Councillors' opposition to Trans Mountain 'disrespectful' to Kinder Morgan, says West Vancouver mayor
West Vancouver Mayor Michael Smith said that the city council was 'disrespectful' to Texas-based pipeline giant Kinder Morgan for passing a resolution opposing the company's Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project.
Smith was the sole dissenter to the resolution, which passed in a 6-1 vote. Councillors confirmed that Kinder Morgan had sent a letter to the council requesting a presentation for the Monday meeting, but council declined the offer.
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"I'm just as concerned about what happens to the shoreline as they are, but wouldn't we want to at least hear from them?" said Smith, who is also president of M.R.Smith Ltd, a wholesale distributor for Imperial Oil and ExxonMobil in the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley. "It's obvious from this motion that council doesn't want to hear any facts."
He insisted that his 35 year involvement in the oil industry did not interfere with his vote.
"I think most people in West Vancouver are like me, they want to hear all the facts," he said.
Kinder Morgan will begin public consultations for an estimated $4 billion expansion of its Trans Mountain pipeline from Alberta’s oil sands in Edmonton to through Metro Vancouver in September. Their plan is to more than double the capacity of the pipeline by 2017. Its main rival is the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline, which aims to export crude oil from Alberta tar sands through the Great Bear Rainforest.
Mayor will send letter to feds and Kinder Morgan about City's opposition
Councillors who voted for the motion cited the risk of degradation to the city's waterfront and the cost to taxpayers in the event of a heavy oil spill.
The motion resolves that the mayor write a letter to Prime Minister Harper, Premier Christy Clark, the Federal and Provincial Ministers of the Environment, the National Energy Board, and the President of Kinder Morgan expressing West Vancouver’s opposition to any increase in oil tanker traffic through the Port of Vancouver.
There was no timeline on when the letter will be sent, but Smith said that it will be sent as soon as it was prepared by city staff.
The motion states that Council expects Kinder Morgan to take proactive steps to protect West Vancouver's marine life and coastal areas, compensate West Vancouver for the amount equal to the projected clean up of a worst case oil spill pending the National Energy Board's approval of this strategy, identify the impacts of increased ship size and numbers in relation compromise to foreshore protection efforts arising from ship wash, identify how increased ship passing, and in waiting, by West Vancouver shore line will mitigate the discharge of grey water, and heavy diesel particulate.
It also encourages West Vancouver’s MP and MLAs to "ensure a provincial strategy is developed before any oil exportation operation of this magnitude is proposed for any export outlet in British Columbia."
Finally, it resolves that "the report be shared with Metro municipalities and that staff continue to monitor and report on the public review and regulatory approval process being advanced by Kinder Morgan for the proposed expansion of the Trans Mountain Pipeline."
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In May both the City of Vancouver and Burnaby officially announced their opposition to the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. North Vancouver's Tsleil-Waututh chief Justin George spoke out against the project on behalf of his community.
In addition, Burnaby mayor Derek Corrigan said to The Vancouver Sun in April that other mayors share concerns about the risks of oil spills.
"I know the concerns we have are shared by many mayors, including Vancouver, Victoria and the North Vancouver mayors. First nations opposition has been legion, so this is not an easy row to hoe for the Kinder Morgan folks," Corrigan said. "I haven't heard anything from Kinder Morgan or any of the other proponents that this kind of project should be welcomed by us in British Columbia."
Tarah Stafford, a West Vancouver resident and Tanker Free BC member, said that the atmosphere in the room when the motion passed was upbeat on Monday.
"There were lots of happy faces, and everybody seemed really pleased," she said. "All of the councillors had a piece to say about it, and all of them had a really positive response to making the language of the motion stronger."
Councillors cite preserving natural heritage and price of a potential oil spill as main reasons for opposing Trans Mountain pipeline expansion
West Vancouver councillor Trish Panz said that a potential oil spill from the pipeline would pose too great a risk to the city's foreshores, a 10 kilometre shoreline from Ambleside to the end of Horseshoe Bay. She cited the city's ongoing Shoreline Protection Plan and community groups such as West Vancouver Shoreline Preservation Society as one of the biggest reasons she supported the motion.
"They spent countless hours, time, money and ideas," she said about West Vancouver residents involved in preservation efforts. "From my point of view, I'm not prepared to put all of that community value, natural heritage and natural capital at risk."
Councillor Michael Lewis, who introduced the vote on the motion, said that the potential of an oil spill would be devastating to the coast as well as to taxpayers. He recalled an oil spill near Ambleside in the 1950s involving freighters, which he said serves as a reminder of the risks involved with a heavy oil pipeline near the coast.
Councillor Craig Cameron agreed. "The waterfront has become the living room of the community," he wrote in an email to The Vancouver Observer.
"Given the proximity of so many people and the central importance of the harbour to the life of the city, Burrard Inlet is simply a poor location for a major oil export facility."