Leery about bulk liquid at port

Civic officials have concerns about oil or LNG being shipped through roberts bank despite port denials

Delta's CAO and mayor remain convinced Roberts Bank is being eyed as a future export hub for crude oil and liquefied natural gas, despite the denials by Port Metro Vancouver.

George Harvie went over a report Monday he prepared for Delta council summarizing his recent fact-finding trip to Norway with Mayor Lois Jackson to visit liquid bulk products handling and shipping facilities.

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They were part of a delegation that included port officials, petroleum companies, First Nations, local and provincial governments, environmental groups and others.

Harvie and Jackson joined the tour with two issues of concern: the potential development of a bulk liquid handling facility at Roberts Bank, including the associated shipment of petroleum products by rail, and the potential development of LNG facilities along the Fraser River.

"The port has stated that they do not have any plan for transporting liquid bulk products at Deltaport at this time. It always worries me when they say 'at this time,'" Harvie said.

He noted that when the federal government approved the Deltaport expansion in 1980, the approval was subject to several conditions, one being that no bulk liquids would be shipped from Roberts Bank. That condition was written into the National Harbours Board regulations specific to Roberts Bank, however, the harbours board was disbanded in 1983, replaced with port authorities across the country. Harvie said regulatory authority for approving new facilities on port land currently rests with Port Metro Vancouver, as is the case with the application by Surrey Fraser Docks to handle American thermal coal.

Harvie also noted that the recent abolition of the Fraser River Estuary Management Program (FREMP) has resulted in Port Metro Vancouver being primarily responsible for environmental reviews for projects involving in-stream and shore works.

Council agreed to ask the provincial government to respond to concerns the port authority is singularly responsible for undertaking environmental reviews and approving development on port property, including bulk liquid facilities.

In a letter to the federal ministers of transport and environment, Jackson noted petroleum industry stakeholders expressed interest in the transportation of crude oil from Alberta by rail to Deltaport, and that the port authority wasn't able to provide firm assurances it wouldn't be interested in developing a bulk liquid facility.

"Considering the dangers associated with the transportation of petroleum products by rail, which was tragically evidenced by the recent catastrophe in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, we are seeking the government's confirmation that it remains committed to the protection of our environment through the continued exclusion of bulk liquid commodities at Roberts Bank terminal," she wrote.

Delta council is also putting forward a motion at this year's Union of B.C. Municipalities convention calling on the province to initiate discussions with the federal government and municipalities regarding the reinstatement of an independent agency to coordinate environmental review processes for in-stream and shoreline work.

An initiative is now underway by Canadian National Railway and Canadian Pacific Railway to eventually deliver huge amounts of crude, dubbed the "pipeline on rails" plan. Deltaport just happens to have direct rail connections to Alberta.

Meantime, Port Metro Vancouver is proposing to establish a "Centre of Excellence for Marine Transportation of Oil and LNG Commodities in British Columbia."

However, in an interview last month, Duncan Wilson, Port Metro Vancouver's vice-president of corporate social responsibility, said a LNG or oil facility at Roberts Bank isn't on the port authority's radar.

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