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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.

Brown was next. “The issue at hand is introducing a crude oil pipeline, an export pipeline, a massive crude oil export pipeline and very large crude carriers, onto the BC coast,” said Brown. “We are the ones who was taking the risk of the inevitable oil spill that will occur.”

He explained he used the word inevitable because humans make mistakes. 80% of the oil spills in the world are because of human mistakes. He said no one can promise there would not be an oil spill. He cited the Exxon Valdez as an example and superimposed the size on the spill on the BC coast. He said clean up of an oil spill is considered a success if 15% of the oil is cleaned off the coast.

He pointed out the tanker has to travel 200 kilometres to open ocean and Enbridge is not responsible for the oil once it leaves the terminal. The highest waves off the coast of Cape Scott are 100’ high. In a storm, they were 60’ high. Brown added those waves break ships apart.

Brown pointed to the spill in Michigan which gushed oil for 12 hours because the company misinterpreted the information they were receiving. He asked what would happen if the pipeline went through the unpopulated parts of the mountains where there was no one to call 911 in the middle of night.

He moved on to the Queen of the North which is still having a diesel leak reported. The Queen of the North sand along the wrought the tankers are planning to use and they are 5-6 times bigger then the ships visiting Alcan.

He showed images of a double hulled tanker, punctured by a barge, a tug boat run aground on a rock.

His second point was the crude oil was unconventional. They have to dig and steam it to get it out of ground, dilute with a condensate. “This stuff is different. And I think, because it is different, it is going to be an experiment,” said Brown. “It is very acidic, 15-20 times more. It’s 5-10 more time sulphuric, it contains quartz sand particles which are acidic. It is 70 times more thicker then conventional crude oil and it’s full of heavy metals which bacteria do not like to eat,” said Brown.

He said the pipeline will be a higher temperature and will have more pressure then any other pipeline. The Alberta system has been transporting it and have found pipeline failure 16 times more frequently from internal corrosion then the US pipeline.

“No one is talking about this. Industry is tries to say, when there is an oil spill, nobody wants to admit what kind of oil it is,” said Brown. “Do we want to be guinea pigs with this experiment?”

Brown moved onto jobs. He stated Kitimat was hit with the closure of Eurocan so jobs are on peoples minds. There are fewer jobs in Enbridge then we think, at 52 jobs. He estimated the Skeena River alone was worth $110,000,000 in regional economy. There are 11,000 full time equivalent jobs related to marine harvesting on the coast.

Brown then pointed out this pipeline would also export jobs. There was $75,000,000,000 of capital to build refineries and upgraders. 12000 full time jobs disappeared as the money went into getting the oil out of the ground and exporting it raw.

He asked why Enbridge sponsors the events which they do. Why are they supporting the concert series in the theatre. “Because your voice matters. They are trying to get social license for this project. If you think this is not the right project for Kitimat, not the right project for Western BC and not the right project for Canada, then I ask you to join others, stand up and voice your opposition,” said Brown.

He pointed out the First Nations signed a declaration banning crude oil tankers. The UBCM has a resolution calling for a ban on crude oil tankers. He encouraged people to get engaged and informed about this project.