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Controlled burn after 6,000 barrels of oil spilled from ruptured Enbridge pipeline in Cohasset, Minnesota in July, 2002. Photo: US National Transportation Safety Board.
NEWS RELEASE · 2nd December 2011
Douglas Channel Watch

(Kitimat – December 1, 2011) Enbridge admits their oil spill cleanup plan for the Northern Gateway Pipeline includes setting fire to oil-coated grass in the Kitimat River estuary.

In volume 7A of its Northern Gateway pipeline, tank farm, and supertanker port proposal, Enbridge claims it would burn wetlands, “To reduce hydrocarbon volume when other techniques are unsuitable or would cause more damage to an area.” It also claims that setting fire to oil spills will be, “Used in areas where heavy equipment would cause environmental damage.”

In volume 7B of its proposal, Enbridge admits there would be potential for a two-million-litre spill into the upper Kitimat River, which would be the largest oil spill into a Canadian river in history.

Enbridge estimates it would take responders and their equipment up to four hours to reach the spill site, and that the diluted bitumen would reach the Kitimat River estuary during flood conditions in those same four hours.

“Estuaries are among the world's most critical environments, helping sustain so many of the worlds organisms including millions of fish and birds and the countless others that depend on them,” said Walter Thorne of the Kitimat Valley Naturalists.  “The Kitimat River is already severely endangered and the cumulative threats it faces are ominous. Burning the estuary sounds preposterous – even considering such options is unthinkable.”

"Since the 1950s, the Kitimat River estuary has deteriorated, largely due to impacts by two industries," said Thorne. "If a pipeline were to burst upstream or near the terminal, it's highly probable that the estuary would be contaminated beyond rehabilitation -- a toxic wasteland."

When Douglas Channel Watch asked Enbridge directly if it would burn the Kitimat River estuary after a full bore rupture, the company’s spokespeople replied, “If a controlled burn were appropriate in certain circumstances, the response team may recommend such an action.”

“It is nothing short of lunacy,” said Douglas Channel Watch member Murray Minchin, “If Enbridge’s people think they can waltz through our valley and lay 70 kilometres of pipelines beside our river unopposed, they're delusional. If they think there will be no opposition to the idea of supertankers carrying 300 million litres of bitumen trying to make three 90-degree turns to reach open water, they're completely blinded by greed. Enbridge has already told us our river will be closed to fishing for at least four years after a major spill; now we find out they intend to burn one of the BC coast’s largest estuaries in the case of a spill. Enbridge may be willing to sacrifice our river, or BC's north coast, but we don't intend to let them.”

Douglas Channel Watch is a group of concerned citizens dedicated to protecting the environmental integrity of Douglas Channel and its watersheds for present and future generations. It, and the Kitimat Valley Naturalists, are registered as interveners in the National Energy Board’s Joint Review Panel process, which is currently reviewing the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline.
Comment by J hazelwood on 1st June 2012
Good Day All
Just a few comments on the above. While this is very late it is still worth a reply
Douglas Channel Watch: I appreciate your agenda however twisting facts it instil fear among readers is not constructive. Enbridge plans to ignite in oil spill would of course be the last resolve if all else fails. To answer FayEllen McFarlane question regarding heavy machinery vs. oil contamination, heavy machinery wins every time. The premise of igniting an oil spill is so toxins burned off and don’t leach into the ground affectively rendering the ground barren for many years. Scares from heavy machine would disappear in a relatively short time.
The fact the 17(a+b) mentions these environmental disasters are not surprising at all and in fact goes towards building credibility of their proposal. If they had not considered such events and counter-measures, the proposal would be worthless.
In a risk assessment, there are three sections; Hazard, Consequence and Risk. In this case the hazard is a pipe failure resulting in an oil leak, the consequence is pollution, and the Risk is the likelihood of it happening. When the risk is high safety barriers such as construction design and procedures are put in place. The risk should be reduced as long as possible. Disagreement comes between different parties as to what is acceptable risk. The fact that there could be a 4 hour response time once a leak is detected/reported, to me, means sufficient containment needs to be in place to hold any spills until the response team has arrived. I.E. if the is a 4 hour response time there should be a large containment area. If response time is 4 minutes a smaller containment area.
Words like supertankers and zig-zagging up the channel are somewhat misleading as well. Going around one island and a straight run for miles is hardy what is implied. Going back to risk, having a “supertanker” commonly known as VLCC is less risky than smaller vessels. A VLCC 2 or 3 times larger than smaller ship means ½ to 1/3 the traffic in the area. The consequence could be higher however a VLCC would require escort tugs in confined waters where a smaller vessel may not.
Paul Dament, not a great posting, clearly no real understanding of what happened on Transocean’s deepsea drill ship, Deepwater Horizon (at least at the time of posting) however you did mention the risk of these hazards being released are quite small which I would have to agree with you.
Apocalypse Now, by shear virtue of your pen name and abusive comments, you have no credibility.
what derrick are you talking about
Comment by Apocalypse Now on 9th December 2011
If you a refering to the rig in the Gulf of mexico it wasn't knocked over it exploded and collapsed into the gulf. You are a lunatic Mr. Demented.
Comment by Paul Dament, Alberta on 8th December 2011
If you had a clue,you wouldn't have posted such an inflamitory post.You comment like they're waiting with a torch.If Obama had half a brain,he would have ordered the same option instead of knocking the derrick over to make the situation impossible.but i guess he wanted to exploit the situation,no different than many of you.It's an extreme measure,but fire is a natural event,the ocean leeches off oil regularally and it would be the wisest option in the event of a spill,however how small of a chance it is to happen.
burning vs heavy equipment?
Comment by FayEllen McFarlane on 3rd December 2011
'Setting fire to oil spills will be "used in areas where heavy equipment would cause environmental damage."'
And I ask: "Setting a fire would cause LESS environmental damage than using heavy equipment?!"
Really? I certainly can't believe that!