Lemon Creek spill fuels transport concerns for YVR proposal

The recent jet fuel spill in the Kootenays is shining a new light on the safety of transporting hazardous substances and, in particular, the ongoing debate over the controversial proposal to build a fuel pipeline to the Vancouver International airport.

Richmond City Councillor Bill McNulty heard about the jet fuel spill in Lemon Creek, near Castlegar and Trail, B.C., and couldn’t help thinking about the battle they’ve been waging for four years over the proposed jet fuel pipeline in his city.

“Any time you have an environmental disaster, it affects all of us,” McNulty says. “[it] makes us all want to be more cautious.”

A consortium of airlines is behind the plan; which would involve tankers coming up the Fraser River to a new marine terminal in southeast Richmond. The jet fuel would be piped 15 kilometres across some of the city’s residential areas, to the airport. The city council is focused on safety.

“To say there is minimal risk, and we do it better – how come we keep having these spills? What is minimal risk?” asks McNulty. “We have taken a stance in the City of Richmond – we don’t want jet fuel line going through Richmond in any way shape or form. This is one thing that’s united council in political spectrum, was this issue.”

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The province put the environmental assessment on hold five months ago, and hasn’t revisited the pipeline project. Those in opposition to the project say they won’t give up until the proposal has been completely shelved.

On July 25, one day prior to the spill in Lemon Creek, Delta South Independent MLA Vicki Huntington asked Environment Minister Mary Polak for clarification on the status of the assessment.

“To fool around with something as noxious as jet fuel and the inability to contain a spill of that nature on a fast-flowing river is just asking for trouble,” says Huntington. “And I think it’s a warning to all the decision-makers about this particular project – you cannot go ahead.”

The non-profit Vancouver Airport Fuel Facilities Corporation says it has a long track record of safely handling fuel at YVR. They also say the pipeline is badly needed because future demand will eventually mean 200 tanker truck deliveries every day; which is a far riskier option.

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