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New aviation fuel delivery system to serve Vancouver Airport, Canada


Description:

On 13th December 2013 the British Columbia Government, in cooperation with Port Metro Vancouver (PMV) issued approval to the Vancouver Airport Fuel Facilities Corporation (VAFFC) for construction of a marine jet fuel terminal and an adjacent 80 million litre capacity fuel tank farm on the banks of the Fraser River. The project would allow Panamax tankers carrying highly toxic and flammable jet fuel to enter the Fraser River. A report by Otto E. Langer, a fisheries biologist and aquatic ecologist, published in October 2014, noted that similar project of this type, on a much smaller scale, had been proposed by VAFFC in 1998 only to be rejected due to the threats it would pose to the estuary and its fish and wildlife resources. The new jet fuel facility proposal poses far greater environmental threats; Langer estimated that a 21 kilometre stretch of the river would be at risk from jet fuel spills. Occurrence of fuel spills would ‘jeopardize many social and environmental values in this very important Canadian river and its globally significant estuary’. The potentially affected area of the river is a habitat for hundreds of thousands of birds and ‘of extreme importance to the world’s largest salmon runs in a river system’. Other species that could be affected by the jet fuel terminal include seals that frequent the project area and California sea lions swimming up the river. Fuel spills would also impact upon commercial and First Nations fishing that takes place in the section of the river directly in front of the jet fuel terminal site.[1]

Formed in April 2011, VAPOR – A Society for Vancouver Airport Fuel Project Opposition for Richmond opposes water borne transport of jet fuel on the Fraser River Estuary and to promote a safer and more secure fuel delivery system to Vancouver Airport via land pipelines. The City of Richmond and the City of Burnaby have sent letters of support to VAPOR. West Coast Environmental Law Organisations supporting VAPOR include: Musqueam Indian Band, The Council of Canadians, Delta Naturalists’ Society, NATURE VANCOUVER, David Suzuki Foundation, Fraser Riverkeeper and West Coast Environmental Law which provided a grant to VAPOR for a legal opinion on the approach taken for the environmental assessment of the project and for a judicial review of the approval of VAFF’s shipping proposal via their Environmental Dispute Resolution Fund.[2]

 Musqueam Indian Band voiced important concerns over the VAFFC project. A 2011 report stated they had not been given adequate time to review the complex application; the project proponents had been working on technical reports for years yet they were given only a few months to review and comment upon the reports. They described the lack of opportunity to meet directly with the project proponents as ‘disrespectful of our role as the First Peoples of the lands and waters in which they wish to locate a Project that will have such an adverse impact on our Aboriginal rights and title’. The report explained that ‘the Project will have special impact on us because we have made use of the Fraser River for many of our needs including fishing, transport and trade’.[3] A local artist, Eveline Kay, made a music video inspired by VAPOR’s struggle against the jet fuel terminal, tank farm and pipeline, in support of the tireless struggle against the plans, which were approved in spite of the known risk of jet fuel spills polluting the river.[4]

VAPOR and Otto Langer applied for a judicial review of the December 2013 decision of the Minister of Natural Gas and the Minister of Environment, granting an Environmental Assessment Certificate to VAFFC, arguing that the public were not properly consulted during the Environmental Assessment process. On 24th June 2015 VAPOR lost this court case. The Supreme Court ruled in favour of the Province of British Columbia’s Environmental Assessment Office and VAFFC. VAPOR and Otto Langer expressed disappointment with the court’s decision and repeated their request that airlines using Vancouver Airport objectively re-examine other options for transporting jet fuel.[5] VAPOR took further action drawing attention to inadequate consultation in the permit review process for VAFFC, writing a letter of objection regarding the short period for an Open House held on 29th August 2015 and comment closure date on 19th September. Time for word to spread and for the public to read and understand the impact of the newly released documents was severely limited. As well as the short time period it was during the summer holiday season and many interested parties may not have been able to attend due to being away on vacation. VAPOR argued that the comment period after the open house should be of at least six weeks duration.[6]

