Oil spill poses serious threat, panel hears

Activists share concerns over increased tanker traffic

At least one North Vancouver resident is willing to risk his freedom to oppose Kinder Morgan’s proposed pipeline expansion.

Rod Marining, director with Sea Shepherd Canada, said 7,000 protesters are willing to risk life and limb to stop Kinder Morgan from twinning 981 kilometres of pipeline between Edmonton, Alberta and Burnaby.

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“Does (Prime Minister Justin) Trudeau have 7,000 jail cells ready for us?” he asked.

Marining received a round of applause from the teachers, lawyers, environmentalists and concerned citizens who packed District of North Vancouver council chambers for a town hall meeting Friday. The parking lot outside chambers was jammed as a succession of speakers blasted the pipeline process while expressing grave doubts about the Liberal government’s willingness to change course from the path of their Conservative predecessors.

“I don’t trust you,” Marining said, speaking to Kim Baird and the two other panel members, and through them to Trudeau’s cabinet.

The price tag on augmenting Kinder Morgan’s pipeline is estimated at $6.8 billion. For Erian Baxter, who was speaking on behalf of Deep Cove Kayak, that investment is a threat to the Burrard Inlet’s thriving economy.

Given the risk of both human and mechanical error, increasing tanker traffic from five per month to 34 is “mind boggling.”

In 2014, B.C. tourism generated $14.6 billion, representing a greater portion of the province’s gross domestic product than forestry or agriculture, according to the Tourism Industry Association of B.C.

One spill could cause severe economic damage, according to Baxter. “If something happened in my business, all the lovely little businesses in Deep Cove would expire,” she said, explaining the symbiotic relationship of kayak tours with the restaurants and shops.

Rather than trying to keep a project out of her backyard, Baxter said she was opposing the pipeline to preserve “the Lower Mainland’s front yard.”

Environmentalists should be as concerned about small spills as big ones, cautioned North Shore Save Our Shores Society representative Kevin Bell. Spills between one and 20 litres don’t often get a lot of publicity but cause severe damage to the environment, he said.

“We do not have the environmental monitoring necessary to police these things, especially since the (former prime minister Stephen) Harper government gutted the federal fisheries act,” he said.

Shipping 890,000 barrels of oil each day will affect the planet, said teacher Kathy Hartman.

“We all live upstream,” she said. “Canadians did not remove the last government so we could dump our pollutants on other countries.”

The National Energy Board gave conditional approval to the pipeline augmentation in May, following a process that “felt like it had been created by Franz Kafka,” according to lawyer and North Shore NOPE vice-president Leslie Palleson.

Kinder Morgan’s 15,000-page application was “vague, repetitive, inconsistent and misleading,” she said. “Our members came up with questions late at night between working and driving our children to soccer practice. Often the answers were indirect, referring NS NOPE to answers given to other intervenors, requiring (us) to search through those answers to try to determine which part of that answer to a different question pertained to our information request.”

Having once been exposed to dangerous chemicals including benzene and methyl ethyl ketone as a firefighter, Stephen Edmonds expressed grave concerns about shipping oil near a coastline overdue for a massive earthquake.

After listing recent oil spills in Kalamazoo, Mich. and Mayflower, AR., Edmonds closed by mentioning his twin grandsons.

“I do not want to have to take them down to a beach in Vancouver and say: ‘We used to be able to swim here.’”

The panel has 44 town hall meetings planned and is scheduled to chronicle their findings in a federal report due in November. Cabinet’s final decision on the pipeline is scheduled before the end of the year.

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