Hartley Bay Residents Open Homes to Strangers -- Again

B. McPherson


Residents of the BC coastal community opened their homes to the public during the hearings about the oil pipeline proposed by Enbridge. It is beginning to look as if the might of the federal government is being brought to bear on the side of the project. The minister for natural resources spoke out before hearings, which are supposed to be neutral fact finding, strongly in favour of the pipeline. The prime minister, Stephen Harper, has stated that the Northern Gateway project is in the national interest.
Last week Transport Canada released a report that in effect threw their weight behind the project, dubbing the supertanker routes proposed as “appropriate” and lacking any obstructions to navigation. The report acknowledged that there is always some risk in these undertakings but basically dismissed the coastal people’s concerns.

Including proposed liquefied natural gas terminals in the area, there could be 415 additional oil tankers, liquefied natural gas carriers and bulk carriers calling at Kitimat, which Transport Canada deemed is “not a significant increase and does not cause concerns with vessel traffic density.” Vancouver Sun

 It is ironic that these findings by the federal Transport Canada are released as the dog and pony show moves to Hartley Bay. This is the small coastal community that helped rescue and house the survivors of a sinking of a provincial government ferry a couple of years ago. The Queen of the North ran aground on a well charted section of coastline during reasonable weather, for this coast anyway, and sunk with the loss of two lives. The accident was blamed on human error. The ferry was equipped with the latest safety equipment and still ran aground. Hartley Bay residents used their boats to pick up the survivors and sheltered them until the official rescue crews could reach the isolated community.

Hartley Bay’s reward for their bravery and generosity – a continuing oil leak from the sunken ferry’s fuel tanks.

To date approximately 60 different indigenous groups have made a stand against the Northern Gateway pipeline. Small town governments along the coast have been making official objections to the scheme stating that the risk to the environment and the industries that are supported by it is too great when considering the potential for rewards.

Big questions that arise and are not being answered  revolve around the inevitable leaks and spills should the pipeline go ahead. Enbridge is a publicly traded company, layered enough to be confusing to me as to who would own the liability when a foreign owned flag of convenience tanker fouls the coast line.

Enbridge does not have a good record in paying for meaningful cleanup when spills occur. Their spokeperson dealing with the huge oil pipeline rupture in the Kalamazoo River initially stated that clean up would be done and people who were affected would be compensated. The story changed as costs began to mount up. Stretches of the river are still closed to the public because of heavy crude pools lingering in the river more than a year later.

Can we trust Enbridge to clean up any mess they make? I think not. Have a look at the "cleanup" done in Michigan last year.

Exxon Valdes – Prince William Sound, Alaska human error
BC Ferry Queen of the North – Hartley Bay, BC human error
Costa Concordia – Tuscany, Italy human error


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