The B.C. government has granted conditional environmental approval to a controversial proposal that includes a pipeline through Richmond, tankers and a marine terminal.
B.C. Minister of Environment Mary Polak announced today the approval hinges on 64 conditions and said the government is taking into account the public's environmental concerns.
"We've heard, for instance, concerns around spills in the Fraser River. Under the conditions attached to our approval the Vancouver Airport Fuel Facilities Corporation must pre-screen all vessels, they must also have at least two escort tugs for each tanker and one tug for each cargo barge and all vessels must be under the control of a qualified Fraser River pilot," said Polak.
Polak said the conditions will put in place all of the equipment and training necessary to prevent -- or in the worst case respond to -- a spill.
The City of Richmond has strongly opposed the proposed project, which would see barges and tankers carrying jet fuel 15 kilometres up the river to the terminal, then link up with an on-land pipeline to YVR airport.
"These are tankers that are 950 feet in length — that's like three football fields long," said Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie.
"They're going to be loaded with jet fuel. They're going to be regularly coming up the river, introducing an unnecessary risk to the people and to the city of Richmond," he said.
Delta Mayor Lois Jackson said she is disappointed in the government's decision. Delta staff will be comprehensively reviewing the proposal to determine whether the conditions for approval do in fact meet public concerns, she said.
But in the end, cities must live with decisions made by senior governments, she said.
"We have to work within those parameters, because we don't have the ability to change their legislation and planning," she said. Jackson wants to bring the issue before council Monday to make recommendations on the proposal.
"They have made their decision, and we can only respond to it," she said.
Delta South MLA Vicki Huntington said she doesn't trust that any response to a jet fuel spill will be good enough, regardless of the 64 conditions.
"I'm extremely disappointed. I think putting the Fraser River estuary at risk in circumstances like this is extremely short sighted," she said.
Regardless of which recommendations are adopted, the project will mean more tanker traffic in local waters.