REPORTING · 18th December 2013
Murray Minchin from Douglas Channel watch presented to Council on December 16th on the topic of the coming Enbridge Joint Review Panel decision. His presentation has been reproduced below.
“Thank you Mayor and Council. I would like to start by recognizing that this meeting is being held on Haisla traditional territory.
It took me a while to understand why Kitimat's Mayor and Council would take a neutral position on Enbridge's Northern Gateway dual pipeline and supertanker port proposal.
My guess is that you did so because, at the time, Kitimat was the fastest shrinking city in Canada, and then to make things even worse, Eurocan shut down. You probably didn't want to appear difficult in the eyes of other companies that were considering coming to Kitimat. Under such dire circumstances, neutrality was probably the most politically wise position to take.
Kitimat's fortunes have changed since then, and now you have a choice in what level of risk we assume, compared to the benefits that come with those risks.
As you know, the Joint Review Panel has almost finished its deliberations regarding Enbridge's Northern Gateway proposal, and the time is near when you must also make a decision to support or oppose it.
I came here tonight to remind you of some of the things Enbridge has said and done in the past that hasn't made it into any of their slick and expensive ad campaigns, and probably didn't enter into any of your meetings with Enbridge officials either.
Enbridge's proposal is for 525,000 barrels per day in the diluted bitumen pipeline, but there is one sentence in over 10,000 pages where Enbridge admits they want to increase the flow in the pipeline to its actual design capacity of 850,000 barrels per day.
I find it easier to think in terms of litres, not barrels, so that means going from the proposed 82 million litres per day, to 135 million litres per day.
Enbridge's social responsibility reports used to state, "Despite our best efforts to prevent spills, incidents occur". Interestingly, this shoulder shrugging guarantee of future pipeline spills disappeared from the reports after their 3.8 million litre spill into the Kalamazoo River.
In January, 2001, Enbridge had another 3.8 million litre spill on rolling farming country near Hardisty Alberta, and it took them 14 hours to find the spill site. How long will do you think it will take them to find spills in the Upper Kitimat or Hoult Creek Valleys, in winter, under 20 feet of snow?
Enbridge has admitted that there could be a full bore rupture releasing millions of litres of diluted bitumen at Hunter Creek in the upper Kitimat Valley, and that the spill could reach Kitimat, and the Kitimat River estuary, in as little as four hours.
Under cross examination at the final hearings, Enbridge admitted it would take their spill response commander four hours to begin assessing a spill at Hunter Creek, in the Upper Kitimat. This means the spill would have already reached Kitimat, and the estuary, in the time it would take them to show up at the spill site, even if they knew exactly where the spill had occurred.
If bitumen reached the Kitimat River estuary grasses, Enbridge has admitted they will recommend setting fire to the estuary, because according to them, using heavy equipment to clean up the spill would be too damaging to the environment.
After a spill into the Kitimat River, Enbridge admits the river would be closed to fishing for 4 years, or more. This is probably a low ball estimate because Enbridge has just applied for yet another extension for dredging the bottom of the Kalamazoo River, 3 1/2 years after that spill occurred.
The US Environmental Protection Agency responded to that extension request by saying, “U.S. EPA believes that had Enbridge taken appropriate steps earlier as requested, it would not require an extension now. In particular, U.S. EPA believes that Enbridge has continuously failed to prepare adequate contingency plans for a project of this nature”.
One reason it's taking so long to dredge the Kalamazoo is that dredging must be shut down during "winter conditions" because bitumen thickens in the cold water and sediment, making recovery nearly impossible. I checked the weather in Marshall Michigan on the day they shut down for what they consider winter conditions, and it was -3 Celsius at night, and +9 Celsius during the day.
Enbridge has admitted their minimum leak detection technology would not set off an alarm in their Edmonton control centre with a leak below 178,000 litres per hour. That means a 100,000 litre per hour leak would spill 2.4 million litres of diluted bitumen a day, and no alarm would sound.
Enbridge has also admitted they will fly over the Northern Gateway pipelines every two weeks during the winter...so that means if 100,000 litres per hour were leaking for two weeks, the spill would be over 33 million litres and the control centre would not know it was happening.
