A small group of protesters delivered a message to Steveston-Richmond East MP Joe Peschisolido: Don’t build the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, let alone buy it.
“Our tax dollars should be paying for things like schools, like housing, like clean drinking water for First Nations. That is by far a higher priority than subsidizing big oil and specifically sending billions of dollars to a Texas organization,” said Richmond resident Jenna Newman, referring to the recent announcement by the federal government that it would purchase the existing pipeline owned by Kinder Morgan energy company for $4.5 billion, with plans to twin it and then sell it back to the private sector — in response to court action from the BC NDP government that challenges diluted bitumen (an unrefined product, like crude oil) shipments.
Newman organized one of about 80 nationwide protests at Liberal constituency offices via Leadnow, a non-profit group that promotes protests and petitions for various environmental, social justice and democratic causes.
Peschisolido said last month that he supports the Trans Mountain expansion from Alberta, as he believes it to be in the national interest.
Newman said the risk of oil spills is too great for the coastline, including Richmond. As well, local whale populations are at risk to increased tanker traffic (the pipeline will mean the Burnaby terminal will see up to 37 oil tanker deliveries per month, up from five; this represents a 14 per cent increase to large commercial vessels crossing the Salish Sea).
Newman said climate change must be a primary concern for the nation.
“We really have to look beyond our own yards. Something like this, to be contemplating a project like this — when we really should be turning away from fossil fuels — and to invest this much money in a fossil fuel project is just the wrong decision on all levels,” said Newman.
Peschisolido echoed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s claim that the environment and economy can work together. The Liberals say the pipeline is a necessary trade-off for a federal carbon tax and an Oceans Protection Plan to mitigate spill risk.
However Newman now questions the environmental stance Peschisolido took to get elected in 2015.
“Joe calls himself an environmentalist. It’s difficult to reconcile what Trudeau and many Liberals have said with the kinds of action they’re taking now. I don’t know what the other viable option is for our government, but, we’re not hitting sustainability, let alone talking about how to regenerate the planet,” said Newman.
Peschisolido responded to the News by phone, stating the Liberal approach is a balance between the Conservatives, who would approve any pipeline and the NDP and Greens who oppose them altogether.
He said economic growth is needed and that includes growing Alberta’s oil sands patch for B.C. jobs.
While Peschisolido claimed his government is investing in First Nations water resources, a December Parliamentary Budget Officer report noted the $1.8 billion investment over five years will fall short by $1.4 billion.
Pipeline politics hit close to home
The Trans Mountain pipeline impacts Richmond as 40 per cent of Vancouver International Airport’s jet fuel supply comes through a branch of the pipeline, from Burnaby to Sea Island.
However that branch will soon be decommissioned in favour of a new pipeline from the South Arm of the Fraser River (where fuel will be barged in to a new marine terminal and six tank, 80-million-litre storage facility) to the airport. The tanks and terminal are under construction while the pipeline awaits municipal permits.
Mayor Malcolm Brodie said he has stayed at arms-length of city staff working with Vancouver Airport Facilities Corporation (VAFFC), a consortium of airlines building the pipeline, to get the permits approved. Brodie said the permits would not be met with legal challenges from the city considering Burnaby lost its case against the federally-approved Trans Mountain twinning.
Brodie said he has “grave reservations” about the twinned pipeline given the material, diluted bitumen, is being transported. He said he also doesn’t understand why product isn’t refined in Canada.
Meanwhile, he maintains his concern with jet fuel barges running up and down the river. He and Richmond city council expressed their support for an upgraded Trans Mountain branch to the airport. One of the reasons VAFFC said it didn’t want to proceed with an expanded branch was because Kinder Morgan controlled it. Furthermore, such an upgrade was not seen as a long-term solution. Now, with the jet fuel terminal on the Fraser, VAFFC says 100 per cent of the fuel will come from there, thus eliminating up to 1,000 monthly truck shipments from Washington State. Environmental group Fraser Voices notes spills are inevitable and cleanup responses are questionable.