 VAPOR was back in court on 22nd January 2016, successfully fending off a VAFFC application for VAPOR to pay their court costs. VAPOR’s press release stated that this was not, as it might appear, merely a minor victory in comparison with losing the previous case about adequacy of public consultation. The ruling set an encouraging precedent for organizations that refuse to be bullied by corporate interests, showing that ‘concerned citizens, should not fear taking legal action against environmental wrongs knowing they would automatically have to pay court costs of those they challenge should they lose’. Counsel for VAFFC trivialized VAPOR members’ detailed technical presentations and portrayed the organization’s concerns as narrow “not in my back yard interest”, saying that VAPOR was not interested in broader environmental issues and had not acted in the public interest. Justice Dillon refuted this claim, making it clear that she considered the case a matter of great public interest. Referring to her June 2015 judgement, she said that the public had every right to challenge the adequacy of the process, which is about instilling respect for and trust in the decisions that are made.[7]

 In March 2016 the jet fuel facility received a permit from PMV. VAPOR issued a press release stating ‘extreme disappointment’, stating that the British Columbia government ‘refused to properly address the hazards of super tankers of jet fuel, a terminal and 90 million litre tank farm on the south shore of Richmond close to the complex of several rinks, movie theatres, restaurants and condominiums’. VAPOR reiterated concerns that the public safety of a section of the river could be endangered, experience having shown that such a fuel facility ‘can cause spills, fires and under certain circumstances catastrophic explosions affecting a large area’.[8]

 By May 2018 the initial phase of the jet fuel pipeline to Vancouver Airport and construction of the project’s storage facility were underway. It was also anticipated that the development permit to allow the terminal facility to be built on city land would be considered by the council in the near future. Ted Townsend, a spokesperson for the City of Richmond, said the pipeline was unnecessary: “We think that with the existing pipeline, and potentially some upgrades it could more than meet their current and future needs for capacity”.[9]

Basic Data

Name of conflict:New aviation fuel delivery system to serve Vancouver Airport, Canada
Country:Canada
State or province:British Columbia
Location of conflict:Richmond
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Fossil Fuels and Climate Justice/Energy
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Transport infrastructure networks (roads, railways, hydroways, canals and pipelines)
Other
Ports and airport projects
Specific commodities:aviation fuel
Crude oil

Project Details and Actors

Project details

The new fuel delivery system for Vancouver Airport (YVR) will include a marine terminal and jet fuel receiving facility on the South Arm of the Fraser River and a 13- kilometre underground pipeline to the airport. The marine terminal will be able to accommodate Panamax vessels. The fuel receiving facility will include six steel above-ground storage tanks with a total capacity of about 80 million litres.[10] There are provisions to expand the fuel storage capacity to more than 100 million litres.[11] The project cost of the jet fuel receiving facility and pipeline is estimated at CAD150 million (USD112 million).[9] The new fuel delivery system will enable access to off-shore sources of fuel. A VAFFC presentation states that ‘local supply sources have diminished and airlines are becoming increasingly reliant on imported fuel to meet their needs…Domestic sources of aviation fuel cannot meet the growing needs of YVR, so access to off-shore sources will help ensure YVR can serve its airlines and passengers’.[12]

Level of Investment:112,365,000
Type of populationUrban
Start of the conflict:04/2011
Company names or state enterprises:Vancouver Airport Fuel Facilities Corporation (VAFFC) from Canada - Building a new fuel delivery system for Vancouver Airport includes a Marine Terminal and Fuel Receiving Facility on the South Arm of the Fraser River and a 13 kilometre underground pipeline to the airport
Port Metro Vancouver (PMV) from Canada - Issued project permit to Vancouver Airport Fuel Facilities Corporation (VAFFC) to build to build the jet fuel terminal and storage tanks in March 2016
Relevant government actors:Government of British Columbia
City of Burnaby
City of Richmond
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:VAPOR-A Society for Vancouver Airport Fuel Project Opposition for Richmond - http://www.vaporbc.com/
Musqueam Indian Band - https://www.musqueam.bc.ca/
The Council of Canadians - https://canadians.org/
Delta Naturalists’ Society - http://www.bcnature.ca/clubs-and-notices/regions/lower-mainland/delta-naturalists-society/
NATURE VANCOUVER - https://naturevancouver.ca/
David Suzuki Foundation - https://davidsuzuki.org/
Fraser Riverkeeper - http://www.fraserriverkeeper.ca/
West Coast Environmental Law - https://www.wcel.org/

