“It is always more easy to discover and proclaim general principles than to apply them.” ~ Winston Churchill, The Gathering Storm

In following the discussion and commentary on social media in the hours leading up to an announcement from the federal government on Northern Gateway, one thing is clear: there is an elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about.

I stand in opposition to the Enbridge pipeline for many reasons, the biggest of which is that Enbridge has a less than stellar record with their pipelines. It’s also been reported they had broken safety regulations at 117 of 125 pumping stations across Canada. And there are those pesky issues regarding how Enbridge deals with landowners,spills and potential contamination.

Personally, I wouldn’t allow Enbridge to run a water hose across my backyard if the house was on fire, that’s how strongly I feel opposed to the company as a corporate citizen – period.

And many British Columbians and First Nations feel the same way. The risk combined with Enbridge’s record is a strong motivator for many.

But the strong possibility that the Enbridge proposed pipeline will end up in courtroom challenges for years even if it is approved, leaves the possibility open that another project will come forward to get  bitumen from the Alberta oil-sands to the West Coast of BC for export- one that is perhaps more palatable.

Members of the Harper government travelled to the US recently, to reassure the Americans that an export route through B.C for Alberta oil was going to be forged.

Just weeks earlier, the Aquilini group announced it was going to partner with Eagle Spirit Energy Holdings in a pipeline that has received support from several other First Nations along the route. It was claimed at the press conference that some First Nations groups that opposed Enbridge, were now lending support to this proposal.

With many  British Columbians counting on First Nations opposition to Enbridge operating through their territories to stop the flow of bitumen to the pristine waters along our coast, it raises the question of what will happen if First Nations support grows for another proposal along the same route?

It’s the elephant in the room everyone is stepping around and avoiding at all costs, because it challenges  many people opposed to the Enbridge Northern Gateway project to examine the roots of their opposition.

If you are opposed to Enbridge because you feel First Nations must be consulted and in agreement, are you ok with a pipeline First Nations are in favour of?

Are you opposed to every pipeline that plans to transport bitumen across a precarious route through northern BC to tankers along the coast?

Is there a middle ground for you, or no room to maneuver at all because you want to see the oil-sands in Alberta shut down altogether?

Compelling questions that British Columbians need to ask themselves when you look at the bigger picture of the reality that the Harper government indeed will do what it must to export that product.

Therein lies a big issue for many in British Columbia when it comes to the Kinder Morgan pipeline. It’s kind of hard to say you oppose bitumen flowing through Enbridge when the same product is flowing through the Kinder Morgan pipeline right now. A spill in the waters of Burrard Inlet would still be just as devastating, but many are taking the put your head in the sand approach instead.

There are no easy answers, no matter what the reason is behind your opposition, or mine, but this is where I am coming from. Like many, I don’t see any assurances that a spill of diluted bitumen in the ocean, or on land, or in a river could be cleaned up or dealt with, without massive, possibly irreparable harm to the environment. Harm that could last generations, and have devastating impact on marine and wildlife.  And for me, it doesn’t matter if it’s Enbridge or another company behind a diluted bitumen pipeline to the coast, it’s not going to fly with me.

The risks are just not worth it:

17 thoughts on ““It is always more easy to discover and proclaim general principles than to apply them.” ~ Winston Churchill, The Gathering Storm

  1. There are so many reasons to oppose the pipeline that it is hard to say which is the most important. But ruining our coast with an inevitable spill has to be at the top of the list.

    The fact that the people do not benefit one iota from the greed of corporations is important but that is not news. That they are selling our resources without ‘adding value’ like they sell logs instead of lumber speaks to the same point.

    I suppose the biggest issue for me is that the people who live in the area and within 100 miles of the routes (ship or pipeline) have to live with the mistakes of an ethics challenged, klutzy company with no real responsibility attributing to the company or the government.

    If Harper and his cabinet and all the Enbridge upper staff personally and physically cleaned up the beaches after a spill until they were pristine, saved all the animals and paid the people who assisted them from their own pockets, I might be inclined to give ’em a chance but they won’t. The rich ones never do.

    They will bring in foreign workers, stall until most of it falls to the bottom and they won’t even interrupt their vacations to attend the disaster.

    I applaud the First Nations for opposing this but some will sell out. And a route may find it’s way.

