China diplomat sees ‘mountain of difficulties’ around Northern Gateway

By Jeff Lewis, The Globe and Mail, November 18, 2014

Enbridge Inc.’s push to the Pacific has a new doubter: China.

A top Chinese diplomat said the Calgary-based company’s proposed $7.9-billion Northern Gateway pipeline from Alberta to the west coast faces a “mountain of difficulties” and that he is not hopeful the contentious project will see the light of day.

“I want to be optimistic, but it is really hard,” Wang Xinping, the Chinese consul general in Calgary, told the Globe and Mail in an interview last week.

The comment is a rare expression of doubt in Gateway’s future from one of the project’s key supporters, as the energy industry seeks alternative ways to ship booming oil sands production to growth markets.

Chinese-controlled Nexen Energy ULC and Sinopec Corp. have already coughed up $10-million apiece to cover a portion of the project’s regulatory expenses. But years of delays have driven up costs and stoked uncertainty about the pipeline, designed to ship up to 525,000 barrels of oil sands crude a day to a new tanker port at Kitimat, B.C.

Enbridge chief executive officer Al Monaco this month declined to discuss the magnitude of the expected cost increase with analysts. He said the company was reviewing the revised estimate with oil-company shippers and that the new price tag would be “significantly higher” than earlier projections, due in part to a more detailed engineering analysis of the route.

The controversial project is touted by supporters as critical to boosting the price of Canadian oil. It was conditionally approved by the federal government last December, but Enbridge last month acknowledged the 1,178-kilometre pipeline is unlikely to start-up in 2018 as initially planned.

Meanwhile, the Enbridge executive in charge of the project is retiring. Janet Holder, executive vice-president of Western access, plans to retire from the company by year-end. Ms. Holder was featured in television commercials and served as a prominent voice in the company’s efforts to build support for Gateway in B.C., where opposition to the pipeline is fiercest.

A spokesman for Northern Gateway said Chinese customers view Canada as a stable source of energy supply and important trading partner.

“Northern Gateway’s funding partners recognize the importance of this project to Canada and to developing new markets in Asia,” Ivan Giesbrecht said in an email. “They continue to show solid support for the project.”

For his part, Mr. Wang credited Alberta’s new leadership for re-engaging the government of British Columbia on the file, singling out efforts by Alberta premier Jim Prentice as a positive step.

“But when you are considering those other parts, you cannot be really that optimistic,” he added, citing the “complexity” of consultations with aboriginals, legal challenges, and widespread opposition from environmental and local groups as significant stumbling blocks.

A Nexen spokeswoman declined comment on Gateway. Representatives with Sinopec in Calgary did not respond Monday to a request for comment.

PHIL GERMUTH, ENBRIDGE’S “WHAT THE….” MOMENT AND WHAT IT MEANS FOR BRITISH COLUMBIA

By Robin Rowland, Northwest Coast Energy News, November 17, 2014

Enbridge Northern Gateway officials are loath (to put it mildly) to speak to the media but sometimes they let things slip. Earlier this summer, at a social event, I heard an Enbridge official (probably inadvertently) reveal that when the company’s engineers came before District of Kitimat Council earlier this year they were surprised and somewhat unprepared to fully answer the detailed technical questions from Councillor Phil Germuth on pipeline leak detection.

In January, 2015, Phil Germuth will take the centre chair as mayor at the Kitimat Council Chambers.

The results of the municipal election in Kitimat, and elsewhere across BC show one clear message; voters do want industrial development in their communities, but not at any price. Communities are no longer prepared to be drive by casualties for giant corporations on their road to shareholder value.

The federal Conservatives and the BC provincial Liberals have, up until now, successfully used the “all or nothing thinking” argument. That argument is: You either accept everything a project proponent wants, whether in the mining or energy sectors,  or you are against all development. Psychologists will tell you that “all or nothing thinking” only leads to personal defeat and depression. In politics, especially in an age of attack ads and polarization, the all or nothing thinking strategy often works. Saturday’s results, however, show that at least at the municipal level,  the all or nothing argument is a political loser. Where “all politics is local” the majority of people are aware of the details of the issues and reject black and white thinking.

The Enbridge official went on to say that for their company observers, Germuth’s questions were a “what the…..” moment.  As in “what the …..” is this small town councillor doing challenging our expertise?

But then Enbridge (and the other pipeline companies) have always tended to under estimate the intelligence of people who live along the route of proposed projects whether in British Columbia or elsewhere in North America, preferring to either ignore or demonize opponents and to lump skeptics into the opponent camp. The Northern Gateway Joint Review Panel also lost credibility when it accepted most of Northern Gateway’s arguments at face value while saying “what the ……” do these amateurs living along the pipeline route know?

Pro Development

“I am pro-development,” Germuth proclaimed to reporters in Kitimat on Saturday night after his landslide victory in his campaign for mayor.

On the issue of leak detection, over a period of two years, Germuth did his homework, checked his facts and looked for the best technology on leak detection for pipelines. That’s a crucial issue here where pipelines cross hundreds of kilometres of wilderness and there just aren’t the people around to notice something is amiss (as the people of Marshall, Michigan wondered at the time of the Line 6B breach back in 2010). Enbridge should have been prepared; Germuth first raised public questions about leak detection at a public forum in August 2012. In February 2014, after another eighteen months of research, he was ready to cross-examine, as much as possible under council rules of procedure. Enbridge fumbled the answers.

So that’s the kind of politician that will be mayor of Kitimat for the next four years, technically astute, pro-development but skeptical of corporate promises and determined to protect the environment.

Across the province, despite obstacles to opposition set up by the federal and provincial governments, proponents are now in for a tougher time (something that some companies will actually welcome since it raises the standards for development).

We see similar results in key votes in British Columbia. In Vancouver, Gregor Roberston, despite some problems with policies in some neighborhoods, won re-election on his green and anti-tankers platform. In Burnaby, Derek Corrigan handily won re-election and has already repeated his determination to stop the twinning of the Kinder Morgan pipeline through his town. In Prince Rupert, Lee Brain defeated incumbent Jack Musselman. Brain, who has on the ground experience working at an oil refinery in India, supports LNG development but has also been vocal in his opposition to Northern Gateway.

The new mayor in Terrace Carol Leclerc is an unknown factor, a former candidate for the BC Liberal party, who campaigned mainly on local issues. In the Terrace debate she refused to be pinned down on whether or not she supported Northern Gateway, saying,  “Do I see Enbridge going ahead? Not a hope,” but later adding, “I’d go with a pipeline before I’d go with a rail car.”

