Opponents of the proposed expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline appeared to dominate a public town hall meeting held by the Trans Mountain Expansion (TMX) Ministerial Panel in Langley on Wednesday.
There were more than 30 speakers, virtually all of whom spoke against the twinning of the existing Trans Mountain pipeline to ship Alberta bitumen from the tar sands, including a section that runs through the Township.
Steve Bramwell from Chilliwack brought a sample of bitumen in a jar, saying the product has the approximate consistency of “roofing tar” and requires potentially toxic chemicals to dilute it for pipeline transmission.
“Why are we doing this at all?” Bramwell said, arguing the project will mean work for overseas refineries, but it will only create “a few ditch-digging jobs” in B.C.
One person arrived in costume as a bitumen-based super-villain and another dressed up as the “elephant in the room” to make a point about the effect the pipeline could have on the Canadian promise to limit fossil fuel emissions as part of an international global warming agreement.
Most speakers expressed concerns about the environmental impact of the pipeline.
Township councillor Kim Richter was one of several to express concerns about the effect on Township groundwater and fish-bearing streams.
“I’m not convinced of the safety of this pipeline,” said Richter, who told the hearing panel she was speaking as a resident, not a member of council.
Township council has formally expressed concern about the potential environmental and socio-economic effects of the pipeline expansion, the costs to taxpayers and the ability of pipeline operator Kinder Morgan to respond to a spill.
Former Langley school trustee and First Nations activist Cecelia Reekie (pictured) said the federal government should consider the needs of future generations when it makes its decision on the project.
“I am completely, 100 per cent against the expansion,” Reekie said.
Fort Langley resident Byron Smith said the proposal was “not in the best interest of Canada” and its approval was the product of an ‘extremely flawed process.’”
The project was endorsed as a safer alternative to shipping bitumen by tanker train, by geotechnical scientist Alex Baumgard, whose firm has worked on the Trans Mountain project.
“It is in our collective interest (to build the line),” Baumgard said.
The second pipeline would travel from the area of Telegraph Trail north to 217A Street and run through or around Redwoods Golf Course and through the industrial part of north-west Langley toward Port Kells.
The three-member TMX panel was assigned to hold hearings in Calgary, Edmonton, Jasper, Kamloops, Chilliwack, Abbotsford, Langley, Burnaby, Vancouver and Victoria.
Panel chair Kim Baird said a report on the hearings would be filed with the federal government in November.
Critics have complained the meetings have been poorly publicized and badly scheduled.
“It’s a miracle we’ve seen the strong numbers we have at these meetings given how hard it has been for the public to find out about and get to them, often during working hours and in the middle of summer vacations,” Wilderness Committee spokesperson Peter McCartney said in a written statement.
Langley meetings were scheduled to continue today (Thursday). The federal government’s final decision on the Trans Mountain project is expected on or before Dec. 19, 2016.