Pembina report faults pipeline to West Coast

A new report on the potentially negative environmental impacts of an oilsands pipeline to the West Coast has opened a new front for environmentalists opposed to the idea.

The Pembina Institute on Monday formally came out against Enbridge Inc.’ s Gateway pipeline by saying the increased production needed to fill the line will have adverse impacts on land, air and water.

Instead of focusing on the pipeline itself, the report details “hidden” environmental impacts associated with increasing oilsands and bitumen production by 30 per cent over existing levels.

“It’s the first time we’ve calculated the upstream impacts of filling that pipeline,” Simon Dyer, Pembina’s oilsands program director, said in an interview. “There’s a growing recognition that these pipelines, regardless of where they’re headed, come at a significant cost.”
According to the report, production associated with the pipeline:

-Would produce 25 million barrels of toxic tailings, enough to fill BC Place Stadium 1.5 times;
-Disturb 11.5 square kilometres of forest, an area nearly three times the size of Vancouver’s Stanley Park;
-Consume the amount of natural gas used by 1.3 million households in Canada each year;
-Use the amount of water consumed annually by a city of 250,000 people;
-Result in enough tailings leakage to fill 182 Olympic-size swimming pools.

Pembina is calling for a moratorium on transportation of oilsands production from Alberta across B.C. until a public inquiry examines impacts associated with oilsands production.

Industry backers have touted the 1,200-kilometre pipeline as a way of diversifying into Asian markets for Canadian crude, which is overwhelmingly exported to the United States.

Terms of reference for a joint review panel process were released in December. But Pembina suggested the environmental assessment of the project will ignore the environmental impacts and increased greenhouse gas emissions associated with increased oilsands production and said it’s “nonsensical” to separate the two.

Steve Greenaway, who heads Enbridge’s Northern Gateway operating subsidiary, said the report doesn’t contain any specific information directed specifically against the pipeline.

“I’m not sure there’s a lot new here,” he said in an interview. “I don’t think they (Pembina’s criticisms) are specific to our pipeline as a pipeline.”
Northern Gateway hopes to submit a formal regulatory application in March, which would pave the way for public hearings and kick off the debate on the merits of the line.

Greenaway said Enbridge takes environmental concerns seriously and hopes to alleviate public concerns through an intensive public dialogue.

“There are a number of issues we need to address and it’s not going to happen quickly or easily. We believe we’ll need to meet a high test as to whether this project will be in the Canadian public interest.”

Pembina’s volley opens a new front in the pipeline war, which has previously been dominated by opposition to tanker traffic along the West Coast and access to traditional native lands.

Public opinion polls in B.C. have shown overwhelming opposition to opening the coastal waters to oil tankers and aboriginal groups have so far been reluctant to allow access to traditional lands.

On Friday, David de Wit, the natural resources manager for the Wet’suwet’en First Nation, delivered letters to potential Gateway shippers warning them that they consider the pipeline to be a direct infringement of their rights. About a tenth of the B.C. portion of the line would cross Wet’suwet’en land.

“In this joint review panel process, Canada’s federal government has failed to properly address Aboriginal title and rights issues. In the context of this continued failure, the Wet’suwet’en would consider any commitment by your company to the Enbridge Northern Gateway project as direct infringement of our constitutionally protected rights.”

Eric Swanson with the Victoria-based Dogwood Initiative, which is spearheading the opposition to tankers, said the latest opposition is the third strike against the project. He told the Herald it will be extremely difficult for Enbridge to win the hearts and minds of British Columbians in favour of the project.

“From B.C.‘s perspective, Gateway looks like 525,000 barrels a day of trouble. Alberta may like its pipelines, but things are different in B.C.”

Enbridge shares rose 47 cents to $47.15 on the Toronto Stock Exchange on Monday.

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