Earlier this week I posted about the growing opposition to Enbridge’s Northern Gateway Project. In that post, I included a link to the project information site, where the company has posted their response to an opinion editorial written by Jennifer Rice (originally published in the Prince Rupert Daily News).
Given one entire page of it’s own, their response is titled ‘ In defense of Enbridge’, and refers to Jennifers column, but oddly enough, does not include it, or indicate who even authored it. Very curious to see what Jennifer had written to roll out the guards at Enbridge, I emailed the publisher of the Prince Rupert Daily News to request a copy of the article, but did not even receive a reply. In the way only Karma works, a reader in Kitimat saw my post, knew which article I was referring to and contacted the author …. who then emailed me the article in question last night.
And what a wonderfully written and detailed bit of work it is. I understand completely why Enbridge doesn’t have it posted on their site, and so will you once you read it.The response from Enbridge follows. Enjoy.
All the Risk with Little Benefit
So why are pipelines, such as the Enbridge Gateway project, springing up like fertilized weeds lately?
Ironically, because there is public demand for a cleaner, greener, healthier future.
Enbridge Pipelines first attempted to sell the Gatewayproject in 2006 but cancelled it after much objection primarily from First Nations. In 2008, Enbridge resurrected the project stating that they “have learned from past mistakes”. Shortly after announcing this, Enbridge was sued for 1.1 million dollars for 545 environmental infractions. These infractions caused damage to waterways and wetlands during construction of a pipeline in the State of Wisconsin. Despite having learned from past mistakes Enbridge’s pipeline leaks have actually increased from 2007 to 2008.
With traditional oil reserves in rapid decline, we’ve turned to mining for bitumen out of Alberta which is an energy intensive way to get oil.
The tar sands are driving Canadian economic and climate policy as Canada’s fastest growing source of GHG emissions. Awareness of tar sands destruction has increased and is now commonly known as “Dirty Oil”. It takes approximately 3 barrels of freshwater to produce 1 barrel of oil and emissions from the tar sands are going to triple [by 2020]. This is inconsistent with the world’s desire to stop global warming.
Gateway isn’t the only pipeline project on the horizon. There are many other proposals down the pipe for the West Coast; Pacific Trails, a natural gas pipeline, Kinder Morgan, a crude oil extension of Trans Mountain pipeline, Pembina Pipelines Inc., a condensate pipeline and numerous other proposals to build pipelines from the tar sands to Eastern Canada and the U.S.
So why have these projects been prioritized now? The answer is politics. Barack Obama has proclaimed a greener, self-sustaining energy future for Americans. A new law in the U.S bars American federal agencies such as the military and postal service from buying dirty oil from Alberta’s tar sands. Shortly after, opposition to dirty oil started receiving media attention in the U.S. Then both Enbridge & Kinder Morgan renewed their efforts to build pipelines to Northern B.C. so the threat of supplying oil to Asia (particularly China) provides leverage against the U.S.
Right now, a sympathetic government rules in Ottawa as well as in this province. Proponents desire to seek approvals now because a future government could be less keen to advance Alberta’s oil projects, and a future government could also be more sympathetic to First Nation issues. Meaningful caps and regulations on carbon emissions may impact these projects in the future but would be grandfathered if approved now. There is a goal of securing projects now – with no intention of getting them off the ground for a decade or more.
Will British Columbians benefit from Gateway? Enbridge says 4000 temporary construction jobs would be created in building the pipeline.
This is for a pipeline that crosses 2 provinces and spans nearly 1200 kms with no guarantee of hiring locals. Presently, to meet rapid expansion of current pipeline and tar sands production; labour is imported from foreign counties as well as from Newfoundland. In fact, to meet the exponential growth targets for tar sands production, Canada’s foreign worker policy has been softened to accommodate the demand for imported labour in Alberta. It is estimated that about 30-40 permanent jobs would be created in Kitimat from the marine terminal. That’s less than a third the number of jobs the Casino provides.
What do First Nations & Coastal British Columbians think of the Enbridge Gateway project? These projects benefit rich oil companies and provide little for local economies. Oils spills, often detrimental, are inevitable and considered part of doing business so local communities assume all the risks. Enbridge is hoping to obtain social and regulatory license for its project through something called a Joint Review Panel (JRP).The proposed JRP does not meet the needs of communities. The process allows important decisions to be overseen by high-priced government and industry lawyers which are inaccessible to the public. The process looks at how to best reduce the negative impacts to fish, the environment, etc. but it does not examine if these impacts should occur in the first place. It does not examine if we should assist with facilitating the world’s worst–regarded environmental project–the tar sands. It does not ask the question if coastal British Columbians want tankers travelling their coast. Enbridge is a pipeline company not a tanker company. Should a spill occur in our marine waters, guess who is liable for cleaning up? Not Enbridge but we, the tax-payers of British Columbia are. The current process doesn’t require examination of cumulative impacts of other proposed pipelines or the activities at either end of the pipe. (Tar sands and tankers) Because of these regulatory shortcomings; First Nations are calling for a separate review process in parallel to any other process because the review process in itself is inadequate. Friends of Wild Salmon (FOWS), a concerned citizens group here in the North, has asked for a comprehensive public inquiry.
The current Canadian government, which draws its political and financial support from petroleum-producing regions in the West, is not seen as independent from oil interests. In July alone, oil sands companies held a total of 36 meetings with Canadian ministers and government officials.Meanwhile, environmental groups only held seven lobbying sessions and these were usually with low level officials. The scale and scope of this project is complex and enormous. There is little room for British Columbia’s residents’ concerns to be validated. First Nations and FOWS have asked for the project to be examined in its full scope. This means the impacts of the tar sands, all along the pipeline route to the impacts on the marine environment (including from tankers) should be included in the review process. The impacts of this project should not be assessed in a silo.
Wild salmon, and in turn bears, whales, wolves, and other ecosystems are already stressed. Is this project worth the risk to existing marine-based industries such as commercial and sport fishing? Is it worth the risk to eco-tourism operations? Is it worth the risk for First Nations communities who depend upon the ocean for subsistence? Is the possibility of a handful of local jobs, created a decade from now worth the risk? Fully aware of the current economic situation and the need for jobs in the North and even as an under-employed person myself, I still feel there is too much at stake to justify this project.
What can we do? Attend a rally in protest to Enbridge’s Gateway Project organized for this Tuesday at the George Little Park, in Terrace at 12 noon. A free bus is leaving Prince Rupert at 9:30 am leaving from the Fisherman’s Hall (across from Overwaitea). Space is limited so book ASAP if you would like a seat on the bus by calling 250.624.6048.
©Jennifer Rice – April 27th, 2009Prince Rupert Daily News