While the election may be over,and life returns to normal here on the coast, the end 0f it certainly doesn’t signal a departure from one contentious issue receiving growing attention in Northern B.C.*( and here on the coast) : the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline Project.
The focus of intense scrutiny from both residents in the area and environmentalists, the project centers around the construction of two pipelines that will, when built, originate in the Edmonton area ,cross northern B.C. and will end in the port community of Kitimat. This is where Enbridge will construct a new port terminal, complete with two berths to accommodate oil tankers.
The West pipeline will be 36 inches in diameter, 1,170 kilometres long and will transport about 525,000 barrels worth of petroleum ( oil ) from Alberta to Kitimat every single day.
The East pipeline will be 20 inches in diameter, also 1,170 kilometres long and will be carrying about 193,000 barrels of condensate from Kitimat to Alberta every day. (condensate is the material used to thin petroleum products for pipeline transport)
While supporters of the project say that it will create jobs and generate revenue for years to come, those who are opposed to it are very concerned about the lasting harm that may be done to the environment during construction and transport – the worst case scenario being an oil spill that can stick around( literally) for decades. The pipeline catch-point is that it requires the frequent travel of oil tankers up and down the B.C. coastline, an activity that is violently opposed by environmentalists.
In a move questioned by many in northern communities surrounding Prince George, former P.G. Mayor Colin Kinsley has become the face of Enbridge and was actually approached by the company last September “to organize a community advisory board and a, grassroots organization, to promote the pipeline.”
Hmmmm. Meaning, I assume, he must be on the payroll. I can’t for the life of me imagine someone doing all this work for free. The result of this request by Enbridge was the creation of the Northern Gateway Alliance, and many of the northern mayors have joined in support . http://www.northerngatewayalliance.ca/index.html
An excerpt from the glossysmoothslick site details the potential benefits as marketed by the Alliance:
“If approved, Northern Gateway can become a catalyst for economic growth across both northern BC and northern Alberta. The project would deliver billions of dollars in new capital investment, thousands of jobs during construction and new skills and training opportunities for young people. The project would also provide long lasting benefits for First Nations and communities along the pipeline corridor.”
Despite all the information meetings, the articles, the endless marketing for what will obviously be a lucrative venture for Enbridge, the company has not been able to quell the growing concerns raised by many northern residents, First nations, and environmentalists. In fact, it seems they must be in a constant battle to address the various issues, as demonstrated by a link on their project home page titled: ” In defense of Enbridge…”
Here, the company responds to an article published in The Daily News – a Prince Rupert newspaper – on May 4th, titled: “All the risk with little benefit; So why are pipelines, such as the Enbridge Gateway project, springing up like fertilized weeds lately?” However, try as I might, there seems to be no link online to that article anywhere- not even a cached version remains. I’ve emailed the publisher to see if I can get a copy,because if the company felt it needed to respond- it must have been good. ( It’s a Canwest paper, so I’m not holding my breath on this)
Those in opposition are extremely worried about the possibility of oil spills along one of the most environmentally and ecologically diverse coastlines in the world, as well as along the pipeline if there is a failure. Not to mention the very realistic fears that this project will mean the expansion of the Alberta Tar Sands, which has often been called one of Canada’s biggest embarrassments.
Despite all the press and talk in the north, and here among environment supporters , what stands out to me is how few people here on the coast seem to know that this is even going on, or the risks associated with it.
The major media players in our province, accessed by the hundreds of thousands of BC residents, have paid little – if any- attention to what is an enormous project that will change the face of B.C. for generations to come – with very few exceptions. And I find that very odd. A project touted as bringing new life to the desperate northern communities ravaged by the tanked forestry industry? Jobs and Revenue for thousands? Why no fanfare?
The majority of coverage has been by environmental groups and independents like the Tyee and the Georgia Straight, and I suspect that will remain true unless one of two things happen: 1) the average joe starts asking questions or 2) this gets some really bad publicity and the Public Affairs Bureau calls on Canwest to do a spin-job for their Liberal masters.
Andrew Findley authored an article in the Straight that I would say should be running front page on all our local papers right now. In it, he addresses the motivations and support that the project has received from investors AND the BC Liberals:
” …By selling 10 units at $10 million each, and giving buyers preferential treatment in booking capacity on the future pipeline, Enbridge has already raised $100 million from heavyweight Asian refiners and Canadian producers to help bring the project to regulatory approval.
The subplot to this story is that major oil-sands players like Suncor, Husky, Shell, and Petro-Canada desperately want the pipeline to access Asian markets as a cushion against threats from the nascent Barack Obama administration to wean the U.S. off its reliance on dirty oil-sands fuel.”
“The pipeline fits neatly within the B.C. Liberals’ energy game plan, which could have not only pipelines linking the coast to Alberta but also drilling rigs in Hecate Strait east of the Queen Charlotte Islands, an activity that has been off-limits for more than 30 years because of federal and provincial moratoriums on offshore oil and gas exploration and development. That’s why in the B.C. Energy Plan, the government promises to work “to lift the federal moratorium on offshore exploration and development and reiterate the intention to simultaneously lift the provincial moratorium”.
“Near the bottom of a 2008 throne speech dripping with sustainability rhetoric, Premier Gordon Campbell made references to an “energy corridor” that will be a boon to the northern economy…..In an enthusiastic August 2005 letter to Enbridge, Richard Neufeld, then minister of energy, mines, and petroleum resources, endorsed the pipeline and discounted the moratorium. Neufeld wrote that it “is not directed at, and has no application to oil tankers sailing to or from British Columbia ports”, referring instead to a so-called tanker exclusionary zone that targets only ships from Alaska transiting B.C. waters while bound for the U.S. (Neufeld, who is leaving provincial politics this spring to take a seat in the Senate, refused to respond to requests from the Georgia Straight for an interview.) ”
Read this excellent article HERE.
In the end, this is an project that may affect all British Columbians regardless of where they live, work and play, whether they realize it or not. British Columbia’s coastlines and coastal waters are a treasure trove of flora and fauna – some unique to our province, and other options seem completely absent. While I recognize that the project seems to present an economic windfall to the northern residents, at what cost will this come? Where are the assurances Oil Sand expansion will not happen? Is there a viable rail transport option between Alberta and BC? How will the BC Government respond if the unthinkable happens? Why not look at other economic options for northern communities to not only survive, but thrive?
Clearly, there are more questions than answers. And in the end, my experience is that money talks. Enbridge, Suncor, Petro-Canada and others…. they have a hell of a lot of money. More than any one person in BC, or any one group that stands up and says: ” No!”
Some say any amount of protest is futile, because they think the path has been greased so well between government officials and Enbridge that everything else is mere formality. ” A done deal,” they say.
Two words come to mind. Exxon Valdez. Twenty years and counting.
Need I say more?