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VAPOR Media Backgrounder

Carol Day  -  Jan 08, 2012  -  No Comments

Richmond, B.C.

Re: VAFFC Amends Jet Fuel Delivery Proposal to YVR but only amends the option of relocating the pipeline along Highway 99 to avoid Richmond residential areas. All other highly unacceptable risks to the Fraser River and estuary have remained unchanged.

In April 2011 a group of citizens met to form VAPOR. It was a spontaneous ad hoc grass roots group of citizens from the Lower Fraser Valley. They are opposed to the Vancouver Airport Fuel Facilities Corporation (VAFFC) proposal to ship large quantities of toxic and flammable jet fuel in barges and Panamax tankers into the Fraser River Estuary and the river’s South Arm to a point upstream of the George Massey Tunnel. Here they proposed the building of a marine terminal to unload the fuel and store it in a large tank farm on the banks of the estuary. To make matters worse, VAFFC then proposed to build a pipeline through Richmond residential neighborhoods to deliver the fuel to Vancouver International Airport (YVR).

Despite a recent Addendum to the original VAFFC application, the proposal continues to pose a great risk to the rich fish and wildlife populations, their habitat, recreation, navigation, property and public safety in the Fraser River Estuary. VAPOR has mobilized a great deal of interest in this matter and the inappropriate and unsatisfactory manner in which its environmental and social impact reviews are being conducted by the Federal and Provincial governments. Issues of great concerns and a project update include:

  • VAFFC made a smaller but similar proposal in 1988 and that was registered with the Federal Environmental Review Process (FEARO) and a Public Panel held hearings and the proposal was rejected in 1989 due to the threat such transport and terminal would pose to the globally significant Fraser River Estuary and it rich fish and wildlife resources.
  • The environmental review legislation has been so watered down since 1988 that
    VAFFC was not legally required to do any public review of this project. VAFFC applied for a voluntary review by the BC Environmental Assessment Office (BC EAO) and that was accepted by EAO.
  • EAO has ‘harmonized’ its voluntary review with Port Metro Vancouver (PMV) with the Province taking the lead. This provincially led review attempted to conduct a rush review and limited the public to two minute presentations in the spring of  2011 and the public and local government had to demand an extension in the comment period to allow for the submission of written comments to EAO. Further the BC EAO refuses to consider more environmentally friendly alternatives in their assessment in that they will only evaluate one option.
  • Despite that the period of public comment was terminated, the BC EAO has continued to work with select parties and VAFFC on possible other options to the proposal to address the many public criticisms. The expedited EA process has been put into indefinite suspension while VAFFC reconsiders what it can better do to address public complaints.
  • While the VAFFC proposal is in suspension, VAFFC indicated that they want to now examine the options of shipping more fuel via Burrard Inlet to YVR via barges and pipeline or revisit their 1988 proposal of barging fuel up the North Arm of the Fraser River to YVR – the proposal that was rejected by the Federal Government in 1989.
  • Despite the confusion caused by VAFFC and exactly what they are proposing, they have just re-activated their project review with the BC EAO and on January 4, 2012 the BC EAO notified the public that an addendum (amendment) has been submitted and the public has from January 11 until February 1, 2012 to comment on it. The amendment is ONLY for the option of relocating and installing the pipeline along Highway 99 to avoid Richmond residential areas. However VAFFC has stated that they will not relinquish their other options though Richmond farmlands and neighbourhoods. VAFFC had earlier rejected this highway option in that it would interfere with highway expansion.
  • Further to the Highway 99 Addendum, all the other highly unacceptable aspects of this proposal such as the frequent oil tanker traffic to an offloading terminal and storage in a tank farm which poses a great risk to the Fraser River and its estuary, the large populations of fish and wildlife and property and public safety has been left unmodified. This continued disregard for the Fraser River and estuary is truly most unfortunate.
  • VAPOR has contacted the three most directly affected municipalities (Richmond, Delta and Vancouver) to elevate their level of concern of such a high risk development in the Fraser River Estuary. Richmond has shown the greatest leadership by strongly coming out against any jet fuel transport anywhere into the Fraser River.
  • VAPOR has written letters to Air Canada, Westjet, KLM, Lufthansa and the 20 or more other airlines that own VAFFC and to date VAPOR has only received limited responses and all have followed the same cookie cutter response. Despite the rejection of their Fraser Estuary option in 1989 the airlines see no real concern despite the fact that what they have proposed is contrary to their stated environmental policies designed to protect the environment.
  • The VAFFC proposal indeed admits that repeated jet fuel spills will occur into the Fraser estuary during the operation of the facilities over the next several decades but they feel this is of little concern in that the solution to pollution is simply Fraser River dilution and atmospheric evaporation. They indeed have proposed to simply flush spills out into the Fraser River as a key part of spill mitigation.
  • The irony of this proposal is that the BC led EA harmonized review with Port Metro Vancouver is at odd s with government mandates, the public trust and public interest. This is a proposal to deliver fuel to a Federal airport, via a Federal waterway under Federal rules of pilotage and navigation, in a Federal port, involving Federally protected fish and wildlife resources and their habitats yet the Federal government sees no strong need to take a direct and lead role in the assessment of this proposal. This totally contradicts what the Federal Government did in 1989.
  • VAPOR asks the Federal Government to again show proactive leadership and remind VAFFC of their 1989 jet fuel river transport proposal rejection and advise them to quit wasting taxpayer resources and avoid causing a great risk to the estuary, its life and people and their property and direct the airlines and VAFFC to develop an environmentally friendly solution to address airport fuel needs.
  • As part of the above, VAPOR strongly feels that the best solution to deliver fuel to YVR is by a pipeline(s) from the refinery sources (Chevron Burnaby and ARCO- Ferndale) directly to YVR. This would eliminate all present and future jet fuel transport into the Fraser River Estuary and Burrard Inlet for supplying YVR.
  • Air Canada has indicated that a local pipeline from the ARCO Ferndale refinery is risky due to homeland security concerns, too expensive and has to cross too many jurisdictions. To use this as an excuse is truly unfortunate. In North America we have thousands of miles of pipelines crossing hundreds of jurisdictions including Canadian pipelines that deliver oil to the USA on a continuous basis. The operation of pipeline(s) to supply jet fuel to airports is widely practiced in North America as the most reliable way to deliver fuel. Also a pipeline is much easier and more economic to operate than daily shipping from various North American and overseas sources of fuel including that from South East Asia. Although VAFFC  wants to import jet fuel from SE Asia, the crude oil has to be shipped to SE Asia for refining and then shipped about 15,000 km to YVR. It is near non-comprehendible how that can be a more secure source of fuel in times of turmoil.
  • VAPOR is of the firm belief that the present BC EA process as harmonized with Metro Vancouver Port is not in the public interest in that the BC EA process has been documented to be incomplete and inadequate by the BC Auditor General and the University of Victoria Law Centre reports.
  • VAPOR strongly feels that Canada has abdicated its responsibility by allowing the MVP to work with the Province to conduct an EA of a project that affects their own jurisdiction related to port development and financial gain i.e. PMV is in a conflict of interest.
  • VAPOR continues to demand accountability in the environmental review process and above all demand that the Federal Government provide the leadership required to protect the many resources and jurisdictions that is largely under their constitutional mandate as related to this proposal.
  • VAPOR also asks that the many airlines including Air Canada, Westjet, Lufthansa and KLM show greater environmental leadership and live up to the spirit of their environmental policies and not just use them as window dressing as they propose a project that poses an unacceptable risk to the Fraser River Estuary, its rich natural life, property and the safety of local residents.

To this end VAPOR has registered a legal petition to the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development of the Office of the Auditor General of Canada. We are questioning why Canada and their agencies (DFO, DOE, TC, PMV and CEAA have allowed this project to unfold as it has and to explain their less than proactive approach and their apparent abdication of direct EA and environmental stewardship responsibilities as expected from their legal mandates.

The concerns objections and actions of VAPOR are now supported by over 5500 citizens that have signed a petition opposing what VAFFC has proposed. This is supported by many groups including VAPOR and its many supporters, the Fraser River Coalition, Wreck Beach Preservation Society, Boundary Bay Conservation Committee and local government. VAPOR has presented this petition to MP Fin Donnelly (Coquitlam, New Westminster and Port Moody) for presentation to the House of Commons. Also Independent MLA Vicki Huntington (South Delta) has accepted this same petition and has presented it to the Legislative Assembly in Victoria.

For further information please contact or call:

In Richmond:
Carol Day VAPOR Chair   604 240-1986
Otto Langer Co-Chair   604 274-7655

In Delta:
James Ronback    604 948-1589

In the Fraser Valley:
Judy Williams   604 856-9598

OEL Jan 8, 2012

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