Even if the much touted sensing wire capable of setting off alarms after very small leaks was used, Enbridge would not immediately shut down the pipeline at the sounding of an alarm; they would send somebody out to investigate, just like they did in Marshall Michigan where they found nothing, then turned the pumps back on despite there being a full bore rupture.
Another incentive for Enbridge to not turn off the pumps unless absolutely necessary is that there would be a string of supertankers stretched across the Pacific all heading for Kitimat, which would have to pass their time doing donuts off our less than docile coast waiting for the pipeline to fire up again.
Speaking of supertankers, Enbridge has been careful to declare Douglas Channel safe for supertankers, but Douglas Channel is not the most problematic area on the north coast for these ships.
Hecate Straight is the fourth most dangerous body of water in the world according to Environment Canada, and has only a very narrow channel on its eastern margin deep enough for these 1,100 foot long ships which have a draft of seventy feet. Scariest of all are the approaches to Douglas Channel from Camaano Sound to Whale Channel, with it's many rocks, narrow confines, and zed shaped turns.
Recovering 15% of a conventional marine oil spill (which floats) is considered a success.
According to a federal government study, Humpback Whale numbers in our waters have doubled in the last 10 years. The Joint Review Panel refused to consider this evidence.
The Panel also refused to enter the proposed increased volumes of 135 million litres per day, or potential LNG shipping traffic into the pipeline or marine spill probability estimates.
Any spill into the Kitimat River or north coast waters will sink, and be there for generations.
Enbridge has increased the amount of diluted bitumen to be stored in the proposed storage tanks to 1.3 billion litres. The tanks are to be on a low ridge right beside Douglas Channel, not far from a 50 kilometre long earthquake fault line discovered just last year, which runs right up Douglas Channel.
During the final hearings, I asked if Enbridge would keep running the pipelines past the length of time requested in their proposal. They replied that the pipelines would, "...have an indefinite life. In 30 years or 50 years, or beyond, the condition of that pipeline, really, will be the same as the condition when it was first put into service.”
That answer, outlandish as it is, was given while under oath, and it calls into question every other claim they have made concerning this proposal.
In closing, Douglas Channel Watch asks that you seriously consider the risk / reward relationship while deliberating whether to support or oppose the Northern Gateway proposal.
We also ask that you cast your minds 50 years into the future and consider our children's children. Despite Enbridge's claims of magical pipelines which never deteriorate, that last indefinitely, and will be as good as the day they first went into service, there are going to be spills, and the effects would be felt for generations afterward, if this project is built.
Thank you for hearing our concerns. We do have two questions though...how long will Mayor and Council be taking to review the JRP findings, and when may we expect your decision regarding the Northern Gateway proposal?”
Administration replied there is a motion that following the decision of the JRP, they will survey the community in January. Council will look at the survey results and then determine what they want to do.
Councillor Rob Goffinet wanted to know if the properties of Bitumen in salt water have been studied. Minchin stated the Federal Government is paying for and doing research for the study. He stated the Diluted Bitumen would most likely drop into the salt water below the fresh. A study might not show what would happen in the water of the Douglas Channel.
He did not know if anyone took up Enbridge’s offer to go to Marshal Michigan. Monaghan told him that Tracey Hittel did. Minchin stated they were concerned about being corralled if they went down and taken to things which Enbridge wanted you to see. However, the Kalamazoo is different from Kitimat as it is a slow moving river with incredible access and immense resources at hand.
“It bears no relation to anything we would experience here on the North Coast of BC
Germuth thanked Douglas Channel watch for the research they have done and getting their point across in a peaceful and respectful way.
The JRP has issued notice their report will be released on Thursday, December 19th at 1:30 Pm Pacific time.
Even beyond the northern gateway
Comment by Mary Ann Shannon on 19th December 2013
Murray Minchin's work is always profoundly significant and factual. The N.G. Project has taken this country beyond the decision that looms before us into the realm of preserving our democracy. Or with passive resignation, becoming the victims of the oil industry for many generations and children whose future lives depend on us now to make a change that would affect the world's climate. This decision is internationally significant. Do we want to be responsible for the deaths of so many more thousands of helpless victims suffering from climate change or do we want to be part of the solution. The world watches. Are you willing to increase the climate destruction to feed the greed?