct it,” he said. “This argument that Canada’s emissions are so small on a global scale, when we produce more fossil fuels than almost any other country is just nonsense.”

Canada is the world’s fifth-biggest exporter of fossil fuels and has one of the highest levels of per-capita emissions, according to McCartney.

He also said that there is precedent for regions calculating downstream emissions, when considering export projects, pointing to Washington State, which makes many such projects “unworkable” there.

After the panel session, Phelps said he wasn’t surprised that he was in the minority among speakers, as someone who favours the project. He said he listened to the arguments made by those in opposition but believed they did not understand what they were saying, or understand that Canada is ultimately inconsequential on the world stage.

When asked if the comments made addressing his arguments had swayed his opinion, Phelps said: “Absolutely not.”

Some government representation present

Local Conservative MP Ed Fast said he had planned to attend the panel but was unable to, due to a change in his schedule. He said this process is bad for Canada’s economy, because it creates uncertainty among investors, he said.

The NEB process was rigorous and scientific and should not have been followed by further reviews, Fast aid. Many in opposition to the project believe that any review that does not rule against such a project is invalid, but that way of thinking amounts to “ideology over science,” he said.

A representative from the City of Chilliwack was present at the panel but the City of Abbotsford was not represented — a fact pointed out by several speakers.

“The City’s community safety concerns were addressed through the 157 conditions applied by the National Energy Board, as well as through specific community safety upgrades provided directly by Kinder Morgan Canada,” said City of Abbotsford spokesperson Katherine Treolar, in an email.

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