Kootenay activists planning local opposition to the Enbridge pipeline
––Nelson, BC February 23, 2012
Nearly 100 people came out to talk about local opposition to the Enbridge pipeline proposal in Nelson on Thursday, February 23rd.
After hearing more about the pipeline and the tanker traffic on the coast, people took time to come up with local activities to show opposition to the project.
West Kootenay EcoSociety coordinator David Reid led the crowd through a group exercise to come up with action ideas. Supporting the First Nations, t-shirts, shareholder activism and local pipeline parties all came up as ideas and several groups formed to pursue some of these actions.
Two guest speakers outlined issues with the pipeline. Local biologist Wayne McCrory has worked extensively on the bear populations on the coast and the Great Bear Rainforest. Local energy expert Dan Woynillowicz talked about the national economic future the pipeline and the tar sands are creating.
McCrory explained some of the basics of the pipeline project.
“We’re talking about a three-foot diameter pipeline that’s going to come all the way across the Rocky Mountains. 1100 kilometres to Kitimat and there’ll be another smaller pipeline beside it that takes back this condensate.”
The pipeline will cross hundreds of BC streams and rivers including many large salmon tributaries, he pointed out.
But McCrory focussed on possible impacts on the coastal environment and the new traffic in huge oil tankers, some over a kilometre long.
“Two hundred and twenty more tankers a year. Some of them nearly as long as these channels are wide.”
He explained how the Exxon Valdez oil spill had damaged over 1,000 kilometres of Alaskan coastline, damage which continues to this day.
“The Exxon Valdez oil spill had only one mild turn for the tankers to get from where they loaded the oil to the open sea. There’s one hundred kilometres of channels from Kitimat to the open sea and there are five sharp turns.”
McCrory also questioned whether Enbridge has any responsibility or liability for the bitumen once it is loaded on tankers.
Local energy expert Dan Woynillowicz who works for the Pembina Institute pointed out that the proposed pipeline is part of a growing concentration of the Canadian economy in the tar sands.
He raised concerns, as he put it, on “What that means for the sustainability of our economy over the longer term.”
Woynillowicz said that “that our current leadership in Canada may not recognize that the world is trending towards a lower carbon economy.”
He said the hazards of depending too much on the tar sands are already being felt. “We now have a currency whose value is correlated directly with the price of oil.” That means the value of our dollar goes through huge swings with the oil price. Woynillowicz explained how that makes investment difficult in manufacturing and other longer term and more stable industries in the country. “We are seeing a hollowing out of our manufacturing sector. Those jobs are not being replaced by jobs in the tar sands.”
Wayne McCrory focussed on how a tanker oil spill would seriously impact the rare, gene pool of the Kermode bear on small Gribbell Island, which is along the proposed tanker route from Kitimat. Recent genetic studies has shown that this island has over 45% white Kermode bears and is likely where the recessive gene for the white phase bear originated. He outlined how the incidence of white Kermodes varies from island to island and the mainland in the area, representing a version of Canada’s own Galapagos and evolution in the making. An oil spill along the Inside tanker route would devastate these small island bear populations, especially on Gribbell where clearcut logging and overfishing have resulted in diminished salmon runs. An oil spill would further decrease salmon for the bears as well as mussels and barnacles which the bears feed on in the intertidal zone, especially in years when the few small salmon runs on Gribbell are down. This will cause population declines and disruption of this fragile but globally significant gene pool.
Wayne McCrory also summed up a broader concern about exporting tar sands bitumen.
“We shouldn’t just think of the tar sands and the mountains the pipeline would go through, or the tanker traffic. We should think of the atmosphere, because it’s the atmosphere today that’s going to have the most devastating impacts with climate change in our lives,” said McCrory.
“The National Energy Board (NEB), the federal body tasked with overseeing the Enbridge hearing, issued a general directive one year ago designed to exclude input from prominent environmental groups critical of the astonishingly rapid expansion of the tar sands – an expansion that only stands to increase with the proposed pipeline. …
“The NEB justifies the exclusion – which denies some of Canada’s leading environmental scientists the right to talk about climate change, greenhouse gasses and Canada’s energy future throughout the hearing – rather crudely:
“…we do not consider that there is a sufficiently direct connection between the [Pipeline] Project and any particular existing or proposed oil sands development, or other oil production activities, to warrant consideration of the environmental effects of such activities…Subject to consideration of cumulative effects…we will not consider the environmental effects of upstream hydrocarbon production projects or activities in our review.” [emphasis mine]
The Wilderness Committee has put out a release saying: “Kinder Morgan has confirmed there was an oil spill this morning at the Sumas Terminal and tank farm in Abbotsford, after residents phoned 911 and reported headaches and nausea from a heavy smell of gas in the air.”
This is near the end of the TransMountain pipeline which already has had several spills.
Andrew Frank of ForestEthics has made an affadavit, blowing the whistle on Harper’s undemocratic moves on the Enbridge pipeline.
“As I have detailed in a sworn affidavit, no less than three senior managers with Tides Canada and ForestEthics (a charitable project of Tides Canada), have informed me, as the Senior Communications Manager for ForestEthics, that Tides Canada CEO, Ross McMillan, was informed by the Prime Minister’s Office, that ForestEthics is considered an “Enemy of the Government of Canada,” and an “Enemy of the people of Canada.
Amazing. What a PM?
In a deliberate attempt to move public opinion against pipeline detractors, the Prime Minister, Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver and the ethical oil lobby group released a sequence of negative and false messages. These attacks on the opposition to the pipeline were a heavy-handed attempt to take the top news spots away from what was happening at the same time: the powerful testimony of the Haida at the NEB hearings. The real story here: the massive popular public opposition to the pipeline. (Note that ethical oil is an ethereal lobby group that one reporter noted “operates mainly as a website on a portable laptop”.
The authors of deepclimate.org posted a fascinating map of the back office staffing movement between the Prime Minister’s Office, Ethical Oil and the Conservative Party strategy trust.
Oliver writes: “Unfortunately, there are environmental and other radical groups that would seek to block this opportunity to diversify our trade. Their goal is to stop any major project no matter what the cost to Canadian families in lost jobs and economic growth.
No forestry. No mining. No oil. No gas. No more hydro-electric dams.”
Green Party LeaderElizabeth May wrote this telling rebuttal to Oliver.
May writes: “Your government has failed to present an energy strategy to Canada. We have no energy policy. We are still importing more than half of the oil we use. Further, we have no plan to reduce dependency on fossil fuels, even as we sign on to global statements about the need to keep greenhouse gases from rising above 450 ppm in the atmosphere to keep global average temperatures from exceeding a growth of 2 degrees C. The climate crisis imperils our future – including our economic future – in fundamental ways which your government ignores.
By characterizing this issue as environmental radicals versus Canada’s future prosperity you have done a grave disservice to the development of sensible public policy.”