An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.
A REVIEW OF HISTORY is in order on a proposal to shut down the Trans Mountain pipeline through Westsyde.
Coun. Denis Walsh submitted a Hail Mary notice of motion (reprinted at the bottom of this editorial) to Tuesday’s City council meeting asking the Canada Energy Regulator to force the pipeline out of Westsyde and on to the Lac du Bois grasslands.
His rationale is that the existing pipeline presents a risk to the heavily populated Westsyde area. His answer is simple — dig a wider ditch on the already approved expansion route across the grasslands.
Since the pipeline was built in 1953, Westsyde has grown up around it. So, Walsh and his fellow councillors voted in 2014 to support Trans Mountain’s proposal to put the new pipe in Lac du Bois rather than tear up Westsyde.
But it’s also true that the Kamloops Naturalists Club, Sierra Club of B.C., Grasslands Conservation Council of B.C. and other groups strongly opposed putting the new pipe through Lac du Bois. They pointed out the problem of invasive weeds and the difficulty of restoring the fragile grasslands to their original state after construction.
Putting in one pipe beside another isn’t as simple as it sounds. All along the route of the existing pipeline, the right of way is being widened not only to provide room for the new pipe but to provide work space for equipment. What began as a 10-metre-wide right of way can become 50 metres or more.
So, reducing future risk in Westsyde, where the pipeline has functioned well for 66 years, by moving the entire pipeline onto Lac du Bois poses some serious environmental concerns.
Though well-intended, I suspect Walsh’s motion will be shot down when it comes up for debate, and that might be one of the reasons.
Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops and newspaper editor. He writes five commentaries a week for CFJC Today, publishes the ArmchairMayor.ca opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at email@example.com.
December 17, 2019
Presented by Councillor Walsh
Notice of Motion for January 14, 2020
RE: Request to Canadian Energy Regulator (CER) to direct Trans Mountain Corporation to relocate the existing Trans Mountain Pipeline (TMP) away from residential areas, eliminating safety risks to the residents of Kamloops Westsyde
WHEREAS as we are aware of the initial construction phase of the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion (TMX) project now beginning in Alberta, the City of Kamloops wishes to put on the record a statement of opposition to one aspect of current plans, which presents a serious threat to the health, safety and homes of Kamloops residents due to the failure to eliminate and decommission the existing 66-year-old Westsyde section of the Trans Mountain Pipeline;
AND WHEREAS we acknowledge that such threat arises from the fact that the Westsyde section of the TMP is over 66 years old and there is serious question as to the integrity of that section of pipe for the long term; and the fact that the pipeline carries highly toxic diluted bitumen which releases volatile and deadly benzene gas into the atmosphere in the event of a leak; and the fact that the Westsyde section is currently routed beneath Kamloops Westsyde residential homes; and the fact that this pipeline section is running near two elementary schools;
AND WHEREAS since construction of new TMX pipeline sections in the Kamloops area has not yet begun, we believe there to be sufficient opportunity to plan and execute a relocation of the Westsyde TMP pipeline section so that it instead follows the new route planned for the “twinned” TMX pipeline through Lac Du Bois area parklands; and we believe the subsequent decommissioning of the existing Westsyde pipeline section would eliminate serious risks to Kamloops residential neighbourhoods stemming from this aging, undersized pipe, which was not engineered or buried to the standards in place for pipelines now being placed in urban areas, as shown on this TMX website:
AND WHEREAS the existing Westsyde TMP section will not be relocated under current construction plans, we submit that the expansion project allows for an ample opportunity to move the existing pipeline away from Kamloops residential areas, thereby providing the highest degree of safety possible for Kamloops residents as the Trans Mountain pipelines pass through our city;
AND WHEREAS in the CER Act section 212, it states:
“212 (1) The Commission may, by order, on any conditions that it considers appropriate, direct a company to relocate its pipeline if the Commission considers that the relocation is necessary.
(a) to ensure the safety of persons and the pipeline;
(b) to protect the environment;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED
that City Council submit a formal application to CER asking them to take necessary immediate action to protect the health and safety of persons and the property of Kamloops homeowners and residents, by ordering that the TMP Westsyde section be relocated to the new TMX pipeline route through uninhabited Lac Du Bois parklands.