Plebiscite confirmed

Kitimat’s mayor and council elections also confirm that Northern Gateway plebiscite vote last April. Kitimat wants industrial development but not at the price of the community and the environment. The unofficial pro-development slate lost. A last minute attempt to smear Germuth on social media was quickly shot down by people from all sides of the Kitimat debate. Smears don’t usually work in small towns where everyone knows everyone.

Larry Walker, an environmentalist with a track record in municipal politics as an alderman in Spruce Grove, Alberta, won a seat. Together with Rob Goffinet and Germuth, that is three solid votes for the environment. The other new councillor is Claire Rattee who will be one to watch. Will the rookie be the swing vote as Corinne Scott was?

Mario Feldhoff who came to third to Goffinet in the overall vote (Edwin Empinado was second) is a solid councillor with a strong reputation for doing his homework and attention to detail and the unofficial leader of the side more inclined to support development. Feldhoff got votes from all sides in the community.

During the debates, Feldhoff repeated his position that he supports David Black’s Kitimat Clean refinery. But as an accountant, Feldhoff will have to realize that Black’s plan, which many commentators say was economically doubtful with oil at $110 a barrel, is impractical with oil at $78 a barrel for Brent Crude and expected to fall farther. Any idea of a refinery bringing jobs to Kitimat will have to be put on hold for now.

LNG projects are also dependent on the volatility and uncertainty in the marketplace. The companies involved keep postponing the all important Final Investment Decisions.

There are also Kitimat specific issues to deal with. What happens to the airshed, now and in the future? Access to the ocean remains a big issue. RTA’s gift of land on Minette Bay is a step in the right direction, but while estuary land is great for camping, canoeing and nature lovers, it is not a beach. There is still the need for a well-managed marina and boat launch that will be open and available to everyone in the valley.

Germuth will have to unite a sometimes contentious council to ensure Kitimat’s future prosperity without giving up the skepticism necessary when corporations sit on a table facing council on a Monday night, trying to sell their latest projects. That all means that Germuth has his job cut out for him over the next four years.

Pull Together BC builds momentum uniting Enbridge pipeline opponents

By Caitlyn Vernon, Vancouver Observer, November 13, 2014

With passion, creativity, and their wallets, British Columbians are demonstrating solidarity with First Nations and an ever-growing opposition to the Enbridge pipeline and tankers. Who knew stopping a pipeline could be so much fun?!

Earlier this year, a small community group up in Terrace hosted a community dinner and raised $2,000 for First Nations legal challenges.  Only four months later, the Pull Together campaign has caught fire – with over $200,000 raised!  The Haida are now onboard, joining the Gitxaala, Heiltsuk, Kitasoo/Xai’xais, Nak’azdli and Nadleh Whut’en nations. In fact, the campaign has been so successful that we are increasing our fundraising goal from $250,000 to $300,000 by December 31st.

Volunteers from across BC have organized or planned more than 50 community events to raise funds for these First Nations who are going to court to stop Northern Gateway. There are more than 30 participating businesses, and over 1,000 individual donors.  Yoga studios are ‘stretching across BC’ to raise funds, corporate watchdog group SumOfUs’ members raised over $40K, and the United Church of Canada is fundraising from its congregations nationwide.  All monies raised are being matched by an anonymous donor.

When the federal government approved the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline and tankers, with conditions, we weren’t surprised.  And we were ready.  When multiple First Nations announced that they would go to court to stop the project, Sierra Club BC joined with RAVEN Trust to launch Pull-Together.ca, to enable people from across BC and Canada to make donations and hold fundraising and solidarity events in support of these legal challenges.

“The Pull Together campaign is driven by people who care and are politically astute,” said kil tlaats ‘gaa Peter Lantin, President of the Haida Nation. “They can see how the future of the country is shaping up and want to be part of it.”

Funds raised through the Pull Together campaign help support the legal challenges against Northern Gateway that have been launched by the Haida, Gitxaala, Heiltsuk, Kitasoo/Xai’xais nations – on BC’s central and north coast, along the proposed oil tanker route – and the Nadleh Whut’en and Nak’azdli nations, located in BC’s northern interior along the proposed pipeline route.

These are remote, rural communities, taking a stand against a large corporation and a federal government trying to push a pipeline and tankers on an unwilling province. They are up against big forces— and they are not standing alone.

Truly it’s inspiring.  For we are doing more than just stopping a pipeline.  We are learning how to pronounce the names of the nations who have governed this land since time before memory.  We are learning from each other about what it means to love and care for this beautiful place we call home, whether settler or first peoples.  We are honouring the courage of the nations who are going to court, and recognizing their indigenous laws and governance.  We are standing together, and standing strong.  And we are having fun - celebrating the creativity amongst us - with song and musicians and arts of all kinds.  Because why not?  We are on a journey, away from climate-polluting and oil spill-inducing projects like Northern Gateway and towards a future that recognizes indigenous governance and grounds economic decisions in ecological realities.  And any journey I have ever been on is better with music, and good company.

The Pull Together solidarity events are demonstrating our collective resilience and determination.  And they are providing a musical playlist and new friends along the way. 

We are in this for the long haul, and we are pulling together.  To grab a paddle and get involved, visit pull-together.ca.

Caitlyn Vernon is Sierra Club BC’s Campaigns Director

Departure of Enbridge executive deals blow to B.C. pipeline support

By Jeff Lewis, The Globe and Mail, November 12, 2014

A key executive in charge of Enbridge Inc.’s Northern Gateway pipeline is retiring, dealing a blow to the company’s efforts to build support for the project in British Columbia.

Janet Holder, who served as executive vice-president, western access, is leaving Enbridge effective Dec. 31, the Calgary-based company said in a statement Wednesday. Ms. Holder was put in charge of the $7.9-billion oil pipeline in 2011, and she was featured in a series of television commercials touting her B.C. roots and the project’s benefits. Enbridge said the project would continue under the leadership of project president John Carruthers.

“Enbridge is deeply grateful for Janet’s enormous contribution to the company over a career of tireless service,” Enbridge chief executive officer Al Monaco said in statement.

“In leading the Northern Gateway team, Janet guided one of the most difficult projects in Canadian history through to regulatory approval, representing Enbridge and its partners with integrity. She built trust with communities by listening to their concerns and demonstrating Northern Gateway’s commitment to building a safe project that protects the environment.”

