Enbridge Gateway Hearings Rhetoric Heats Up

By B. McPherson
This is some of the environment that would be put at risk with oil tankers traversing the treacherous seaways.

Native elders and chiefs spoke in Kitimaat Village today regarding the proposed routing of the Gateway twinned pipelines through the Great Bear Rain Forest to the west coast of British Columbia.

One of the Chiefs who spoke today expressed concern regarding the routing of the pipeline, likening the risk to his people as a double-barrelled shotgun. Pipeline spills through the sensitive land area plus the hundreds of oil laden tankers threading their way through the twisted canal leading to the town of Kitimat are very real dangers to the pristine environment.

The Haisla are facing a double-barrelled shotgun by the bringing of that oil by pipeline and shipping it by sea," Hereditary Chief Ken Hall told the opening day of environmental hearings into the project.
"The pipeline threatens our grandchildren," he said Tuesday. "It's going to be terrifying if everything disappears in our community." Canadian Business

The First Nations people acknowledged the importance of jobs for the duration of the build out, but pointed out that there is a responsibility to those who come after them. Currently, much of the BC coastal waters are clean enough to harvest shellfish. Fishing is still bountiful in many areas. An oil spill of crude oil in the cold waters would continue to pollute for many years ruining shell fish beds, crab harvesting and killing many other wildlife.

Warmer waters support bacteria and other organisms that help to break down petroleum products quickly compared to the cold waters of the coast. An oil tanker run aground leaving Alaska(Exxon Valdez) is still polluting water after more than 20 years. That calamity was not blamed on equipment failure. It was attributed to the captain’s actions.

A more recent shipping accident saw a government ferry go aground and sink. While it was not a tanker, enough oil is escaping to compromise local beaches. Again, it was not attributed to equipment failure but human error.

The potential for huge monetary returns in selling this oil are real. The pool of oil in Alberta rivals that of the Saudi reserves. The effort to develop the Alberta oil sands is a multi-national effort that includes corporations from China, Norway, Holland, France, USA as well as Canadian companies.

Knowing that trillions upon trillions of dollars in profit are expected by all the shareholders once the oil starts to flow, it is one step short of lunacy to not demand the pipeline follow the safest route to the coast as well as making sure that it is built to the highest possible standards throughout. It is most unfortunate that the federal minister for Natural Resources, Joe Oliver, compromised the neutrality of the hearings before they started by labelling those in opposition to the route or the safety of the pipelines as radicals and foreign special interest groups. Neither should a decision be foisted onto the backs of the people of British Columbia who will be taking all the environmental risks with very little share of the rewards. 

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