    And we and the planet will, once again, be screwed over by the people in which we put our trust.


  2. Even if one accepts/believes that the tar sands should be mined (I don’t), what are we doing shipping bitumen out of the country to have the value added by refining it being done somewhere else? There’s also the fact that we (humans) have a much better handle on cleaning up oil spills than bitumen spills (yeah, I know that we can’t really clean up either).


  3. I am vehemently opposed to ANY pipeline project, but especially one which has Enbridge at its head, which has the potential to take one of nature’s most beautiful corners of the world and turn it into a toxic, blackened muck hole which will be lost for eternity. Don’t think so? Check the Enbridge track record. Also check the clauses covering spill liability associated with this Northern Gateway proposal.
    I do not care if another “less damaging” project might come along which would win First Nations support…….I cannot support any project which threatens to kill my home, BC.
    Soon, I believe, it will come time to stand up and be counted. And I’m not just talking about signing your John or Sue Henry to a petition.
    Take notice of what’s happening around you, folks. We are being sold out in so many ways, and to this point, we are letting it happen virtually silently. Some are very pleased with that.


    1. Let’s imagine if you will for a moment,that the approval of the Enbridge pipeline is a bit of a bait and switch for British Columbians.

      Massive opposition by much of BC,most First Nations,court challenges keeping it tied up for years, promises of civil disobedience to make War in the Woods look like pre-school. It’s a huge hurdle to overcome no matter which angle you look at it from.

      Then along comes the Aquilini proposal, partnered with Eagle Spirit Energy Holdings which is a company that has interesting partners: ” What sets Eagle apart is the stature of its partners. They include Dave Tuccaro, a northern Alberta aboriginal entrepreneur who has built a nine-figure empire on the oil sands; Mr. Helin, a lawyer who is president of the Native Investment & Trade Association and author of Dances With Dependency; and Aquilini Development and Construction Inc., run by the prominent Vancouver family which owns the Canucks.”

      Taken from http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/industry-news/energy-and-resources/first-nations-carving-out-an-energy-bridge-to-the-bc-coast/article8203923/

      Calvin Helin is also involved with the Canada China Resource Development Foundation http://www.ccrdfoundation.com/profile/ Events gallery shows familiar faces.

      If this group managed to actively partner with First Nations along the route of their proposal,that would be one significant hurdle overcome that is still facing Enbridge.

      See where I am going with this?


  4. Good post, nice to see you blogging again.

    I have been on this tack for quite awhile now, and have put the question directly to the ENGOs as well as Weaver and others directly involved. However there is very little acknowledgement of the elephant as you say and in fact there seems to be more competition among “Enbridge” opposition for what plan will succeed it than anything else. Turns out its about the money…..

    A question…. you repeated in the last few paragraphs in this post that “a pipe with Diluted bitumen” is what you oppose. Do you support Weavers position then? The notion that upgraded “syncrude” piped to a coastal refinery is the way to go?


    1. I really don’t want to see any new oil pipelines going across the province to be honest Kevin, but realistically speaking, I don’t see the current federal government or any new governments should the Conservatives lose the next election, shutting down the oil-sands in Alberta. That leaves us with a dilemma because I know people aready who oppose Enbridge that would support a refinery, although they might not share that opinion publically for fear of being the subject of criticism.

      I have thought often about how to deal with this, and there are no easy answers. Current provincial governments don’t seem inclined to move towards developing alternative energy sources and more people than ever seem to be buying cars – in the city of Surrey you can’t even function without one in many neighbourhoods. So we are still very much an oil-dependent population whether we like to admit it or not-clothing, plastics, etc.. it’s everywhere around us.

      I bantered around the idea of a refinery to get more value from the product but then again, the pipeline to the coast,tanker traffic etc still makes for a dicey situation and we simply can’t risk our lands,waters or coastline. Too much is at risk on the west coast. We have unique and diverse ecosytems and fisheries, and many who depend on the lands and water for not only sustenance, but jobs and their local economies.

      I very much would like my children and my childrens children to one day experience and love everything I have grown up and enjoyed, but daily there are changes and some of the areas I grew up exploring and enjoying, simply no longer exist for one reason or another.

      At some point, people have to acknowledge this reality and decide what is more important.While many are opposed to Enbridge, the silence over this other potential pipeline which may still only be in the talking stage, seems like a loud siren to me.


