A study into the movement of tanker traffic on the Fraser River is symptomatic of a patchwork environmental review, which is risking the safety of the estuary and the public.
Thats the view of grass-roots protest group VAPOR after getting its first look at the study, commissioned by Port Metro Vancouver (PMV) after a consortium of airlines lodged a plan to barge aviation fuel up the rivers south arm and then pipe it through Richmond to YVR.
The study found that safe passage of aviation fuel up the river was possible as long as certain risk mitigations are in place.
But VAPOR vented its frustration this week at not getting early access to the studys findings, nor being told what the reports terms of reference were.
The studys failure to properly address cumulative environmental and safety impacts of allowing any bulk liquid tanker traffic into the Fraser River undermines any proper environmental and safety review of this project, said VAPORs president, Carol Day in a press release.
This study, as with others, seem to be a piecemeal approach to patch up a poorly run environmental review process and underestimates the true risks to the river, its life and public safety.
VAPOR called for proper public scrutiny of the studys findings and demanded that PMV and the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office which is in charge of the review into the consortiums fuel delivery plan urgently consider re-opening the public hearing process for further input and not review this less-than-complete study behind closed doors.
VAPOR was joined in the condemnation of the study by City of Richmond mayor Malcolm Brodie and veteran councillor Harold Steves, all of who yet again cited PMVs involvement in the process as a massive conflict of interest.
They see the potential leasing of 12 acres of PMV-owned land to the airline consortium (VAFFC) for use as a fuel off-loading facility and storage farm as a problem in terms of being impartial.
If (VAFFC) goes through with its plan, it would be leasing land from the port. Thats a significant conflict of interest, Brodie told the Vancouver Sun.
So I am concerned when I see the port producing a report that says moving jet fuel on the river is safe.
PMVs harbourmaster and vice-president of safety, Yoss Leclerc, however, dismissed the accusation, saying its commissioning of the study was over and above its call of duty.
We put a stop to the review process because we wanted the proponent to get more information and we have carried out all due diligence on this. We wanted to have the best and most accurate information possible, Leclerc told the News.
We saw there was a gap in the process and its critical for us that the project is safe and secure. This is our main priority; we have a safe record around the world.
Leclerc added that risk assessments carried out by PMV cover all bases, no matter how big or small the project is.
The size of the vessel, the training of the crew on board; we look at everything, even if its just a small project, he said.
We do our due diligence. The missing part of the review process was the movement of tankers; we wanted to have a full understanding of the impact.
Leclerc said the company who carried out the study on PMVs behalf is a leader in risk management and has used their model on several projects around the world.
Its important to understand, we could just have gone with the local information, said Leclerc. But we said no, go with the full international database. We want to err on the side of caution.
Fears were also expressed that the favourable findings from the study would open up the floodgates to the transportation on the river of heavier products, such as crude oil.
However, Leclerc allayed those concerns, saying such a scenario is not physically possible.
The heavy oil carrying vessel needs a big draft underneath (12.5 metres) and the river cant accommodate such vessels; it only has a draft of 11.5 metres, he said.
There would have to be another full review and consultation, but the river cant physically accommodate it anyway.
The proposal is in the middle of a joint federal-provincial environmental assessment process in which PMV is the primary federal department.
Its a process which many, including the City of Richmond, have lambasted as being weak and heavily favouring the proponent, VAFFC.
The environmental review has stopped and started many times on the request of either VAFFC or PMV.
No one from VAFFC was able to comment on the studys findings by press time.
with a file from Vancouver Sun