Ms. Holder’s departure comes two months after Enbridge said the pipeline was unlikely to start up in 2018 as originally planned. The controversial project, approved last December by a panel of federal regulators, would transport up to 525,000 barrels per day of oil sands-derived crude oil to a new supertanker port at Kitimat, B.C., giving Canada’s oil industry its first major access to Pacific markets.

But the project faces several court challenges from aboriginal and environmental groups as well as rising costs. Calgary-based Enbridge said this month that the price tag for the project will be “substantially higher” than earlier estimates, as a result of a more detailed engineering analysis and costs associated with meeting the project’s 209 approval conditions.

A series of rival pipelines risk sapping commercial support from the pipeline the longer delays persist, industry analysts have said. TransCanada Corp. last month filed an application for its $12-billion Energy East project, which would carry 1.1 million b/d of oil to Canada’s East Coast. Kinder Morgan Inc. is also seeking approval to boost capacity on its Pacific-bound Trans Mountain line.

First Nations fight Petronas-led LNG project over salmon habitat

By Brent Jang, Globe and Mail, November 05, 2014

A group of First Nations is fighting the Petronas-led Pacific NorthWest LNG project, marking the first time that aboriginals have outright rejected a liquefied natural gas proposal in British Columbia.

Aboriginal leaders have voiced their support in principle for B.C.’s fledgling LNG industry in the past, as long as the projects meet environmental standards to protect the land and water, but Pacific NorthWest LNG is facing criticism for choosing a site that critics say will harm juvenile salmon.

The opposition by the group of First Nations underscores a significant shift in sentiment because LNG shipments have been viewed as posing much less risk to the environment, compared with deep-rooted worries about oil spills into the Pacific Ocean.

The First Nations leaders want the joint venture, led by Malaysia’s state-owned Petronas, to withdraw plans to build on Lelu Island because of fears that construction of an LNG terminal will damage eelgrass beds in Flora Bank, where young salmon swim.

Petronas has already warned that it will suspend the project for 15 years unless tax and regulatory issues are resolved, so the focus on saving the fish adds yet another layer of complexity to a delicate situation.

First Nations leaders had previously maintained an open mind toward B.C. LNG, in contrast to their fears and anger about the proposed Northern Gateway oil sands bitumen pipeline.

But some aboriginal groups are emboldened by what they see as success in fending off Northern Gateway and delaying other energy projects. They are now attempting to to thwart Pacific NorthWest LNG – widely seen by industry analysts as the project that will make a final investment decision first, ahead of 17 other proposals to export LNG from the West Coast to Asia.

Leaders from the Wet’suwet’en, Gitanyow, Lake Babine and Gitxsan say Pacific NorthWest LNG’s proposed site at Lelu Island in northwestern British Columbia is the wrong place to locate an LNG export terminal because of the harm to salmon habitat in the estuary of the Skeena River, near Lelu Island. They say a new plan for a suspension bridge poses environmental risks that have not been properly evaluated, and their views have been largely ignored because their land and title is farther away from Lelu Island than other First Nations.

“You couldn’t pick a worse place to put a B.C. project such as this,” John Ridsdale, hereditary chief of the Wet’suwet’en Nation’s Tsayu clan, said in an interview Wednesday. “The plan for Lelu Island is ludicrous.”

Other First Nations, however, remain open to Pacific NorthWest LNG’s plans to build an $11-billion export terminal near Prince Rupert, creating a difficult situation for the project to navigate.

In filings to environmental regulators, Pacific NorthWest LNG argues that it has consulted with aboriginals who are located closest to Lelu Island, notably the Metlakatla, Kitsumkalum, Kitselas, Gitxaala, Gitga’at and Lax Kw’alaams. Those First Nations have major concerns, but they have been willing to work with the project’s officials to reduce environmental risks, according to the filings.

Spencer Sproule, Pacific NorthWest LNG’s senior adviser of corporate affairs, said the venture is being subjected to a rigorous environmental review. “Our facility represents a generational opportunity for area First Nations in regard to long-term careers, business opportunities and skills training,” Mr. Sproule said in a statement. “For the past two years, we have been in active consultation with First Nations that were identified by the governments of Canada and British Columbia as having levels of claim to the lands that we are proposing to construct our facility.”

The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency raised concerns in May about the fate of wild salmon, which are important for First Nations’ food.

The Wet’suwet’en, Gitanyow, Lake Babine and Gitxsan, who voiced their criticisms at a news conference in Vancouver, say no amount of mitigation measures will satisfy them. Glen Williams of the Gitanyow suggested Pacific NorthWest LNG explore other sites near Prince Rupert.

Last month, the Petronas-led group proposed building a suspension bridge that would extend southwest for 1.6 kilometres away from Lelu Island. The suspension bridge, which would connect with a 1.1-kilometre-long jetty, is designed to vastly minimize dredging and avoid damaging the sensitive eelgrass beds for salmon in Flora Bank.

First Nations Oppose Petronas LNG Plant

Media Release, Friends of Wild Salmon, November 05, 2014

First Nations Oppose Petronas LNG Plant
Lack of Consultation “Shocking”

Citing a grave lack of consultation and massive damage to salmon habitat, First Nations throughout the Skeena Watershed have declared their opposition to the proposed Petronas LNG project on Lelu Island, in the heart of the Skeena Estuary.

Chief Malii or Glen Williams, President and Chief Negotiator for the Gitanyow First Nation, said “When BC, the Prince Rupert Port Authority and Petronas sited a massive LNG development on the Skeena River’s most critical salmon habitat, they created the legal obligation to consult and accommodate First Nations who have an interest in Skeena salmon. We have written CEAA several times since spring 2013 to express our concerns with the project and requested bilateral consultation. The Crown has refused, stating that because of the distance between our traditional lands and the terminal it is not required. This flawed reasoning does not uphold the honor of the Crown. Despite this we have continued to do our homework and we now have concrete scientific evidence that shows our salmon rely on these area and anything they do in these sensitive ecosystems need to be vetted through our Chiefs. The lack of consultation is unacceptable, industry and government have completely ignored our constitutionally protected rights and we will not stand for it”.

Studies show that altering or destroying crucial habitat in the estuary will significantly damage the abundance and health of Skeena salmon, which are the essential foundation of First Nations’ constitutionally protected right to fish throughout the
watershed.

Chief Na’Moks of the Wet’suwet’en Tsayu Clan added: “If BC thinks it can partner with foreign oil and gas companies, pick where pipelines and plants are to be sited, all the while ignoring the science that says industrial development on the Skeena Estuary is risky and foolish, and then pretend to ‘consult’ with First Nations after the fact, they have fundamentally misunderstood their legal and moral obligations to First Nations”.

