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NEWS RELEASE · 29th July 2010
BC NDP Caucus
News that a pipeline operated by Enbridge has spilled more than three million litres of oil into a Michigan river has left British Columbians deeply concerned about the company’s plan to run a twinned pipeline from the Alberta tarsands to the port of Kitimat, say New Democrats.

The proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline would cross more than 1000 streams and rivers, including the headwaters of the Fraser and the Skeena rivers.

“It’s time for the B.C. Liberals to explain why they continue to support a project that has the potential to threaten some of our most significant waterways, including the Skeena and the Fraser River,” said New Democrat environment critic Rob Fleming.

“The major risks posed by both the pipeline and the hundreds of crude oil supertankers that would carry tarsands crude from our coast far outweigh any short-term benefits to the region and our province as a whole.”

The three million litre spill originated in Talmadge Creek, a small waterway located in the state of Michigan. Enbridge’s slow response to the spill meant the oil was left to cascade down the creek for hours until it entered the Kalamazoo River, which empties into Lake Michigan.

“This latest Enbridge spill is a reminder that all the promises in the world from big oil companies can’t protect our rivers and coastlines if the B.C. Liberals let this pipeline go forward,” said Gary Coons, the New Democrat MLA for the North Coast. “Instead of listening to British Columbians, who have said loud and clear that they are not willing to take this risk, the B.C. Liberals are pandering to one of their major campaign donors.”

Enbridge, which donated more than $50,000 to the B.C. Liberal party from 2005 to 2009, has said they don’t know what went wrong with the pipeline. However, Enbridge’s CEO, Patrick Daniels downplayed the 27 kilometre long Kalamazoo spill by saying it was only the company’s “second or third largest” spill.

The governor of the state of Michigan has declared a state of disaster in response to the spill, which is already being called the worst environmental catastrophe in U.S. Midwest history.

“The northwest is known worldwide for intact wilderness and incredible hunting and sport-fishing opportunities,” said Doug Donaldson, the New Democrat MLA for Stikine. “All it would take is one spill to destroy our reputation as a destination for tourism, fishing and hunting – which would blow a hole in the northwest economy that short-term construction jobs could never fill.”

New Democrats are also deeply concerned about reports that the company may have waited up to 11 hours before reporting the spill to authorities, especially given the remote nature of much of the land that the pipeline would cross.

“If it takes Enbridge almost half a day to respond to a spill that happens in a densely populated and easy to access area, how long would it take them to respond to a pipeline rupture in an isolated and remote area?” asked Robin Austin, the New Democrat MLA for Skeena. “Enbridge’s sluggish response to the Kalamazoo River spill doesn’t give British Columbians reason to be confident about this company’s ability to protect our waterways from devastation in the face of inevitable accidents.”

Coastal First Nations and First Nations along the pipeline route are overwhelmingly against the project. Both the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs and the Coastal First Nations alliance have condemned the project and vowed to fight against it.