EDITORIAL: Rail vs pipeline

Mayors in the Lower Mainland not happy about the increase in rail cars full of petroleum products going through their communities

Those of us who live on the Island have been ‘awarded’ with many hours on ferries.

On many of these trips we can sit back and enjoy the beauty of our surroundings, watch for whales or dolphins or enjoy the breezy sea air on deck.

On other trips, we can catch up on work or read things we generally don’t have the time or inclination to read — travel brochures, Vancouver publications and the like.

A recent series of trips afforded us the opportunity to pick up the latest edition of The Georgia Straight, a fixture in the arts and entertainment scene in Vancouver for decades.

Because of its staying power, it’s tempting to call The Straight a venerable publication. However, venerable could mean stodgy, and the The Straight just doesn’t fit that description. Stodgy publications generally don’t allow for the use of F-bombs in their copy.

Regardless, one of the things The Straight has always done is dedicate a page or two for a ‘serious’ topic, a heavier read than the rest of its food and entertainment presentation. It did so in its latest edition, tackling the issue of rail cars filled with petroleum products travelling through Lower Mainland communities on the way to ports in Burnaby and Vancouver. It was written with the Lac-Megantic, Quebec disaster as its impetus.

The article, quoting Transport Canada and Transportation Safety Board of Canada statistics and reports, said the number of railcars that carried crude oil and diluted bitumen through British Columbia increased from 41 in 2011 to 3,381 in 2013. It also stated that in Canada in 2009, there were only 500 carloads of crude oil shipped by rail; in 2013, there were 160,000 carloads.

The Straight interviewed mayors of Lower Mainland communities, who generally expressed frustration about the notification they get, or lack thereof, regarding hazardous materials moving through their communities. But it also raised a more interesting question, and we’d like to hear what our readers have to say about it:

If you are opposed to the Kinder Morgan and/or Northern Gateway pipelines, are you OK with the exponential rise in the number of rail cars full of petroleum products that will ride the tracks of B.C. alongside the Skeena and Fraser rivers and through the towns and cities of our province?

— Editorial by John Harding

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