On the same note, Wilf Adam, Oputt, Chief of the Lake Babine Nation asserts, “It’s time to go beyond mouthing platitudes about new relationships and apologizing for past wrongs. The entire system of how major industrial development on our lands is
proposed, and approved, is broken. It doesn’t work for anyone. It is expensive, it creates more uncertainty and most often further erodes Canada’s reputation as a civil society, or a desirable place to do business. On every level it is failing”.

The Chiefs say that poor siting of the proposed facility and failure to seek First Nations consent place this $11 billion project at serious risk.

Chief Na’Moks further stated, “If the federal and provincial governments cannot protect our interests, and choose to work more closely with foreign-owned multinational energy companies than their own citizens, then we will be forced to represent ourselves abroad and tell Petronas the truth about their prospects”.

The First Nations leaders are calling for Petronas as well as the provincial and federal governments to withdraw the project from the Lelu Island site immediately.

Related documents:
Press Release Backgrounder

Lelu Island Backgrounder

Contacts:
Chief Na’Moks, John Ridsdale, Wet’suwet’en Tsayu Clan / Office of the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs: 250 643 0771
Chief Malii, Glen Williams, President and Chief Negotiator for the Gitanyow First Nation: 250 615 9597
Chief Oputt, Wilf Adam, Chief of the Lake Babine Nation: 250 692 0422
Chief Spoowk, Norman Stephens, Gitxsan Nation: 250 842 8197
Richard Wright, on behalf of Madii ‘Lii, Gitxsan Nation: 778 202 1567

MP plugs tanker ban bill

By Josh Massey, Terrace Standard, October 19, 2014

New Democrat MP Nathan Cullen says he has no big objections about oil products being exported from North America with the one exception that nothing should be transported through his Skeena – Bulkley Valley riding.

It means that not even a plan to ship refined oil by tanker, which some studies have shown to be less harmful than bitumen crude in the case of a spill, would be permitted from the north coast if a private member’s bill being promoted by Cullen is ever turned into law.

Cullen provided a rundown of his “An Act to Defend the Pacific Northwest” bill at a public session held at the Sportsplex Oct. 16.

He does not go so far as to include pipelines in his ban bid but his bill does call for the National Energy Board to review such proposals to determine their value-added economic and job-creating potential.

Nor does the proposed ban apply to LNG tankers or any tankers that might be heading north and south up the coast, as the bill is directed at banning tanker traffic bound for ports across the Pacific Ocean in particular.

Cullen said his bill would not apply to areas outside the boundaries of his constituency, arguing that other areas have to make their own decisions about oil exports. And against the charge that his bill is a “not in my back yard” measure, Cullen said there are particular aspects to the coastal environment that make it highly unfavourable for oil export.

This was his response to those like Ann Kantakis, who said she is strongly opposed to Northern Gateway, when they asked Cullen how his proposed law would protect the coast from other oil shipping projects, for instance if an alternative line was built to Alaska.

“It depends on what your backyard is,” Cullen said afterwards. “Some places we recognize, as a country, that shouldn’t be threatened. We do it all the time. It isn’t a question of resource development or not, it’s what kind and under what condition.”

Cullen started the discussion with a description of the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline project,  the blocking of which is the main goal of his legislation.

Enbridge is working on fulfilling the 209 conditions imposed on it by the National Energy Board if it wishes the pipeline to be built.

Northern Gateway would mean 250 tankers a year coming to and from a Kitimat  export terminal carrying diluted bitumen pumped through a 1,177km pipeline from Alberta.

Cullen described the Enbridge project as being financially backed by Chinese investment, an arrangement that ultimately serves foreign energy needs more than Canada’s need for local economies and local autonomy.

“It’s a perverse subsidy,” Cullen said of Canadian government subsidies to the oil industry in general.

Local resident Davis Lindsay asked what Cullen would do to offset the loss of jobs that banning projects like Northern Gateway would mean.

Cullen responded that renewable energy sector jobs could be achieved through redirecting money currently given in subsidies to oil companies. He added that publicly-financed child care programs could boost productivity by freeing up more parents to work.

And in replying to a question from Bruce Hill about the chances of his bill ever being passed, Cullen acknowledged it was a long shot. “I want to give my colleagues across the aisle the excuse to do the right thing,” said Cullen.

The MP also spoke  elsewhere in the area.

Link to article.

Crippled Russian ship docked in B.C. amid safety worries

By Wend Stueck and Patrick White , The Globe and Mail, October 19, 2014

As an American tugboat brought a Russian cargo ship into port in Prince Rupert Monday, it left a wash of relief in its wake.

But for those worried about marine safety along British Columbia’s coast, the rescue of the stranded Simushir highlighted gaps in Canada’s ability to respond to marine disasters and brought renewed attention to Ottawa’s response to B.C.’s “five conditions,” released in 2012 as prerequisites for the province’s approval of heavy oil pipelines. Those conditions include a “world-leading” marine spill response prevention and recovery system.

Prince Rupert's port authority tweeted Monday that the vessel is at the Fairview Container Terminal. The ship is expected to stay for 48 hours for repairs.

A federal spokesman responded to those heightened concerns by defending the government’s record on marine spills and tanker safety while stating future improvements are forthcoming.

“I would like to note that Canada already has a strong tanker safety system,” Frank Stanek said in an e-mailed response. “Improving it will ensure that the risks of an oil spill at sea are prevented, that we’re quick to act if one does happen and that polluter pays. This incident demonstrates that although Canada hasn’t had a major spill in thirty years, the best way to minimize the risk of a spill is a strong prevention regime, and strict oversight of safety regulations that are in place.”

He said that the federal government is upgrading marine navigation systems with new weather buoys and navigation beacons, providing support for aboriginal communities to prepare and respond to spills and adopting a new Coast Guard incident command system that will speed up the agency’s response to spills.

Last Tuesday, Transport Minister Lisa Raitt announced up to $20-million in funding to improve navigational aids in area around the proposed terminus of the Northern Gateway pipeline. And during a speech to the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce on Friday, Natural Resources Minister Greg Rickford said Ottawa would release new pipeline shipping rules this fall to address environmental concerns.

In December, a federal panel established as part of the government’s effort to improve tanker safety identified major gaps in the country’s preparedness for marine spills. However, the panel also deemed the waters off Haida Gwaii as a being at a “low” or “very low” risk of marine spills. It made no mention of how that risk level might increase if the Northern Gateway tanker port is established.