  5. Lets not forget the spill in the Gulf of Mexico (BP) and the Exxon Valdez and of course Enbridges Kalamazoo spill – not yet cleaned up.
    Yes they are different scenarios but the outcome will be the same or worse.
    Northern Gateway is just one of several projects currently being considered/proposed. Given the right circumstances, anyone of these projects can be an absolute disaster.
    One good earthquake and everything goes down the drain. Listen to the scientists and geologists – the big one is coming sooner rather than later.
    Is it worth risking a good way of life to make large corporations even richer with very little for the average Canadian ??????


  6. I don’t want the bitamen/tar going over land, through rail/tankers, pipelines, or ships. If it spills we will have a problem for a hundred years.

    After last weeks “problems” in Iraq our oil prices jumped immediately. One city fell, our oil prices went up. With the growing unrest in the middle east, Canada ought to look at energy security for Canada. Not energy security for China. It ought to be refined here, to be used here. Limits should be set on how much can be used per yr. Selling some to the U.S.A. wouldn’t hurt, because they are our largest trading partner and it would be stipulated it was for their domestic use only. China has enough Natural gas at home, they don’t need ours. China has approx. 100 ships exploring for oil off of Vietnam. Once they bring those wells in, they won’t be buying any more from us. What they want to do is destroy our environment until they have what they want, closer to home.

    In my opinion, the tar/oil can be used, but it must be used in small quantities, at a steady rate, and refined at source. Then it can be moved through Alberta to wherever it needs to go, via specially built tanker/rail cars. I still believe the safest way to move oil is by tanker/rail cars, which are specifically built for the purpose and run at a slow rate, in non urban areas. The rail accidents we have seen in North America are the result of speed and poorly maintained equipment or equipment which wasn’t supposed to be doing the work it was. We need to get off of oil, but until we do, we need to work with what we have, very, very carefully. It can be done. Germany already gets 27% of its electricity from renewable sources.


    1. “With the growing unrest in the middle east, Canada ought to look at energy security for Canada. Not energy security for China. It ought to be refined here, to be used here. Limits should be set on how much can be used per yr.”

      That’s not possible thanks to Mulroney’s NAFTA agreement – unless we give notice of abrogation.


  7. So if the price is right, FN will approve and the Enbridge will go through?The FN’s Enbridge won’t threaten their food sources? Threaten the Whales, wild Salmon, the Spirit Bears? Their rivers, streams and hunting grounds?

    What will China say about that? Rumor has it, Petro-China put in a bid to *help* build the Enbridge? No doubt China would use their own cheap labor, if this were the case? Well, the FN have now said, the Enbridge pipeline is permissible on their terms. So, our support for the FN, was for naught.


    1. Julie, many First Nations have said they will NEVER allow Enbridge to occur. It is my thought that this other possibility -which may or may not come to anything, but certainly there are big dollars and influence behind it, could very much be a way to ‘divide and conquer’ the solidarity many feel with First Nations across the province, and between First Nations groups themselves. This, along with LNG, is a very divisive issue.


  8. I know I’m repeating my self but we should support the Kinder Morgan proposal through southern Alberta. Easy to get products south with all the Alta pipelines. A spur pipeline from Montana to the Puget sound makes total sense and spill will be easily contained there. Not us, them.


  9. ” A spill in the waters of Burrard Inlet would still be just as devastating”

    I disagree, because unlike the North Coast, Burrard Inlet is already surrounded by the blight of Greater Vancouver. Also, navigating to the sea via the Georgia Strait and Juan de Fuca Strait is not as risky as the Douglas Channel and the Hecate Strait.

    Like many commentors above, I feel the crap from the tar pits should be refined either in Alberta, or piped east to be refined in Ontario or New Brunswick and USED in Canada by Canadians instead of importing half or more of our domestic supply from Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

    Better yet would be to leave the goo in the ground and develop sustainable energy like is currently being VERY successfully done by the economic power house of Europe – Germany! One day recently Germany was supplying almost three quarters of its energy by solar, wind and such. The amount/share of its needs being satisfied by sustainable energy is growing rapidly and doubled in the last few years. When the goo is gone, I guess Canada can buy the technology from Germany and other more enlightened countries as we will never develop such technology with a government that doesn’t even believe in science.


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