Pipeline explosion—relevant reality?

First, here’s the scene after a pipeline explosion:

We received a widely shared email that describes it like this:

You’re supposed to “call before you dig” to avoid underground utilities. A farmer didn’t. His post-hole digger hit a high-pressure cross-country gas pipe. Had to be one of those gas-powered augers. They never did find the guy. It took out two homes.

Not much left there! Along with the description, the email included a note about the relevance to the danger of putting a proposed new pipeline from a South Arm (of the Fraser River) terminal through Richmond. I agree that the caution is warranted, while recognizing that the need to get more jet fuel to YVR is likely to remain and that all means to that end will have shortcomings along with their strengths.

I also found it interesting but not too relevant that a long-range photo brings back the feeling one gets when seeing the Garden City Lands after a take-no-prisoners mowing:

After a little digging of another kind,  I recognized another resemblance. It is in the misinformation about the pipeline explosion and the lands:

  • In the case of the pipeline, which is in Virginia, there was no post-hole digger, as the Hoax-Slayer website reveals in well documented commentary. “Call before you dig” is good advice, but the explosion doesn’t prove it. And no farmer was to blame. Unfortunately, five people were injured, but the culprit was undetected corrosion.
  • In the case of Richmond’s Garden City Lands, the parties trying to get the lands out of the ALR for dense development promised huge benefits that would meet community need. But hoax-slaying citizens disproved the claims, and the community gradually caught on. After receiving numerous informed submissions from the community, the Agricultural Land Commission simply ignored the phony benefits when rejecting the application.

In the Richmond case, though, a lot of the misinformation may have been deliberate, and the intentions were less benign. Before we move on from the Virginia pipeline explosion, I should mention  that plenty of good effects came from it after the initial situation was cleared up.

The title of this post probably made you think about the current jet-fuel pipeline controversy in Richmond, BC, a hot topic on this blog and in the mass media. A local politician recently shared an encouraging insight about the pipeline and the lands with me:

The community has grasped the reality of the jet fuel pipeline situation, and members of city council seem to have listened and acted promptly. Community awareness and ability to critique issues have grown a lot in the past few years, and it’s because of the Garden City Lands issue.

That got me reflecting about it:

The observation is probably true. However, we still need to keep in mind that the success of YVR is important for the economic well-being of our region. With the proposed new pipeline, it had become necessary for citizens and council to firmly express what they didn’t want, but we still need to be part of a more constructive solution. Let’s hope that Richmond council’s unequivocal language about what Richmond does not want will lead to to the YVR jet-fuel company being more open to a process that can lead to the optimal solution, with all stakeholders helping with an improved process. A pipeline will probably be part of that solution, and indeed the project proponent’s emphasis on the pipeline aspect has distracted attention from potential harm to the Fraser estuary, which I see as a larger concern.

And that led to reflection about a bigger picture:

In striving to save the Garden City Lands, one of our motivations has always been the expected spin-off effects of citizens coming to grips with a complex issue, making a difference through it, and continuing to apply the resulting confidence and skill. That would lead to a kind of community wellness at a high level.

At least we’re making progress.


2012 update: A citizen’s group called VAPOR is now taking a leading role on this issue. Also read other articles on this blog on this topic.


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