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Greenpeace blocks access to Kinder Morgan Burnaby marine terminal
Greenpeace has plenty of experience throwing a protest.
In more than 40 years of environmental activism, members of the international organization have sailed ships into stormy waters to stop whaling, scaled landmarks, buildings and bridges to unfurl huge banners and bring attention to their various campaigns.
They account for every contingency; protestors wear appropriate safety equipment, sites are chosen for maximum visibility, spokespeople are available to tell their story.
But one thing a group of 16 Greenpeace activists who infiltrated Kinder Morgan's Westridge terminal in North Burnaby early Wednesday morning didn't plan for was the fog.
As two protestors, Keith Stewart and Benjamin Zielinski, sat on the cold, dewy pavement chained to the terminal's main entrance gate, the rest of their colleagues scaled the facility's two huge storage tanks to unfurl banners and paint a message, while others attached themselves to equipment like the main pumping station that moves crude oil that has traveled through Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain pipeline from Alberta to tankers in Burrard Inlet. The only problem was, for most of the morning nobody could see them as the inlet was shrouded in heavy fog.
The activists entered the facility in the pre-dawn, said Stewart, to "send a message to the Prime Minister and Premier [Christy] Clark that the coast is not for sale." The group is against efforts by Kinder Morgan and another company, Enbridge, to expand their pipelines through British Columbia to ship Alberta crude oil to markets overseas.
The protest was timed to coincide with Wednesday's Speech from the Throne in Ottawa to open Parliament, said Stewart.
The operation to get into the terminal past locked electric gates and security guards went "pretty quick," said Stewart. A van with a locking boot was even left in front of a secondary entrance to block alternate access to the terminal.
But for hours what was transpiring in the terminal was anybody's guess. RCMP officers gathered and stood by patiently as media and a handful of Greenpeace organizers and supporters peered into the thick grey mist to see if they could discern any orange jumpsuit-clad figures clambering over equipment beyond the locked front gate.
Even Kinder Morgan officials adopted a wait-and-see approach.
"Our number one concern is for the safety of the public, the protestors and our employees as well as our neighbours and the larger community," said the company's director of external relations Andrew Galarnyk in a statement. "We respect the rights of protestors to advance their cause but in this case we are very concerned about this trespass and disturbance at the Westridge marine terminal."
Galarnyk said the protest had minimal impact on the terminal's operations. No ships were scheduled to dock at the terminal Wednesday, and there were no planned deliveries of jet fuel, which is also stored there, to Vancouver airport.
That was by design to ensure the safety of the protestors, said Stephanie Goodwin, the BC director of Greenpeace. She said the group would stay "as long as it takes" to convey their message.
But for that to happen Mother Nature needed to cooperate and burn off the fog.