Chilliwack schools ask energy board to change path of Trans Mountain expansion

The Chilliwack School Board wants the proposed route of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion changed because it's currently slated to go through school grounds.

Tuesday night saw the school board agree to send a letter to the National Energy Board (NEB), asking that the expansion route be changed so it doesn't run through the grounds of Watson Elementary and Vedder Middle School.

The school board has grappled with the issue of the expansion route before. The existing Trans Mountain pipeline does not run under the schools.

In 2015, Kinder Morgan — the pipeline's previous owner before it was bought by the federal government —  offered the board $30,910 if it agreed to run the pipeline under its school yards. That offer came with a $7,700 signing bonus. The board refused.

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School board chair Dan Coulter, who previously raised funds for the B.C. NDP, said the board turned the money down because it didn't want to be used as an example of an institution that endorsed the pipeline expansion.

The offer was later increased to $136,350 with a $34,000 signing bonus, but the board turned it down again. 

Now, following Tuesday's second approval of the pipeline expansion by the federal Liberal government, the issue of the route was floated yet again during a school board meeting.

While there were school trustees who dissented from sending the letter to the NEB, Coulter and fellow trustee Barry Neufeld supported the motion.

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"We think it is in our community's best interest and school district's best interest if we can get the pipeline rerouted," said Coulter, citing safety concerns around the expansion's construction and operation. 

Coulter says he fears health risks if the expansion sprung a leak on school grounds and said construction of the project could interrupt student's schooling.

He said the pipeline expansion is a divisive issue for student's parents. While there are parents for and against its construction, he has yet to encounter a parent who thinks it should go through school land.

With files from On the Coast