Letters: Fletcher wrong about tanker risk

Sooke resident finds Fletcher's comments to be undemocratic

I am responding responding to Tom Fletcher’s opinion piece of October 8, 2014 (Oil a slippery slsope for cities) criticising the resolutions passed at Union of BC Municipalities conference and his attack on the motives of our representatives.

Mr. Fletcher’s only message seems to be to belittle and mock the democratic process and to poke fun at a very serious attempt by the representatives of B.C. citizenry to assert control of decisions around their own local economies, and the quality of our air, water and land.

Clearly Mr. Fletcher believes we local citizenry, who will be in the firing line when a major bitumen oil spill takes place off our coast or in our waterways, should just stay quiet and wait for the infallible mandarins in Ottawa bring down their decisions from on high. We are supposed to just sit meekly by and accept Ottawa’s decision for how much risk we in B.C. should bear, how much economic damage we should tolerate and how much environmental devastation we should accept.

Firstly to educate Mr. Fletcher and demolish the “not our jurisdiction” argument. The Local Government Act, Chapter 323, under paragraph 2(d) of  Part 1 — Purposes, Principles and Interpretation, Purposes of Regional Districts lists “fostering the current and future economic, social and environmental well-being of its community” as a clear Municipal purpose.

Secondly, bitumen loaded oil tankers and pipeline spills and accidents very clearly represent a serious threat to all three, especially for coastal communities like Sooke and Victoria. Burnaby, Vancouver, Kitimat and several other municipalities get that. Mr. Fletcher sadly, does not.

These threats to our communities are very real and indeed we have already seen pipeline disasters in British Columbia. In August 2000, a Pembina Pipeline Corporation oil pipeline ruptured and spilled roughly one million litres of crude oil (6,300 bbl) into the Pine River, which flows into the Peace River. Although the spill occurred 110 km upstream of Chetwynd, the town’s water supply was contaminated. At the time of the spill, the river was the town’s only municipal source of drinking water, and it had to stop using river water for a number of years. Residents also had to discontinue the use of many groundwater wells near the river.

Kinder Morgan has been responsible for 500 oil pipeline incidents since 1997. The existing Trans Mountain pipeline has experienced four significant spills since Kinder Morgan took over operations in 2005: one at Sumas Mountain, one in Abbotsford, and two in Burnaby.

A large pipeline rupture on the Fraser or Thompson, would not only devastate riverside communities but would have a huge ripple effect right here in Sooke because of the damage to salmon stocks and habitat.

The proposed new Kinder Morgan pipeline terminating in Burnaby will lead to a six fold increase in bitumen oil tanker carrying shipping traffic right past Sooke. History tells us a tanker disaster on the Strait of Juan de Fuca during our lifetimes is inevitable. The damage to our beautiful and economically valuable coast and to coastal communities like Sooke would be devastating and last for many years.

Instead of being actively involved in local democracy,  Mr. Fletcher would have the people of B.C. and their local municipal representatives act like frightened serfs occupying their respective corners of the feudal “kingdom” owned by the Feds in Ottawa, waiting for their lords and masters to determine their fates. The people of B.C. will not allow that scenario to happen. We must assert local control of our own air, land and water; for the good of the economy, our health, and our environment on which we and future generations all depend.

The upcoming municipal elections are our opportunity of ensuring B.C. never provides the so called “social license” to the pipeline companies to do to us what they did to Chetwynd. Please get out and vote this November and also vote on the Oppose Oil Tanker Expansion plebiscite question.

Dr. Roland M. Alcock

Sooke