BURNABY, B.C. – An attempt by Greenpeace protesters to stop the shipment of oil from Kinder Morgan’s British Columbia storage facility didn’t quite go as planned because there weren’t any vessels scheduled to be at the facility.
The protest began when two people chained themselves to the company’s front gate on a fog-shrouded Wednesday morning at the suburban Vancouver plant.
“We have shut down the facility today,” said Greenpeace spokesman Mike Hudema shortly after about a dozen demonstrators took over the site on the shores of Burrard Inlet in Burnaby, B.C.
“Right now I am watching two others scale the pipes used to load tar sands into the tankers that already come into this inlet, and then there are other activists that have climbed two storage tanks.”
He said the activists intended to stay until they had sent a strong message to Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
The protest was staged as the federal government prepared for the throne speech, which sets out its parliamentary agenda for the upcoming House of Commons session.
Greenpeace opposes expansion of pipelines in British Columbia, and Kinder Morgan wants to nearly triple the capacity of its Trans Mountain pipeline.
“With every extra tanker or kilometre of pipeline, we increase the risk of an accident that would be catastrophic to the coast and our communities,” Hudema said.
Currently the pipeline moves about 300,000 barrels of Alberta bitumen and other petroleum products daily, but the company has applied to twin its pipeline and move as much as 890,000 barrels daily.
“Over 130 First Nations have already said no to these tar sands pipelines and tanker proposals and the prime minister continues to try to ram these proposals through,” Hudema said.
Kinder Morgan spokesman Andy Galarnyk said there were no vessels scheduled at Westridge Marine Terminal on Wednesday so operations were not disrupted.
“We’re not quite sure what the impact of their protest will be other than to fly their banners and do what they intended to do,” Galarnyk said from Calgary.
“The Westridge terminal also supplies jet fuel storage and delivery to the Vancouver International Airport, although there are no scheduled deliveries from Westridge to the airport so there is no impact on that operation at this time.”
Galarnyk said the company called police when protesters chained themselves to the fence Wednesday morning.
“We’ve got measures in place right now to ensure the security of our staff and our facility and the products that we handle,” he said.
“We certainly don’t want anyone hurt or harmed by their actions,” he said, adding the company is also concerned about the safety of staff though he couldn’t say how many employees were on site Wednesday.
“We respect the rights of protesters to advance their cause but in this cause we’re concerned about the trespass and disturbance at the Westridge Marine Terminal,” he said. “We’re doing everything we can in terms of the police being there. They’re the experts in these types of situations and we’re working closely with them to ensure that this is resolved safely and peacefully.”
Galarnyk said Kinder Morgan invited Greenpeace and other environmental groups as part of its engagement process over the pipeline expansion.
He said he’s not aware that Greenpeace contacted the company before staging the protest.
Activists strung up a large protest banner on one of the massive green storage tanks and on another tank they painted “Stop the Tar Sands” in meter-high letters.
Hudema said activists wore armbands with “Arctic 30” printed on them in support of the 30 people detained by Russian authorities.
On Monday, members of the Tsleil-Waututh First Nation paddled five traditional canoes from a park to the Kinder Morgan terminal to protest the company’s proposed pipeline.
The First Nation said the ceremony it held was designed to heal the land and waters occupied by the Kinder Morgan pipeline and terminal.