TMX, Again

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Meet the new pipeline approval. Same as the old pipeline approval.

We have legitimate health and safety concerns in Chilliwack that transcend divisions of pro-pipeline or anti-pipeline, and that could be easily resolved if anyone in authority could put down the politics long enough to talk honestly about the pipeline.

As Program Director at WaterWealth I’ve written federal representatives at key moments in the regulatory process in 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019, as have many in our community.

In 2016 there was no response until almost a month later when the Prime Minister’s Office wrote to say they’d forwarded our concerns to the Minister of Natural Resources. Coincidentally(?), that response came 4 hours after I’d mentioned not having received a reply, in a comment I posted on an op-ed by Liberal MPs in the Edmonton Journal.

When the Minister of Natural Resources finally replied another 5 months later he directed us to the NEB detailed route hearings. That advice from the Minister arrived on May 18 -- what would have been 11 days after the deadline to to gain entry to the detailed route hearings.

As it was, however, WaterWealth was already engaged in that process and in fact along with the Township of Langley had brought to the NEB’s attention failures by Trans Mountain to publish notices and make documents available to the public when and where they were supposed to, resulting in deadlines being extended along the entire project route.

Subsequent letters to the federal government have had no reply.

got_water_413.jpgThe federal government had the opportunity to place conditions on the project at each of their approvals of it. They could have addressed our concerns but instead chose to brush us off.

The planned pipeline route through Chilliwack crosses schools, and goes through peoples' yards as near as 6 metres from their homes. It passes multiple city drinking water wells, crosses salmon habitat enhancement areas, is upstream of Yarrow Waterworks wells and the Great Blue Heron Nature Reserve, and runs right along the Vedder Mountain Fault.

While the likelihood of a spill in any specific segment of the pipeline is small, that there will be spills somewhere, some days, is a certainty. And the consequences in these areas of Chilliwack could be extreme.

The simple solution for the pipeline route is to stay along Highway 1 between points east and west where it is already at the highway, to avoid built up areas just as they are with the new pipeline in Edmonton. A route across Chilliwack along the highway would have no schools, no residential areas, no city drinking water wells, and would avoid some of the most ecologically and recreationally valuable and sensitive areas of our community. The old pipe should be decommissioned and rerouted as well, like they are doing for residential areas of Burnaby.

The NEB Act says that they will not approve the route of a pipeline until they’ve heard all submissions and determined that it is the best possible route. Regrettably, despite involvement in two previous NEB hearings on the pipeline, and the advice of the Minister that detailed route hearings are the place to take our concerns, WaterWealth was rejected by the NEB for participation as an intervenor in the detailed route hearings.

The only detailed route hearing with sufficient geographic scope to consider the Highway 1 alternative is the City of Chilliwack’s hearing. Following the NEB rejection, WaterWealth applied to participate in the City’s hearing and was accepted as an intervenor there.

Ideally, our local government will step up where our federal government has failed, and will apply their full resources to protecting the health and safety of Chilliwack residents in the detailed route hearing. In any case, so long as the City does not withdraw and so end the hearing prematurely, WaterWealth will be there to make the case that the proposed route across Chilliwack is hazardous and unnecessary, and that a route along Highway 1 is the only responsible option for the Trans Mountain system.


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