B.C. is engulfed in a debate over increased tanker traffic associated with two major industrial proposals: Enbridge’s Northern Gateway, which would ship oil from Alberta to Kitimat on the B.C. northern coast, and Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Expansion project, which would more than double the capacity of an existing pipeline that moves oil between Alberta and the Lower Mainland.

Together, the two projects would result in more than 600 tankers a year joining those that already ply West Coast waters. Potential liquefied natural gas projects could add more vessels to the tally.

That was the backdrop when the Simushir, a bulk carrier travelling from Everett, Wash., to Russia, lost power off the west coast of Haida Gwaii Thursday night.

The Canadian Coast Guard vessel Gordon Reid arrived more than 20 hours after the Simushir lost power. The Coast Guard vessel’s tow line broke three times, though the Reid did successfully tow the cargo ship away from Haida Gwaii. An American tug that happened to be in Prince Rupert at the time arrived later and on Sunday was towing the ship to Prince Rupert.

“It was luck,” Peter Lantin, president of the Haida Nation, said Sunday of the crisis averted.

Industry proponents say safeguards proposed as part of their projects – including tug escorts to take tankers to open water – would have prevented such an incident from taking place and allowed authorities to get help more quickly to the stricken ship.

“Northern Gateway’s marine safety measures are designed to avoid a scenario such as this one altogether,” Enbridge spokesman Ivan Giesbrecht said Sunday in an e-mail.

Operating limits would prevent tankers from travelling to or from near-shore areas in rough weather, Mr. Giesbrecht said.

As well, loaded Northern Gateway tankers would be escorted by two “super tugs” equipped with spill response and firefighting equipment.

The proponents of major projects that involve tankers have all committed to escort tugs, Stephen Brown, president of the Chamber of Shipping of B.C., said on Sunday.

If some or all of those projects are developed, “you will actually have much more maritime rescue and assistance capability than we enjoy today,” Mr. Brown said.

Link to article.

Pull Together

Sierra Club BC & RAVEN, October 6, 2014, October 06, 2014

The next big thing to stop Enbridge! People across BC are raising money to support First Nations’ legal challenges against Northern Gateway.

First Nations in BC have vowed to stop Enbridge, taking their fight to the highest courts in the land. Over 100 Nations have declared a ban on tar sands pipelines and tankers in their territories. Their constitutional rights, recently strengthened, give them substantial power to stop it.

Multiple lawsuits are currently in the courts. They attack the Joint Review Panel’s recommendations and Federal Cabinet’s decision to approve it. Five of these nations are working with Pull Together: Gitxaala; Nak’asdli; Kitasoo/Xai’Xais; Nadleh Whut’en; Heiltsuk.

Support these efforts to stop Enbridge. Organize an event. Fundraise online. Donate now.

Go to: Pull Together

Enbridge could use a Gateway Plan B

By Gary Mason , The Globe and Mail , October 02, 2014

Al Monaco was in New York this week speaking to investors about all the good things Enbridge is doing. The pipeline company’s CEO says the next five years look extremely bright, with a capital spending program totalling $44-billion.

“Over the next three to four years, we’re going to open up 1.7 million barrels per day of new markets in North America,” Mr. Monaco told me from the Big Apple.

Unfortunately, the straight-talking energy executive could offer little good news on another front: Northern Gateway. While opening up new lines to the U.S. Gulf Coast makes Enbridge money and stockholders happy, it’s the project currently on ice that everyone wants to talk about. Despite being given conditional approval by the National Energy Board and the federal government, few believe Gateway will ever see the light of day.

Many in the oil and gas towers of downtown Calgary were buoyed by the ascendancy of Jim Prentice to the premier’s office in Alberta. Mr. Prentice has a stellar reputation, most critically among B.C.’s First Nations. After leaving federal politics, he spent time consulting with aboriginal groups along the Gateway route on Enbridge’s behalf. The company hired him to see what it might take to convince native pipeline holdouts to reconsider their opposition.

Consequently, when Mr. Prentice told The Globe and Mail recently that Enbridge might have to reconsider Kitimat as the planned terminus for the pipeline, it caused major reverberations. This wasn’t a newbie premier talking through his hat. This is someone who knows intimately the degree of resistance among Coastal First Nations to the idea of filling up supertankers in Kitimat with raw bitumen and then having them navigate the sacred waters of Douglas Channel.

Mr. Prentice knows it will never happen and was simply speaking the truth. A loading point somewhere further north, like Prince Rupert, always had a greater chance of political success, construction challenges aside.

I’m sure Mr. Monaco wished the Premier hadn’t ventured an opinion on the matter, though. Asked what he thought when he read Mr. Prentice’s remarks, the Enbridge boss chuckled. He wasn’t about to pick a fight with someone he genuinely admires and believes is good for the energy business.

Mr. Monaco is not a stupid man and undoubtedly knows Kitimat is a hopeless cause, but he can’t admit that publicly. The only thing he can say is the company is trying to meet the 209 conditions imposed by the National Energy Board when it gave the project provisional approval last December.

So far, the company has not officially met any of those requirements. And then there are the five conditions of the B.C. government. Ben Chin, spokesman for Premier Christy Clark, said only one of those have been met, the first: that the project pass an environmental review. Meantime, Enbridge is nowhere close to meeting the fourth stipulation: that legal requirements regarding aboriginal and treaty rights be addressed. “It’s a total red light,” said Mr. Chin. And there won’t be any discussion about B.C. getting a fair share of the financial rewards from the project – the fifth condition – as long as that fourth isn’t met.

“Kitimat is a total non-starter. The project is dead if that’s the terminus,” another senior member of the B.C. government told me matter-of-factly.

Art Sterritt, the tough-minded leader of the Coastal First Nations, was quoted as telling The Vancouver Sun this week that Mr. Prentice’s comments about Kitimat were tantamount to an admission the project is finished. I’m not sure about that, but the remarks would indicate that in its current incarnation, the venture is a pipeline to nowhere.

Enbridge’s options aren’t pretty. If it does change the pipeline’s end point, it will have to go back to the NEB for approval of a new submission. That could take two or three more years; no one knows for sure. At some point, Enbridge or its partners will say enough’s enough and terminate the project, with all the economic implications that has for Alberta and the country.

“We haven’t really considered a Plan B,” Mr. Monaco told me. “We’re focused on the plan we have in front of us. Nobody said it was going to be easy.”

No, but there seems little sense in beating a dead horse either. Enbridge needs to begin considering its Gateway options, and the sooner the better.

Link to article.

