The following were my comments to the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project Joint Review Panel, submitted August 31, 2012:
Dear members of the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project Joint Review Panel,
I am a Canadian citizen living in Manitoba. I grew up on the West Coast of British Columbia, near Vancouver. Where ever I live in the world, this will be my home. British Columbia’s coastal eco-system is unmatched anywhere for its beauty, and includes among the last stretches of wild temperate rainforest in the world. Its biodiversity is a significant piece of our global heritage. It is an important part of what makes us who we are as Canadians. To place it at risk for the short term profits of the oil industry is an affront to all British Columbians and an attack on nature. I oppose the building of the Northern Gateway Pipeline.
Enbridge’s proposed pipeline, with its terminal at Kitimat BC, spells certain disaster for the region in the long term. The project requires hundreds of supertankers to travel through the narrow and unpredictable fiords and straits of BC’s northern coast, known to be among the most dangerous waters on the planet. Any one of these tankers is liable to crash and cause a spill that would dwarf that of the Exxon Valdez, threatening waters from Alaska to Juan de Fuca Strait. Ecosystems and economies of the region would take generations to recover, if they ever could. There is no way to guarantee a major spill will not occur over the life of the project.
The pipeline itself crosses hundreds of streams through wild mountain terrain that would be difficult to access in the case of a spill. Enbridge has a poor record of reacting to disasters, with authorities in the United States comparing their disaster management to the “Keystone Cops”. If an accident occurs in a remote region with limited road access, significant ecological damage will result.
Because the pipeline project proposes to transport raw bitumen, the risks of disaster are even greater, both for land and water. Bitumen is coarser than conventional crude oil and bitumen pipelines operate at greater temperature and pressures. This will degrade the pipeline walls more quickly. This was cited as a contributing factor in Enbridge’s 2010 spill near Marshall Michigan. Moreover, because bitumen is heavier than water, clean up is more difficult.
According to a recent report from the Globe and Mail, Enbridge’s proposed response plan for Northern Gateway does not even take specific account of the fact that they are dealing with bitumen rather than conventional crude, “Enbridge cleanup plan does not take bitumen into account,” Globe and Mail, August 26, 2012. The lessons of Exxon Valdez, Marshall, Michigan and the BP Deepwater Horizon spills have not altered the practices of the oil industry and of Enbridge in particular. We cannot trust our land, our waters and our future to companies that disregard the basic physics that define their industry.
Over the past year, I have had the opportunity to meet First Nations and aboriginal communities from across Canada, and whose territories will be affected by the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project. It is clear, that Enbridge has done nothing to diminish the concerns of the people who have traditional title to the regions it proposes to cross with its pipeline. In light of this, approving the project will have the effect of setting back First Nations – Canada relations twenty years or more. British Columbians and Canadians demand that their governments leave behind the old colonial relations of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. If we are to advance as a nation, we must work collaboratively with the people who have occupied and stewarded the land for thousands of years. This project is a step in the wrong direction.
Finally, the economic benefits of this project to Canadians are uncertain at best. Pressures of raw material export could have negative effects on other industries by inflating the value of Canadian dollar. Tourism, fishing and other industries in British Columbia are certain to suffer in the wake of a major spill. Most of the economic benefits of the project will be accrued by Canada’s foreign controlled oil industry. This project is not in Canada’s national interest.
Thank you for taking the time to read these comments. I trust you will take these into account and recommend against approval of the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project.