Trio battle oil giant Enbridge

PORT HARDY—Three young BC kayakers say oil and water don’t mix. Port Hardy’s mayor agrees.

The kayakers want to focus the public’s attention to the Enbridge Inc. Northern Gateway Pipeline proposal by paddling 900 kilometres from Kitimat to Vancouver.

The Vancouver based threesome of Faroe Des Roches, Ryan Vandecasteyen and Curtis White created the Pipedreams Project to trace the route that more than 200 Enbridge-filled oil tankers would take each year from Kitimat to the Pacific if the Enbridge Inc. proposal becomes a reality.

Enbridge proposes to construct a pipeline from the tar sands in Alberta to Kitimat, where the crude would then be loaded on oil tankers for shipment to Pacific Rim refineries.

At the Union of BC Municipalities meeting in Whistler earlier this month, BC mayors voted overwhelmingly in favour of two motions that support the Pipedreams cause. The first asks the federal government to legislate a ban on bulk crude tanker traffic on the coast. The second motion opposes the building of the pipeline.

Port Hardy mayor Bev Parnham was not at the session where the vote was taken, but says there was “much discussion on the subject throughout the conference.

“I think the vote of the UBCM membership speaks to the general distrust we all have of the project and genuine concern about the impacts of both drilling or increased large volumes of tanker traffic along our coast. Some of this doubt is due to the tragedy in the Gulf of Mexico and some is due to the proponent’s spill earlier this year.

“I believe that the message being sent by the coastal communities is that we don’t trust, and are not convinced that, the same types of environmental catastrophes can’t happen here. Our coastline is our lifeline‚ everything from our evironment, our heritage, our homes, our transportation, our food and our economy are dependent on our coast and no one is willing to put that at risk.” Parnham said in an email to the Gazette.

The Pipedreams kayakers, playing David to Enbridge’s Goliath, feel that the people they meet and talk to along their route are finding their low-impact arrivals make them more approachable, so people are very interested in making their opinions known to the threesome.

Des Roches said the community of Kitimat is divided along the issue of jobs versus the environment. The Simon Fraser University grad said that people in Kitimat are realizing that most of the employment will be short-term construction jobs whereas the impact and potential for disaster are long-term threats to the environment.

Vandecasteyen said her group attended the meeting held by Enbridge Sept 22 in Kitimat just before they began their voyage. The public meeting dealt with the aboriginal relations program, pipeline routing and marine safety, pipeline integrity risk management and employment and skills development.

The Pipedreams team witnessed first-hand the supporting and opposing arguments presented that evening. Similar arguments had been presented in Burns Lake and in Terrace in previous meetings.

When the Pipedreams group left Kitimat they found they were talking to people making their living and their homes on the ocean who felt they would not benefit from the Enbridge proposal.

“The prevailing attitude among those villagers was, ‘We have nothing to gain and everything to lose if there is an oil spill’,” said White.

The BC First Nations Summit, representing a majority of Nations and Tribal Councils in BC, passed a resolution calling on the federal government to halt what they see as an inadequate review process for Enbridge‚Äôs oil pipeline and tanker project, and to not proceed further without the free, prior, and informed consent (“FPIC”) of First Nations. FPIC is a standard of international law as set out in the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The Pipedreams trio arrived here Tuesday aboard a fish packer. With 400 kilometres already under their keels the paddlers rode 100 kilometres aboard a geoduck freighter.

The highly experienced team of paddlers, who are all qualified up to Paddle Canada’s instructor level, opted for safety when the weather appeared to be threatening as they approached the most exposed segment of their trip crossing Queen Charlotte Sound from Goose Bay to Port Hardy.

The paddlers believe the public needs to know the existing agreement that requires oil tankers transiting from Alaska to refineries on the continental USA to remain more than 100 kilometres off the BC coast will not apply to this new proposal.

“As stated in a letter to Enbridge in 2005 from Richard Neufeld, then minister of energy, mines and petroleum resources, the Voluntary Tanker Exclusion Zone ‘is not directed at, and has no application to oil tankers sailing to or from British Columbia ports’,” says the group on its website.

The tanker exclusionary zone targets only ships from Alaska transiting B.C. waters while bound for the U.S., and won’t apply to Enbridge’s proposal to ship oil from B.C.’s North Coast.

After catching their breath in Port Hardy the Pipedreams paddlers left Thursday morning in fully loaded kayaks.

The wind blew hard from the south on Thursday. With 400 kilometres still to go and a multinational corporation with whom to do battle the Pipedreams trio look to draw on the confidence and strength that have brought them this far.

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