Much at stake in northern pipeline debate

It’s perhaps too early to make a judgment call on Enron’s Northern Gateway Pipelines proposal.

It’s perhaps too early to make a judgment call on Enbridge’s Northern Gateway Pipelines proposal.

Last week, public hearings got underway in Kitimat. Already, some 4,300 have signed up to speak and predictably there’s a deep divide between those who support the project based on jobs and economic prospects and those against it based on the threat to ecosystems and the potential environmental catastrophe from an oil spill.

Then there are those who are torn between the two issues. They understand both sides but they’re still not comfortable about where they’d put their X if they had to vote on it today.

The Northern Gateway Pipelines is a $5.5 billion proposal by Canadian oil and gas company, Enbridge, to build a pipeline system 1,177 kilometres long from Bruderheim, Alberta to Kitimat on the west coast. Each day, up to 525,000 barrels of diluted bitumen will flow west to the port city while, along a parallel pipeline, 193,000 barrels of condensate will flow back to Alberta to dilute the next batch of oil.

 

The condensate is a toxic mix of liquid hydrocarbons, a by-product from the extraction of natural gas, and it will be used as a thinning agent to dilute and help transport the heavy bitumen oil. Most of the pipeline will be buried underground with the exception of some waterways where it’s thought to be safer running the pipes above the flowing water.

 

This is the largest proposed infrastructure project in B.C. history and the central question boils down to whether the benefits outway the risks, or vice versa. Needless to say, Prime Minister Harper is all over this project, considering it a no-brainer that it should go ahead, while Premier Christy Clark hasn’t taken a public position yet. Perhaps that’s a good idea.

There are huge issues to be addressed beyond the environmental one including native land claims and jurisdictions as well as the impact on local communities along the pipeline route.  Then there’s the what-if factor of spills, leaks, and the mother of all pollution issues.

Many folks are apprehensive and there’s a collective comfort zone as to the acceptance level of risk. The oil industry’s track record of spills and leaks from the inevitability of pipeline corrosion, stress factors, and cracking isn’t helping.

The development of the Alberta oil sands has been perceived as a pariah on the environmental horizon for decades. It is scorned as dirty oil and its landscape portrayed as barren and bleak as the moon. But in reality, those propaganda images by environment groups don’t really show the other end of the story when the sand is replaced minus the oil, the landscape is re-contoured and the surface is re-soiled and re-vegetated in world-class reclamation projects.

According to Alberta Environment, the total active footprint as of December 31st 2010 for all land clearing, mining and reclamation was 71,497 hectares. In the past five years alone, almost 1,200 hectares have been permanently reclaimed.

In Kitimat, a terminal infrastructure will be constructed to handle the flow of oil and the movement of supertankers. According to Enron, in the past 25 years, 1,500 ships have travelled in and out of Kitimat, negotiating the long passage of the Douglas Channel where the water is deep and the walls are straight, making them good radar targets. A new radar and navigation system will be available for everyone’s benefit and state-of-the-art tugboats will escort the tankers for the slow10-hour journey to the terminal.

It’s no wonder people are torn between support and rejection. The hearings are scheduled to last until the summer 2013. Thousands of jobs, billions of dollars, and an ancient landscape and culture hang in the balance.

Just Posted

Dennis Saulnier rescued his daughters, two-year-old Brinley (left) and four-year-old Keegan, after their truck was driven off the road and into Cultus Lake on May 16, 2020. Reporter Jenna Hauck has been recognized by the B.C. and Yukon Community Newspapers Association for her story on the rescue. (Jenna Hauck/ The Progress)
Chilliwack Progress, Hope Standard staff take home 7 Ma Murray awards

Jenna Hauck, Eric Welsh, Jessica Peters, Emelie Peacock all earn journalism industry recognition

A student prepares to throw a plate full of whipped cream at principal Jim Egdcombe’s face as vice principal Devin Atkins watches as part of a fundraiser at Leary Integrated Arts and Technology elementary on Friday, June 11, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
The pied principals: Chilliwack elementary staff get messy for charity

Cops for Cancer fundraiser saw kids ‘pie the principal’ at Leary elementary in Chilliwack

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay
Webinar looks at sexual abuse prevention among adolescents

Vancouver/Fraser Valley CoSA hosts free online session on June 15

June is Brain Injury Awareness Month in Canada. (ADOBE STOCK IMAGE)
Shining a light on brain injury in Canada

June is Brain Injury Awareness Month

Chilliwack potter Cathy Terepocki (left) and Indigenous enhancement teachers Val Tosoff (striped top) and Christine Seymour (fuchsia coat), along with students at Vedder middle school, look at some of the 500-plus pinch pots on Thursday, June 10 made by the kids to honour the 215 children found at Kamloops Indian Residential School. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Chilliwack students make hundreds of tiny clay pots in honour of 215 Indigenous children

‘I think the healing process has begun,’ says teacher about Vedder middle school project

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

The Queen Victoria statue at the B.C. legislature was splattered with what looks like red paint on Friday. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)
Queen Victoria statue at B.C. legislature vandalized Friday

Statue splattered with red paint by old growth forest proponents

Police cars are seen parked outside Vancouver Police Department headquarters on Saturday, January 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Vancouver police officer charged with assault during an arrest in 2019

The service has released no other details about the allegations

Denmark’s Christian Eriksen receives medical attention after collapsing during the Euro 2020 soccer championship group B match between Denmark and Finland at Parken stadium in Copenhagen, Saturday, June 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner, Pool)
Denmark soccer player Christian Eriksen collapses during game against Finland

Eriksen was given chest compressions after collapsing on the field during a European Championship

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Members of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ Marine Mammal Response Program rescued an adult humpback what that was entangled in commercial fishing gear in the waters off of Entrance Island on Thursday, June 10. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Response Program)
Rescuers free humpback ‘anchored’ down by prawn traps off Vancouver Island

Department of Fisheries and Oceans responders spend hours untangling whale

As stories of the horrors of residential schools circulate after the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation announced it had located what are believed to be the remains of 215 children, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs said he feels a connection with the former students. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
2 sides of the same coin: Ex-foster kids identify with residential school survivors

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip says the child welfare system takes Indigenous children from their families

Nathan Watts, a member of the Tseshaht First Nation near Port Alberni, shares his story of substance use, a perspective he said isn’t seen enough. (Photo courtesy of Nathan Watts)
Public shaming, hate perpetuates further substance use: UVic researcher

Longtime addict Nathan Watts offers a user’s perspective on substance use

Most Read