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Coalition opposes YVR jet fuel plan

Barging toxic and flammable jet fuel up the Fraser River estuary to serve Vancouver International Airport is unprecedented, unreasonable and far too dangerous.

Barging toxic and flammable jet fuel up the Fraser River estuary to serve Vancouver International Airport is unprecedented, unreasonable and far too dangerous.

That's according to Vancouver Airport Pipeline Opposition for Richmond (VAPOR), a coalition of residents that made a presentation to Delta council Monday.

"It's the wrong project, wrong place, wrong proposal. We're proposing a better alternative," Delta resident Jim Ronback told council.

Owned by a consortium of airlines that use YVR, the Vancouver Airport Fuel Facilities Corporation wants jet fuel barged up the Fraser River to a proposed tank farm on the Richmond side of the south arm of the river. An underground pipeline would then send the fuel to the airport.

Made up mostly of Richmond residents but also some from Delta, VAPOR says it's not opposed to the airport having a stable supply of fuel, however, environmental and public safety have to be taken into account.

"In this case, it is especially important because the fragile Fraser River, its estuary and surrounding marine waters in the Gulf of Georgia (Salish Sea) is needlessly being exposed to a new and totally unacceptable environmental and public safety risk," stated spokesperson Otto Langer, a former senior biologist with Fisheries and Oceans Canada, in a letter to council.

Ronback said a similar proposal in the late 1980s to barge jet fuel up the north arm of the Fraser River and build a dock and offloading facility to store fuel at Sea Island was rejected by a federal environmental assessment process.

The group is worried about a myriad of issues, including potential spills , contamination, fires and explosions.

Richmond council has come out in opposition to the fuel consortium proposal, while Delta has taken a more guarded approach.

Currently, jet fuel is pumped to YVR from Burnaby through a 40-year-old pipeline, in addition to about 1,000 tanker truck trips a month between Washington state and the airport. Those trucks travel through Delta using highways 99 and 91.

Delta staff earlier this year noted the number of trucks is expected to increase to 2,200 round trips a month by 2020.

The fuel consortium's project, however, has the potential to remove thousands of tanker trucks from local highways and roads each year, council was told.

VAPOR asked council to pass a resolution opposing the jet fuel plan and urge "a more environmentally responsible option of sending fuel to YVR directly over land from their refinery sources." Those options include the existing pipeline from Burrard Inlet refineries and a new pipeline along Highway 99 and Interstate 5 from the BP-ARCO refinery in Washington state directly to the airport.

It's not clear, though, whether Delta would support that alternative.

A staff report noted the municipality asked if a spill probability and risk assessment had been conducted for the existing fuel delivery system and the response was that it was not in the scope of the environmental assessment, however, it is stated "the risk profile associated with the proposed project will be substantially reduced compared with the risk profile associated with the existing transportation of fuel to YVR."

Coun. Robert Campbell asked Ronback if there's any data showing that a pipeline, which would run through Delta, is any less riskier than the other proposals, noting it could simply be replacing one form of risk with another. Ronback responded a pipeline would be less dangerous than what the fuel consortium is proposing.

Delta politicians agreed Monday to wait for more information.

The provincial Environmental Assessment Office this year granted a temporary suspension of the environmental review, which ends later this month. The fuel corporation requested the delay so it can consider suggestions by the City of Richmond.