An extra round of public hearings allowed Langley residents to speak up about the controversial Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project.
The TMX Ministerial Panel hearings were organized after the Liberal government was elected last year. A panel consisting of Kim Baird, Tony Penikett, and Dr. Annette Trimbee have been moving down the course of the pipeline over the past few weeks and meeting with local environmental, government, First Nations, and others concerned with the project.
Kinder Morgan has asked to almost triple the capacity of the existing oil pipeline, which was built in the 1950s.
The National Energy Board has already given its approval to the planned expansion, which would run oil from northern Alberta through B.C., including Langley, to a Burnaby refinery.
Langley Township, which sparred with Kinder Morgan over the past few years over the proposed pipeline, gave a critical assessment to the TMX panel.
“Trans Mountain has chosen to pursue approval for the TMX through the most densely populated corridor it could have chosen between Alberta and the Pacific Ocean,” said the statement.
There was not an adequate assessment of alternate routes, said the statement.
The Township also told the TMX panel that it could leave the Township “vulnerable to considerable risk from pipeline failures and emergencies.”
Even without emergencies, there would be a financial burden on the Township and taxpayers to “subsidize the true cost of having the pipeline come through their community.”
The Township said one of the major financial burdens will come from the fact that the new pipeline will take a different route from the existing one for part of its route through Langley.
That will mean extra expenses when the Township has to build roads, clean ditches and do any other major work around either pipeline.
The amount will cost millions over the years of the pipeline’s operations.
The Kwantlen, Katzie, and Tsawwassen First Nations spoke of their issues with the pipeline. Members of the Kwantlen First Nation have been vocal in their opposition, and organized a march against the project through Fort Langley earlier this year.
Tom Oleman, who has Stlatlimx, Sewcsewec’mux, and Tsilcotin ancestry.
He emphasized the environmental threat to the lands and water around the pipeline.
“In protecting and promoting a dying industry, we might destroy our own livelihoods,” Oleman said. “We might destroy the Fraser River.”
Some of his relatives are talking about direct action if the pipeline goes through. Oleman said he thought he was through with direct action again, but he is reconsidering.
“I’ll be one of those out there standing in line,” he said.
Local environmentalists like Bob Puls of the Langley Field Naturalists and Annabel Young of the Salmon River Enhancement Society both attended a morning session of the meeting.
“My fear is they’ll get a blanket go-ahead permission, and they’ll just do what they like,” he said of the pipeline project.
Young told the panel she was worried that the NEB didn’t give enough time and resources to people speaking out against the proposal, and that it was biased in favour of an expanded pipeline.