Mayor, port authority say no room for Northern Gateway pipeline in Prince Rupert

By Justine Hunter and Ian Bailey , The Globe and Mail, September 24, 2014

Alberta Premier Jim Prentice wants Enbridge Inc. to reroute the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline, but the coastal community that is touted as the obvious alternative to locate the marine terminal is no longer rolling out the welcome mat.

Prince Rupert’s Mayor Jack Mussallem said residents in his resource-dependent community don’t want to play a role in getting Alberta oil products to Asia.

Earlier this week, the newly elected Alberta Premier called for Enbridge to find a new terminus for the project because of deep-rooted opposition to the current route, which would see Alberta crude oil loaded onto supertankers at Kitimat, B.C.

When Enbridge first proposed the crude oil pipeline a decade ago, Kitimat and Prince Rupert battled for the privilege of playing host to the new marine terminal for the project.

Prince Rupert boasts the closest North American port to Asia, already bustling with container terminals and commodities such as coal and grain, but in 2005, Enbridge chose Kitimat instead, saying the pipeline route to Prince Rupert would be riskier and more expensive.

But the prospect of piloting supertankers through the narrow Douglas Channel to open waters has increasingly become a rallying point for the project’s opponents, led by First Nations on the coast

Mr. Prentice told The Globe and Mail the Haisla First Nation’s deep opposition to the Kitimat terminal makes it “pretty tough” to win support for the project as it stands, and he urged Enbridge to look for a different route.

“I don’t doubt that Enbridge is looking at alternatives,” Mr. Mussallem said in an interview.

But the mayor said Prince Rupert has a thriving local fishing industry that employs hundreds of people and is critically important to the local First Nations. He is convinced the community would not be willing to put that at risk.

“Overwhelmingly people in my community are much more comfortable with liquefied natural gas, with wood pellets, with coal, than any oil product,” he said.

A spokesman for the Prince Rupert Port Authority said Wednesday there is currently no room for Enbridge to build at the port even if it wanted to. “We are fully subscribed,” Michael Gurney said. There are two large vacant lots within the port authority’s jurisdiction, but both are locked by other energy companies, earmarked for LNG projects.

However, Enbridge has an alternative if the company did opt to change the current proposed route. Late in 2013, the company purchased a $20-million parcel of land at Grassy Point, near the city of Prince Rupert. “We haven’t designated it, we purchased it for future business opportunities,” Enbridge spokesman Ivan Giesbrecht said Wednesday. He said the company is not contemplating any route change right now, however, noting that it would require an application to the National Energy Board to change the design – something that could set the project back years.

Kitimat Mayor Joanne Monaghan was unfazed by Mr. Prentice’s suggestion to move the marine terminal. Her community is no longer enthusiastic about the promised benefits of the project, and wants dramatic changes if it is built.

Ms. Monaghan said her city council will be considering a motion next Monday to contact the Alberta Premier to discuss his views on Northern Gateway. The community held a non-binding plebiscite on the project last spring, and more than 58 per cent of voters said “no” to the pipeline.

Ms. Monaghan said in an interview she would like the Enbridge pipeline to run into a Kitimat refinery proposed by publishing executive David Black, rather than be shipped as crude oil. The benefits, she said, would be twofold – hundreds of jobs in the northwest of the province and a bitumen product that would cause less environmental harm in the event of a spill.

“We would very much like to see the resource refined here,” she said in an interview.

Of Mr. Prentice’s comments to The Globe, she said her initial reaction had been, “This is interesting.” Ms. Monaghan said she agreed with Mr. Prentice’s view that First Nations have to be involved with the project.

Link to article.

Anne Hill: A challenge from the North

By Anne Hill , straight.com, August 13, 2014

IN A SMALL town, we know how to create our own entertainment. Whether it’s a community dance, a town meeting, or a farmers market, when we want to make something happen, we get talking and get organizing.

So when the small Terrace-based environmental organization I belong to, North West Watch, got together to talk about stopping Enbridge, it wasn’t long before we were planning a party.

After the disappointing National Energy Board approval of the project, our group, like many people in the North, felt we’d reached a critical point in the fight against Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline.

Agreeing that we’d rather not chain ourselves to tankers, we saw the clearest pathway to stopping Enbridge in First Nations legal challenges, especially in light of the recent Supreme Court decision on Tsilhqot’in rights and title.

The oil companies have endlessly deep pockets, and First Nations don’t, so we decided that fundraising is the best way for us to support these legal challenges. North West Watch began planning a fundraiser.

Our first big event, Singing for Salmon, was a huge success. We had great music, we cooked a spaghetti dinner for 125 people and we honoured Kitimat’s Douglas Channel Watch with an award. That night we raised $2,000 for First Nations legal challenges and $1,000 for Skeena Wild’s court case against Rio Tinto Alcan.

Since then we’ve raised another $1,000 from private donations. People approach me all the time, handing me $10 or $20 and thanking me and our organization for what we are doing.

Enbridge seems to have thought that they had the North in the bag. They thought their promise of jobs would have our traditionally resource-based communities ready to jump. However, our history of resource-based industries has taught us a thing or two.

First, very few of us believe in the number of jobs promised by Enbridge.

Second, the waters through which they propose to send bitumen-laden tankers are some of the most treacherous in the world. This area has had 100-foot waves recorded and is largely inaccessible in winter. We all know a spill or leak will happen; it’s just a matter of when.

Many of us who live in the North are here because we value the health of our water, our air, and our wildlife. Fishing, hunting, hiking, and skiing are part of the northern lifestyle. Northern Gateway threatens the natural systems that sustain our health and our way of life.

First Nations have been taking the lead in standing up to this project.

The Yinka Dene Alliance, a coalition First Nations in northern B.C. whose territory comprises 25 percent of the proposed pipeline route, initiated the Save the Fraser Declaration, an exercise of indigenous law banning tar sands pipelines and tankers through First Nations traditional territories. More than 130 First Nations have signed on.

Coastal First Nations including the Haida, Heiltsuk, Kitasoo, Haisla, and Gitga’at issued a declaration under indigenous law banning tar sands crude oil tanker traffic from their territories.

To date, eight First Nations have launched judicial reviews with the Supreme Court of Canada. They have taken a lot of risk with these court cases, and if they are willing to stand up, we can stand behind them.

The benefits of hosting and attending fundraising events such as Singing for Salmon reach far beyond numbers of dollars raised.

Watching first the NEB and then the federal government approve the project against the will of British Columbians left many people feeling helpless and unsure of what to do next. If we feel helpless, we tend to disengage. Participating in an event helps us to feel empowered, giving us a concrete way to get involved and make a tangible difference.

