Pipeline company and farmer butt heads over land access
Company wants continued unrestricted access to fields, landholders say no
A gas pipeline that runs diagonally across Chilliwack farmland needs to be replaced for safety reasons, but the landholder and the pipeline owner are at odds over how it will go ahead.
Retired Chilliwack farmer Gord Mitchell wants oil and gas company Spectra Energy to sign an agreement before it comes back onto his land.
But the Houston, Texas-based company said it has no intentions of renegotiating rights of access to the pipeline — rights, it says, it already has.
The standoff originates from a 2011 incident in which the gas company accessed Mitchell's property in rainy weather. He says the work damaged the soil and has decimated his crops every year since.
"Our purpose in opposing them now is we want a very comprehsnive soil-handling contract so that if they're not doing it properly, we can stop them," Mitchell said in an interview with Stephen Quinn on CBC Radio One's On the Coast.
In an interview with CBC News, Spectra Energy said it compensated Mitchell with $68,000 for the loss of his crops. But the farmer said the payment amounted to only a fraction of the financial loss he suffered at the time, and did not account for future losses caused by the damage.
The company said it would like the opportunity to sit down with Mitchell and the rest of his group, the Fraser Valley Association of Pipeline Landowners, but it will not reconsider the parameters of land access.
"What is not very clearly understood is that an agreement to access the land, from our point-of-view, really can't be a pre-condition to access the land," said Gary Weilinger, Spectra's vice-president of external affairs.
"We already have an easement and a right-of-way in place and have had so since 1957."
Spectra said it has applied to the National Energy Board for its opinion as to whether or not the company has proceeded reasonably following the damage of Mitchell's land in 2011.
While the company stressed that it is not looking for a confrontation, Gord Mitchell said he expects the stand-off to be headed that way.
"They're applying now to the NEB for them to force us to stand aside so that they can carry on their business and we're going to oppose that," he said.
"Failing that, all we can do is stand shoulder-to-shoulder on our property line."
Spectra Energy said its ultimate goal is to reach compliance with Canadian Standards Association regulations that have recently changed in the Chilliwack area.
CBC Radio One's On the Coast is on the air every weekday between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. 88.1 FM / 690 AM in Vancouver.