Ross: Pipeline public process "a farce"
Fraser Valley residents say the environment will get the shaft while pipeline corporations pocket multi-billion dollar profits.
Pressure is building in the energy market to increase capacity at the Huntingdon-Sumas pipeline hub, where up to 1.6 billion cubic feet of natural gas is traded throughout the Pacific Northwest every day.
Abbotsford Coun. Patricia Ross said two new pipeline projects through the Fraser Valley should be delayed immediately, until a proper public information hearing is held in Abbotsford and a public hearing is scheduled for both pipelines.
"The public process, so far, has been a complete farce," said Ross.
"Private corporations are going to make a lot of money from these
pipelines, yet the ramifications will be felt by all of us if new power
plants hook into the new natural gas supply and pollute our Fraser Valley,"
Neither federal nor provincial regulatory authorities examining the pipeline proposals have agreed to study environmental impacts from power plants or "end users" of the pipelines.
BC Gas intends to build a new 24-inch pipeline from Oliver to the Sumas hub to supply 350 million cubic feet of natural gas a day to the hub.
Westcoast (Duke) Energy is also planning to add 200 million cubic feet of
natural gas to its Southern Mainline from Fort Nelson to Sumas, adding
eight new loops throughout B.C. with the last loop at Agassiz. Three new
compressor stations, including one at Hope, will be built.
"I think we're just asking for trouble by increasing the amount of natural gas pipelines to this location," said John Vissers, an Abbotsford resident who has requested intervener status.
On the other hand, Westcoast project manager Gil Van Buuren said the company's safety record has been "very good," although a fault in the pipeline within the Coquihalla district last summer resulted in an explosion.
The integrity of every segment of the pipelines are regularly inspected, said Van Buuren. Residents must keep in mind the importance of the industry to the economy, he said.
"The natural gas and oil industry is big business in B.C. - it's one of the biggest revenue generators in B.C., paying about $2 billion to the provincial government in revenue every year," said Van Buuren. "And how many people would want to be without lights and heat in their home? We supply all this energy to homes almost invisibly," said Van Buuren, adding that it is a modern convenience often taken for granted.
He estimated about 60 per cent of the natural gas supply from B.C. goes to the U.S. market. The Fraser Valley Regional District (FVRD) is concerned about the Westcoast Energy pipeline expansion.
"There will be air emissions from the compressor station in Hope and we want to know what effect that will have on our air quality in the Fraser Valley and the health effect that the new power plants, the end users of the new supply of natural gas, will have on people here," said Hugh Sloan, FVRD Director of Planning.
Westcoast has a licence to emit up to 2,000 tons of nitrogen oxides (NOx) from their compressor stations along the pipeline each year.
The deadline passed yesterday [Friday, Apr 19 - mb] for the public to request intervener status before the National Energy Board, however letters are still being accepted. It is unknown whether there will be a public hearing on the Westcoast expansion in the Fraser Valley. BC Gas is pursuing its pipeline application through the B.C. Environmental Assessment office, which has extended public comment, in writing, until May 17.
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