And not to mention, it’s just plain fun. No matter the occasion, when everyone gets together for a community event, we feel uplifted.

In that sense, Enbridge has given us an incredible gift. In our community and across the province, people are uniting from all shades of the political, cultural, and socioeconomic spectrum. This issue cuts across all boundaries, and in this diversity, there is strength.

I know other people can do what we have done here in Terrace. North West Watch is a small group, with a mailing list of 150 in Terrace area, and we’ve raised $3,000 ($1,000 to the Gitga’at and $2,000 to RAVEN). We challenge other groups to match what we have achieved.

For organizing support and inspiration, check out the Pull Together campaign launched by RAVEN and Sierra Club B.C.

Anne Hill is a member of North West Watch in Terrace.

Link to article.

NORTHERN COMMUNITIES, SIERRA CLUB BC PULL TOGETHER TO SUPPORT FIRST NATIONS LEGAL CHALLENGES AGAINST

Sierra Club , July 24, 2014

For immediate release

Terrace and Smithers challenge other communities to match fundraising efforts

VICTORIA, TERRACE, SMITHERS  – As more and more legal challenges are filed against the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline, a grassroots effort has begun to raise money to fund the court actions. B.C. residents from communities around the province are joining with non-governmental organizations to launch a fundraising initiative to help First Nations pay the legal bills.
Pull-Together.ca has been established by Sierra Club BC in partnership with Victoria-based legal defence fund RAVEN Trust to enable residents from across B.C. and Canada to make donations in support of several recently launched First Nation legal challenges.
The effort was initiated by northern communities along the proposed Enbridge pipeline route. These communities have stepped forward and are challenging other communities to do the same. North West Watch, a community group in Terrace, has already raised $2,000 through a community dinner and bottle drive. The Friends of Morice-Bulkley, a community group in Smithers, raised $985 at a fundraiser film night.
“People know what’s at stake and want to support First Nations’ legal challenges. We needed a central mechanism to allow British Columbians from the north and across the province to contribute easily,” said Lori Merrill from North West Watch. “Here in the north, we are already raising funds for First Nations’ legal challenges, and we challenge other communities to meet or beat our contributions.

“First Nations have been in the lead in opposing Enbridge Northern Gateway and standing up for Canada – now this is a way that communities can stand up for First Nations.”

The legal cases, filed in the Federal Court of Appeal earlier in July, challenge the federal Cabinet approval that would allow the Enbridge Northern Gateway tankers and pipelines proposal to proceed.
“These First Nations have inspired us by taking a stand for our common future—the rivers and oceans, forests and climate that we all depend on,” said Sierra Club BC Campaigns Director Caitlyn Vernon. “It’s clear that British Columbians want to support the First Nations who are going to court to stop Enbridge, and this is one way we can all pull together.”
The pull-together.ca website offers people the option to donate directly, fundraise online among their networks of friends and neighbours, or organize community fundraising events. Sierra Club BC will offer training and support to individuals and community groups interested in hosting fundraising events.

From Prince George to Haida Gwaii, community groups have committed to fundraising in support of First Nation legal challenges.  Fundraising efforts will be undertaken in Prince George, Fort St. James, Burns Lake, Smithers, Terrace, Kitimat, Klemtu, Prince Rupert and on Haida Gwaii. Other communities throughout B.C. can find out how they can stand together with First Nations by visiting Pull-Together.ca.
“We very much appreciate the support being expressed by the people in British Columbia,” said Clarence Innis, Acting Chief of the Gitxaala First Nation. “We would rather not go to court, but despite the significant effort and resources we expended to participate in the Joint Review process, our concerns have been ignored. The federal government has failed in its obligations to the Gitxaala. The government has pushed this matter to the courts, so that is where it will be resolved.”

“The historic victory by the Tsilhqot’in Nation in the Supreme Court of Canada has reaffirmed and strengthened the legal cases being brought forward by First Nations,” said Susan Smitten, executive director of RAVEN Trust. “While First Nations legal rights are strong, going to court with the government is expensive and time consuming. That's why British Columbians are stepping forward to raise funds for the First Nations’ multiple legal challenges.”

The following First Nations will benefit from this fundraising project to support their legal challenges: Gitxaala, Heiltsuk, Kitasoo/Xai’xias, Nadleh Whut’en and Nak’azdli. First Nations have already invested heavily in legal efforts to stop Enbridge Northern Gateway and are actively finding ways to reduce costs, such as jointly filing legal challenges.

British Columbians can visit the website to donate or fundraise at www.pull-together.ca.


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Doctors speak out against Enbridge

By Christine Hinzmann, The Prince George Citizen, July 18, 2014

A group of Prince George doctors has come out against the proposed Northern Gateway pipelines.

The 18 doctors declared their stance in a full-page ad in the Citizen last Saturday. Similar ads with more doctors added to the list will appear again this coming Saturday and on Aug. 9, according to Dr. Marie Hay, a pediatrician and one of the doctors opposed to the development of the twin pipelines from northern Alberta to Kitimat.

"What we're concerned about are the very significant health risks involved, because we're physicians, you know?" said Hay. "We're not just interested in the health of people who live at the moment but also predominantly of the children and of the future."

There are three main areas of health concerns are air, land and water, said Hay.

"The pipelines are not stand alone, as it were, they are connected to the oil sands in northern Alberta and they are then going to be - if the Harper government has its way - connected to the oceans," said Hay. "Where the oil extraction is taking place, those lands are being ravaged by the whole process of the extraction. It's destroying the land and it will never be recovered back to what it was."

Hay said she's listened to many people who are Treaty 8 First Nations, who say the muskeg is contaminated and they can't drink the water.

"The animals they hunt and eat are contaminated and the air is polluted," said Hay. "If you drink it,if you breathe it, if you eat petroleum by-products you're going to have a much, much higher incident of cancer."

If this pipeline is allowed to cross the province, it will cross more than 700 major water ways including the aquifer that provides Prince George with its drinking water, said Hay.

"The Enbridge pipelines have a notorious history of leaks in their pipelines - the Kalamazoo is just one big example of this and there's been many, many more examples," said Hay.

A six foot break in an Enbridge pipeline July 2010 caused oil to spill into Talmadge Creek, a tributary of Kalamazoo River. It was the biggest inland oil spill - and one of the costliest to clean up - in U.S. history.

"So there's no doubt this pipeline will leak. This bitumen when it leaks, will not evaporate into the air, it will sink into the land, it's going to sink into the water and be there for another 100 years. Once the land and the water has been destroyed we will not be able to recover from that."

