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Jet fuel delivery opponents make last ditch plea

Mayor, Delta South MLA join forces to oppose plan, call on government to refuse environmental certificate

Opponents of a jet fuel delivery plan in Richmond have made a last ditch appeal to the B.C. government.

Mayor Malcolm Brodie, Delta South MLA Vicki Huntington and members of protest group Vapor gathered Tuesday morning on the banks of the Fraser River at Garry Point Park.

In a show of unity, they issued a desperate plea for the Environment Minister Mary Polak to refuse an airline consortium the environmental certificate it needs to barge aviation fuel up the south arm of the Fraser, offload it at a terminal in south-east Richmond and then pipe it up Highway 99 and across the city to YVR.

Polak is due to announce the government’s environmental review decision on or before Dec. 24, almost three years into what is supposed to be a 180-day process.

The consortium, VAFFC, has cited the current supply to the airport — via truck tanker from Washington State and a Burnaby refinery — is unreliable and insufficient to meet future demands.

However, Brodie, who along with his city council has opposed the plan from the outset, claimed the forecasted increase in demand is “overstated” and that other options have not been properly analyzed.

“This should be rejected and there should be a closer look at the alternatives,” Brodie told a packed media scrum at Garry Point Park.

“The effects of a large spill on the river could be catastrophic for our community.”

Brodie also repeated the city’s concerns regarding Richmond Fire-Rescue’s ability to deal with a major incident on time at both the proposed fuel off-loading facility in southeast Richmond and on the river itself.

In particular, Brodie questioned whether or not the consortium was prepared to absorb the added costs associated with preparing for such an incident.

VAFFC’s project director, Adrian Pollard, rubbished the mayor’s claim about response times, saying they have measured it themselves from the nearest firehall and it’s well within the eight-minute guidelines.

“We would have self-sufficient, automated and dedicated foam and water suppression systems,” said Pollard.

Pollard added that alternative fuel delivery plans have been examined in detail but admitted the review process is only designed to deal with one option.

Regarding the claim that jet fuel will evaporate on the river in the event of a major spill, Vapor's retired federal biologist, Otto Langer, told of a recent visit to Lemon Creek in the Southern Interior — where a tanker truck crashed and spilled its aviation fuel load.

“As my wife and I walked close to a stream up there, I was sure someone had been creosoting a fence,” said Langer.

“Then I realized the smell was coming from fuel in the stream, 65 days after the spill. If you can’t flush jet fuel out of a stream, what chance do you have on the Fraser River, with all of its sand?”

Langer added the government’s environmental review will not even be taking into account the effects of the Lemon Creek spill.

Pollard said it was unfair to liken a spill in a creek to a potential spill in a large river, such as the Fraser, saying there were “too many variables” to draw a direct comparison.

“The key thing from our point of view is that we’re actually increasing safety on the river,” claimed Pollard.

“We’ll be putting in place deflection booms on the river; there’s traffic on the river right now that could cause problems but there’s no safety measures.

“The risk of a spill is also being overblown.”

None of Richmond’s MLAs were in attendance at the Garry Point press conference, but Delta South independent MLA Vicki Huntington turned out, saying it was high time the government put humanity and habitat before any economic concerns.

“This is an internationally significant area and we simply cannot put it at risk,” said Huntington in reference to the bird migratory path.

Huntington said she’s spoken directly to Minister Polak on several occasions about the review, only to be told that the “process will unfold.”