This image from the Burnaby Fire Department's 2015 risk assessment shows how a tank farm fire could risk the adjacent conservation area. (City of Burnaby)

Redesigning Trans Mountain terminal for fire lanes ‘infeasible’: regulators

The Canada Energy Regulator said it would be infeasible to redesign Trans Mountain's Burnaby terminals to accommodate proper fire lanes.

By Dustin Godfrey | March 24, 2022 |5:00 am

The Canada Energy Regulator has accepted Trans Mountain’s argument that a redesign of the Burnaby Mountain terminal of its pipeline to accommodate proper fire access lanes is “infeasible.”

The federal commission released the reasons for its decision in favour of the Crown corporation over the City of Burnaby recently, as Trans Mountain sought, successfully, to circumvent the city’s bylaws around fire lanes.

The dispute arose late last year, culminating in a hearing in February, which the city declined to participate in. Trans Mountain argued the city was unreasonably holding up work on the Burnaby Terminal (BT), as well as the Westridge Marine Terminal (WMT).

However, the city pointed out that the only thing holding the pipeline company back was its failure to comply with the city’s requirements around fire access lanes, though it did meet the standards set by the BC Building Code.

While the building code requires lanes that are 6m wide with a turning radius of 12m, Burnaby’s bylaws are more stringent, at 7.3m and 13m respectively.

“Based on all of the evidence before it, the commission is persuaded that, even if consideration of a redesign were appropriate, a redesign of the BT and WMT is infeasible,” reads the CER commission’s reasons for the decision.

A redesign to accommodate wider fire access lanes, Trans Mountain successfully argued, could only be achieved by making sacrifices elsewhere. That includes reducing the number of tanks, reducing secondary containment volumes, and “compromising the stability of the supporting structures and secondary containment berms.”

The latter two options posed their own safety risks, the CER panel noted, also ruling out a reduction in storage tanks.

“The project cannot operate as designed and approved with fewer than 14 storage tanks,” reads the decision.

The panel also accepted Trans Mountain’s argument that the terminals were equipped on their own to respond to potential fires, noting that Burnaby has said in the past that it would not respond to tank farm fires.

“The commission takes very seriously any suggestion that it would be compromising safety by allowing Trans Mountain to proceed with construction and operation of the BT and WMT without strict compliance to the fire services bylaw and an approved [fire truck access plan],” reads the decision.

The commission asked the city to explain the disparity between the fire lane requirements in the BC Building Code and the city’s own bylaws.

“The commission also asked the city to discuss the differences and challenges associated with a potential response if fire lane requirements were in compliance with the BC Building Code, but not the fire services bylaw,” the CER panel wrote.

“The city declined to provide a response.”

Get Burnaby Beacon in your inbox.

An in-depth understanding of the stories that affect Burnaby and beyond, every weekday.

Dustin Godfrey

Reporter at Burnaby Beacon

Latest Articles

August 12, 2022

Burnaby Mtn residents want to speed up archaelogical surveys for new fire halls

In May, city council officially approved a $50.4-million contract for two new fire halls in the Burnaby Mountain area.

August 12, 2022

What’s going on in Burnaby: Aug. 12-21

Need something to get up to this week?