Hay said once the bitumen has made it to the coast there's always the risk of a tanker running aground, causing a massive spill from which the coastline would never recover, she fears.

"What is the benefit for B.C.? There is no benefit for B.C. but we take all the risk and in my opinion there is no benefit for Canada," said Hay. "It's not worth ruining the ecology, the environment for the sake of money. Leave it in the ground. If it has to be removed extract it safely, slowly and keep it for Canada."

International multinational corporations don't care about Canada, Hay said.

"But I do," said Hay. "All they want is resource extraction at any cost and the health of our people for generations to come is at risk and we must protect our health and the way we do it is to have a healthy environment - air, water and land."

A Northern Gateway official said his company cares about residents just as much as Hay does.

"This is a vital infusion of funding for our province's schools, healthcare system, social programs and infrastructure," said Ivan Giesbrecht, Northern Gateway's communications manager. "In addition, $4.3 billion in labour-related income will be injected into the B.C. economy, including $800 million spent on goods and services like transportation, equipment, food and hospitality in local northern communities over the three-year construction period."

Giesbrecht said over the next 30 years, Northern Gateway will generate $1.2 billion in tax revenue for British Columbia.

Northern Gateway was the subject of the most thorough and exhaustive review for any project of its kind in Canadian history, he added.

"After reviewing thousands of pages of evidence and hearing hundreds of hours of expert testimony, the Joint Review Panel of the National Energy Board found that Northern Gateway can be built and operated safely," said Giesbrecht. "This review was a democratic, non-partisan, independent, and transparent process that Canadians can have confidence in."

Link to article

History repeats: Today’s Northern Gateway debate sounds very familiar

By Laura How, Terrace Standard, July 16, 2014

History is often cyclical and issues have a tendency to reappear in different forms. That's why the study of history is important because examining the past can mean making better decisions and avoiding making the same mistakes.

“‘We will win this one, we have won all the others,’” said Joy Thorkelson, a representative of the United Fishermen and Allied Workers Union, at an anti-Enbridge rally in 2011. The government and citizens involved in the debate over the Northern Gateway pipeline may not be aware of it, but they are living proof that history repeats itself.

In 1976, a consortium of American oil companies formed the Kitimat Pipeline Company and proposed a pipeline that would deliver Alaskan crude oil from Kitimat to Edmonton and on to the United States. Two pipeline proposals later, the Canadian government set up the West Coast Oil Ports Inquiry to investigate the possibility of approving these plans. Citizens of northern British Columbia were, as today, divided.

Does this sound familiar?: “I wonder if the people of Terrace are aware of the vast industrial potential that will arise as a result of the new pipeline?” While the opening line of this Letter to the Editor sounds as though it could have been written last week, it was actually printed in a May 1966 edition of The Terrace Daily Herald. The proponent of the pipeline goes on to point out the economic benefits of secondary industries and the jobs that would be created.

An editorial in a 1979 edition of Kitimat’s newspaper, The Northern Sentinel, also argued that with “nemployment being a chronic condition in the Skeena region anything that could change the situation for the better deserves thought.” However, Tommy Douglas, then leader of the federal NDP, refuted this notion in a letter to a concerned Terrace citizen, stating that while estimates of the number of jobs to be created were as high as 3,000, the number of permanent jobs available to northwest residents hovered around 120. We have heard similar arguments in the recent past, with advocates of the Northern Gateway pipeline touting it as the creator of thousands of employment opportunities; opponents have once again been quick to point out that only a couple hundred of permanent jobs will result.

In Kitimat, citizens were just as divided, if not more so. The Northern Sentinel consistently printed editorials and columns in favour of an oil port. H.T. Mitchell, the founder of the paper, often lauded the project and expressed his dismay whenever it appeared to be losing momentum. When it seemed as though the proposed port would be relocated to Port Angeles, Washington, he wrote: “A multi-billion dollar potential has found the province totally misled by environmentalists to the point where the opportunity is all but gone…” He also conveyed his disdain for then-Liberal MP Iona Campagnolo, an opponent of the pipeline and ally of the United Fishermen and Allied Workers' Union. He said that her stand on the pipeline issue was “a potential embarrassment” for her, and her position in the debate may have been one of the reasons Campagnolo was not re-elected in 1979.

Pipeline opponents were no less outspoken. In May of 1977, members of Greenpeace, the United Fishermen and Allied Workers Union, and the Gitga’at, Haida, and Heiltsuk Nations formed a blockade of ships across the Douglas Channel in protest of the North Central Municipal Association’s decision to support the project. That protest has been echoed by the “Chain of Hope”, a 20,382 foot long crocheted barrier that was recently stretched across the Douglas Channel, decorated with mementos and messages from the women and children of the Gitga’at First Nation.

The arguments on both sides in this dispute have remained virtually the same over the decades, though some of the emphasis has changed. Interestingly, the opposition focus this time is as much concentrated on pipelines as it is on the potential impact on marine life of tanker traffic.

Despite fisheries and environmental authorities announcing in 1978 that Kitimat would be the least hazardous location on the B.C. coast for an oil port, many concerns were raised over the safety of tanker traffic in the Douglas Channel. Dieter Wagner, founding member of the Douglas Channel Watch, has expressed concern over a lack of anchorages along the route and the fact that, while the channel may appear wide open, a large part of it is too shallow and rocky for tankers to safely navigate. In later years, the idea of supertankers in our coastal waters became unpalatable to the broader community, mainly due to the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989, an environmental disaster that reminded everyone of the potential risks associated with this type of industry.

Today, the risks associated with a tanker spill are even greater because diluted bitumen, the cargo on the proposed tanker route, is far more difficult to clean up than crude oil. However, this is not the only distinction between the debates then and now.

So far there is one clearly visible difference between the past and present of pipelines in our area: Northern Gateway has gotten the go-ahead from the federal government, albeit with restrictions. This decision deviates from the results of the historical proposals; Kitimat Pipelines Ltd. was turned down by the government, which did not see an oil port as a necessity for B.C.’s coast. The others were also rejected and slowly faded into obscurity.

In a 1977 article in The Northern Sentinel, editor H.T. Mitchell asserted that “[t]he Kitimat pipeline idea [could not] be written off as dead,” and it would seem that he was right. The plans for a Kitimat oil port lay dormant for decades, but have clearly been reawakened. Now it remains to be seen whether history will truly repeat itself or if the face of the northwest will be forever changed by the arrival of the oil industry.

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