Jet fuel protestors mount legal challenge

VAPOR needs public's help to raise $30,000 to take fight to court

The B.C. government's approval of an airline consortium's jet fuel delivery plan for Richmond could be challenged in court.

Environment Minister Mary Polak issued last Thursday a conditional environmental certificate to the consortium (VAFFC), which wants to ship aviation fuel up the south arm of the Fraser River, off-load at a storage facility on the banks of the river, then pipe it up Highway 99 and across north Richmond to YVR.

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However, after meeting with its lawyer on Friday, Richmond-born protest group VAPOR is now lining up a legal challenge of the province's decision.

VAPOR's Otto Langer - who last week branded Polak's decision as "pathetic" and "misguided" - said the group is now setting

about the task of raising the $30,000 needed to mount the challenge.

"It's been a terribly flawed process from the beginning," said former federal

fisheries biologist Langer. "We will be asking the public for help (to fund the challenge), but our lawyer was positive that we have a case."

Langer said he wasn't certain what court the legal challenge may be lodged, but expected it to be the BC Supreme Court.

VAFFC was given the environmental certificate almost three years into what should have been a 180-day process.

The consortium claims the current fuel supply to the airport - via tanker truck

from Washington State and pipeline from a Burnaby refinery - is unreliable and inadequate to meet future demands.

Langer said he was not at all surprised by the government's decision, accusing it of delaying tactics to avoid the decision becoming an election issue last spring.

And he rubbished Polak's claim of the decision-making process being "rigorous," adding there's not even been one public hearing and that alternatives to the approved plan were ignored.

The risk of a major fuel spill on the delicate Fraser River estuary should have been reason enough, according to VAPOR, to refuse the plan a certificate.

Also ignored, according to Langer and the City of Richmond, were concerns of the public and the city's fire-rescue department, the latter of which has said it can't respond in time to any major incident at or near the proposed fuel off-loading facility.

Mayor Malcolm Brodie also condemned the decision, calling the process "flawed" and reiterated the City of Richmond's disapproval of the fuel delivery plan. The city remains unconvinced by the B.C. government's assessment that the environmental and safety risks for the project are low.

VAFFC still has to get a permit from the federal entity - Port Metro Vancouver - in the so-called "harmonized" environmental approval process.

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© Richmond News

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