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REPORTING · 6th October 2011
Walter McFarlane
Kitimat held an Educational Forum on the Northern Gateway Project on September 20th at Mount Elizabeth Theatre. The theatre was packed with people. Ron Poole, Municipal Manager for the District of Kitimat Moderated the Event. The presenters had an hour present, 15 minutes was allotted to Ellis Ross, Chief Councillor for Kitamaat Village, Mike Mike Bernier, Mayor of Dawson Creek, Greg Brown, from the Northwest Institute for Bio Regional Research, and John Caruthers, President of Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline, who presented in that order.

Caruthers stepped up next. He stated the project has been shaped, by commercial interests, studies and Aboriginal and non aboriginal input. He stated as pipelines were buried a metre below the ground, covered with vegetation and in remote locations, people do not know they are there. They also generate tax revenues for community funding.

However, in Kitimat, there are two key questions: “How do we earn the support of Aboriginals communities?” said Caruthers. “The other one, that affects the remainder of the community, is: ‘Could there be a spill in the coastal waters?”

Caruthers agreed with everything said by Ross earlier in the forum concerning two way dialogue and rights and title. He also said while one can conclude there will not be a spill, there can be a spill.

He told the audience people have to be aware of the chance of the spill and the impact. “But what is not uncertain is our drive to make the chance of a spill as close to zero as we possibly can. And we are fully aligned with all the people in this room on that point, that we need to make sure there isn’t a spill. But then, not withstanding how close we come to making it zero, describing what we want to do in case of an incident so there is a quick and effective response,” said Caruthers.

He stated Canada was in a great position to export oil to the United States, as the States is an energy consumer. Canada has one customer, however, the US demand is lessoning while world demand is increasing as the population and standard of living is growing. However, Canadian oil is not receiving full value and now, there are trade restrictions.

Caruthers stated the Exxon Valdez was a single hulled ship escorted by a tug. They are proposing double hulled tankers escorted by two tugs. At the time, 21 years ago, there was no pilot aboard and captains were not subject to alcohol tests. Since then, 11,000 ships have traveled through Prince William Sound.

“We go through a full simulation to make sure it can be done safely. We utilize BC pilots and locals to make sure we have the correct community interest looking at it. We will commit to improved navigational aids, new radar. The crews and ships will be vetted by an independent organization. There will be strong weather monitoring for ship transit. They will reduce their speed as they go through the channel. The most important ones that we see is the use of tugs. We will have a tug tethered to load tankers and a second tug that will assist them in case of an emergency,” said Caruthers.

They are similarly subjecting themselves to a TERMPOL review to ensure they can do all of this safely. While they might not be responsible for the oil once it is out of the terminal, they are committed to emergency response. They will have a capacity three times the Canadian Standard which can be launched from the North Coast. It will allow them a 6 hour response rather then the 72 under the Canadian Standard.

He moved on to the rivers. He expressed pipelines are the safest way to transport oil, but they did have a problem in Michigan. They will look at why it happened and use new technology which has improved over the last 10 years. They look at wrought selection, the steel will be high standards, the pipe will be engineered and tested and the pipe will be high standard. The pipe will have valves at water crossings and testing will continue. The pipe will be monitored 24/7.

They will work through potential scenarios and make sure they have the people in place and trained.

“Although accidents are rare, if you don’t anticipate them, we will be fully prepared to minimize them and respond accordingly,” concluded Caruthers.