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Neighbours/citizens/communities
Social movements
Local scientists/professionals
Fisher people
Forms of mobilization:Artistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Referendum other local consultations
Street protest/marches
Arguments for the rights of mother nature
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment

Impacts

Environmental ImpactsPotential: Global warming, Soil contamination, Oil spills, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity)
Other Environmental impactsRisk of pollution if jet fuel spills occur
Health ImpactsPotential: Other Health impacts, Accidents
Other Health impactsIllnesses caused by pollutants emitted by aircraft burning aviation fuel
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Loss of landscape/sense of place, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures
Other socio-economic impactsPotential loss of livelihood if a fuel spill damages fishing activities

Outcome

Project StatusUnder construction
Conflict outcome / response:Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
Court decision (failure for environmental justice)
Development of alternatives:VAFFC argued that the only alternative to the new fuel facility would be an increase in tanker truck deliveries on roads. VAPOR maintains that this is false and that there are other options:
• The current fuel provider has stated it can provide 100 per cent of Vancouver Airport’s fuel requirements and with additional fuel pumps the fuel could be delivered more quickly during peak periods.
• A possible pipeline route to the Cherry Point Refinery, double-walled, buried with the latest leak detection technology was briefly considered by VAFFC and could be the safest and most environmentally responsible option
• Upgrade and increase the capacity of the existing pipeline which has operated for over 40 years with no documented leaks or malfunctions.[13]
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:VAPOR maintains that the public consultation during the environmental assessment process was inadequate. VAFFC's attempt to make VAPOR pay their court costs was an instance of corporations attempting to exert power over a relatively powerless network of concerned citizens that was attempting to increase the scope for consultation during environmental assessment.

Sources & Materials

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

[6] PRESS RELEASE: Jet Fuel Transport and Storage in Richmond: VAPOR Society’s Objection to PMV/ VAFFC short Open House & Document release notification, VAPOR, 25 August 2015
http://www.vaporbc.com/images/Press%20Release-%20August%2025,%202015.pdf

[2] VAPOR - A Society for Vancouver Airport Fuel Project Opposition for Richmond
http://www.vaporbc.com/

[3] Re: Preliminary Comments, VAFFC Vancouver Airport Fuel Delivery Project EA Certificate Application, Musqueam Indian Band, 22 March 2011
http://www.vaporbc.com/images/Musquem%20letter.pdf

[7] VAPOR Defeats VAFFC Application for Court Costs, VAPOR, 22 January 2016
http://www.vaporbc.com/images/VAPOR%20release%20Jan25-16.pdf

[9] Beginning phase of 13 km jet fuel pipeline to YVR underway, CBC, 23 May 2018
https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/jet-fuel-pipeline-yvr-1.4675302

[10] VAFFC, Fuel Delivery Project
https://www.vancouverairportfuel.ca/projectOverview

[11] City of Richmond tackles reality of coming jet fuel facility, Richmond News, 9 September 2016
https://www.richmond-news.com/news/city-of-richmond-tackles-reality-of-coming-jet-fuel-facility-1.2340485

[12] VAFFC, Project Overview
https://www.vancouverairportfuel.ca/adminpanel/files/pdfs/VAFFC_Presentation_Board.pdf

[13] VAPOR, Alternative Solutions
http://www.vaporbc.com/options.html

[1] Otto E, Langer, Social and Environmental Values in the Fraser River and Estuary in the Sandheads to Annacis Island Reach, VAPOR, 15 October 2014
http://www.vaporbc.com/images/Fraser%20River%20Values-Sandheads%20to%20Annacis%20FINAL%20Nov%2014,%202014.pdf

