Pipeline opposition growing in B.C.


Opposition continues to grow to Enbridge Inc.’ s proposed bitumen pipeline from Alberta to the northern coast of British Columbia, with municipalities and First Nations joining the chorus of nay sayers.

On Friday the Union of British Columbia Municipalities officially opposed the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline at its annual convention and resolved to urge the federal government to ban bulk oil tanker traffic off Queen Charlotte Sound.

Approximately 70 per cent of the 600-odd delegates in the Whistler, B.C., meeting voted for the resolutions, which were forwarded by the Village of Queen Charlotte on Haida Gwaii Island.

“We live on an island and we understand what the need and dependence on oil is, just like anybody else,” Mayor Carol Kulesha told the Herald. “But we also know that the economy that currently exists on the West Coast would be threatened by tanker traffic.”

The region’s $2.6-billion dollar fishery and tourism industries would be irrevocably affected by an oil spill, as would the traditional livelihoods of First Nations peoples living along the coast, she said.

The proposed 1,175-kilometre pipeline would run bitumen from northeastern Alberta across the Rocky Mountains to Kitimat, B.C., where oil tankers would transport the product to Asian and North American markets.

A parallel pipeline would ship condensate, used to thin bitumen and enable it to flow, back to Alberta.

Opponents say the 525,000-barrel-per-day line could devastate land and river economies in the case of a spill.

Coastal communities protesting the pipeline and the marine terminal argue against increased tanker traffic in the choppy waters off Kitimat.

But serious incidents are rare in the pipeline industry, where Enbridge boasts of having a better than average safety record, said spokesman Alan Roth.

“We do understand some people have genuine concerns about the project being built and operated in a safe and environmentally responsible way,” Roth told the Herald.

“And that economic benefits from the project do accrue to northern B.C. communities and British Columbia as a whole.”

He noted the project is undergoing scrutiny by provincial and federal regulators as to its public benefit, and that details about the pipeline released during public hearings will help assuage concerns.

Six aboriginal bands in Alberta joined the fray Friday, saying the provincial regulatory process was too short and didn’t provide adequate consultation with First Nations groups.

The Enoch Cree, Samson Cree, Sucker Creek, Montana, Whitefish Lake and Louis Bull bands raised concerns about the possibility of leaks along the proposed pipeline, and pointed to Enbridge’s record of oil spills in the United States.


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