[8] PRESS RELEASE: Port Metro Vancouver Issues Permit for Construction of VAFFC Jet Fuel Terminal and Tank Farm on the Fraser River in Richmond, VAPOR, 1 March 2016
http://www.vaporbc.com/images/PRESS%20RELEASE%20PMV%20Jet%20Fuel%20Construction%20Permit%20%20-%20March%201,%202016.pdf

[5] PRESS RELEASE: Jet Fuel Transport and Storage in Richmond: VAPOR and Otto Langer disappointed by the decision of the BC Supreme Court regarding the Environmental Assessment of the Vancouver Airport Fuel Delivery Project, VAPOR, 25 June 2015
http://www.vaporbc.com/images/VAPOR%20Press%20Release%20Court%20Decision%20June%2026,%202015%20.pdf

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

VAPOR And the Critique of VAFFC Jet Fuel Proposal, Tom Kerswell, 7 November 2011 - Chair of VAPOR, Carol Day, explains the current situation of the tank farm and marine terminal proposal and other pipeline options https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yh9X55aeOaA
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yh9X55aeOaA

[4] EVK-Eveline Kay "As I leave" Fet. Yt RhyMz (Remix) Inspired by VAPOR, Evee Kay, 6 February 2014 - Music video by Vancouver artist in support of VAPOR and the campaign against the jet fuel pipeline
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ptqta41ngyk

Other documents

Aviation fuel delivery system Artist’s impression of marine terminal and jet fuel receiving facility on the South Arm of the Fraser River. Source: Vancouver Airport Fuel Facilities Corporation VAFFC)
https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/Vancouver_1.jpg

Fuel terminal map Map showing proximity of marine fuel terminal to residential and commercial buildings. Source: VAPOR http://www.vaporbc.com/
https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/Vancouver_2.jpg

VAPOR demonstration VAPOR (A Society for Vancouver Airport Fuel Project Opposition for Richmond) opposed the new aviation aviation fuel delivery system. Photo: VAPOR http://www.vaporbc.com/
https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/Vancouver_3.jpg

Sea lion Marine mammals are a common sight in the Fraser River and estuary, this sea lion was spotted at the fish market dock in the fishing village of Steveston. Photo: Otto E. Langer, VAPOR
https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/Vancouver_6.jpg

VAPOR sign VAPOR sign in opposition to new jet fuel terminal on the Fraser River. Photo: Alan Campbell/Richmond News
https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/Vancouver_4.jpg

Pipeline route Map of proposed pipeline route from marine terminal to Vancouver Airport fuel storage facility. Source: Vancouver Airport Fuel Facilities Corporation VAFFC)
https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/Vancouver_5.jpg

Meta information

Contributor:Rose Bridger, Stay Grounded, email: [email protected]
Last update23/04/2019

Images

 

Aviation fuel delivery system

Artist’s impression of marine terminal and jet fuel receiving facility on the South Arm of the Fraser River. Source: Vancouver Airport Fuel Facilities Corporation VAFFC)

Fuel terminal map

Map showing proximity of marine fuel terminal to residential and commercial buildings. Source: VAPOR http://www.vaporbc.com/

VAPOR demonstration

VAPOR (A Society for Vancouver Airport Fuel Project Opposition for Richmond) opposed the new aviation aviation fuel delivery system. Photo: VAPOR http://www.vaporbc.com/

VAPOR sign

VAPOR sign in opposition to new jet fuel terminal on the Fraser River. Photo: Alan Campbell/Richmond News

Pipeline route

Map of proposed pipeline route from marine terminal to Vancouver Airport fuel storage facility. Source: Vancouver Airport Fuel Facilities Corporation VAFFC)

Sea lion

Marine mammals are a common sight in the Fraser River and estuary, this sea lion was spotted at the fish market dock in the fishing village of Steveston. Photo: Otto E. Langer, VAPOR