Custom Search
Top Stories
Go to Site Index See "Top Stories" main page
REPORTING · 28th March 2014
Walter McFarlane
Enbridge is like a solid gold toilet, placed in the centre of a living room. It has become the topic of discussion for the party going on around it, but no one in the room can agree whether it is a good thing, a bad thing or should even be there in the first place.

There is no denying it, the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline is a dividing factor in this community and many others along it’s path. The decision to ask the community about what they think has left a number of people considering the risk and the reward the project offers Kitimat.

I go to a lot of events focused on the Enbridge Project. I’ve listened to the yes side, the no side, looked at the facts, read a portion of the JRP report, glanced at the 209 conditions and have reached the following conclusion:

The Enbridge Northern Gateway project is a complex project to which there is no wrong answer. There are issues, there are risks and there are rewards.


The rewards have been listed out by the proponent on their website. The big one is the promise of the tax dollars which will come rolling off of this project into the Provincial Coffers, $1.2 billion dollars in tax revenue and $4.3 billion in labour over the next 30 years. This means little for Kitimat because it’s already difficult to convince the Province to invest money up here.

While there is no data online to show how much Enbridge will bring Kitimat in Taxation, Enbridge has promised to bring in enough taxation to solve all of Kitimat’s problems, promised by Morgan Yates in February 2011.

But industrial taxation is a tricky issue. There has been lobbying for industries to receive less taxation. 2009 was the year the District of Kitimat brought a motion on industrial taxation to the Union of BC Municipalities where it went over very well with the other community leaders. It was also in July of that year Eurocan took the District of Kitimat to court because its taxes were too high and lost. Finally, 2009 was also the Year Eurocan announced it’s shut down.

Enbridge will create a number of high paying jobs. 3000 during construction. After construction, the current job tally is 165 people in Kitimat to operate the terminal, monitor the project and maintain the equipment once the project is complete. They have also stated there will be 560 jobs in British Columbia. However, the number of jobs changes quite often.

Enbridge is also promising to train workers and provide money for this purpose. As Donny Van Dyk reported to Council a few weeks ago, they are going ahead with this.


The risk lies within the chance of a spill, whether from the pipeline, the terminal or from a tanker. Kitimat is often referred to facing a triple barrel shotgun, being affect by a potential to experience all three.

While there are people out there who deny that Kitimat has experienced earthquakes, these shakeups are of concern to the opponents of the Enbridge Pipeline who hope they will not have a negative impact on the pipeline. Similarly, there are concerns of the Pipeline exiting the mountain in an area known for boulders falling.

In the whole process, one of the most published pictures of the Douglas Channel has had a number of its island’s airbrushed out. The Douglas Channel is a fairly narrow trek for the super tankers and involves two 90 degree turns which are close to each other.

Enbridge has promised state of the art technology to mitigate a spill. According to the JRP Report, the minimum amount of time it will take the proponent to seal off a pipeline is 13 minutes. According to the Douglas Channel Watch, the response time to get to a spill has been reported as four hours. Finally, any spill at the terminal is expected so the area is supposed already be contained prior to loading.

The most likely cause of any environmental disaster is going to be human error. In the case of a spill, the Haisla First Nations will most likely lose a large portion of their cultural identity, as it relates to the banquet of food which they were able to harvest from the Douglas Channel Waters.

The other question is how long will it take the Douglas Channel or Kitimat River to return to normal. All of the answers I have been given estimate from 3 to 20 years. However, there is still oil from the Exxon Valdez on the beaches of the Prince William Sound, if you dig down deep enough. One thing we can learn from history is that a spill will create a lot of jobs.

There are other factors of course.


A concern I have is this project is all about exporting a diminishing resource which we still use for a lot of purposes. Plastics and personal transportation aside, fossil fuels are used in the production and delivery of basic necessities such as food.

Fossil fuels are going the way of the dinosaur. New technology is being developed which can easily replace oil based electricity. Power generating technologies are being built better and are becoming more efficient. There is hydro power, wind power and solar power. While they may not be perfect today, tomorrow is another day and there are a number of tests going on.

The George Washington University has installed walkways which generate enough electricity to power the lighting underneath them. Solar Roadways has plans to replace the current highways of the world with solar roads which feed power into a larger grid. Motor Development International has created the AIRPod which is powered by compressed air and hits the streets later this year.

The world is changing and as these technologies improve, society will use less and less oil.


The Plebiscite is not so much on Enbridge as it is on the Joint Review Panel Report. The JRP Process which officially concluded last December is really only a fraction of the larger picture. To their credit, they listened to facts of the people who presented to them and the opinion of proponent.

I read Connections, which is an 81 page document justifying how the Joint Review Panel came to its conclusions. The reports show a lot of thought and consideration. The panel does not look at one side, or both sides, they look at every aspect of the project which was presented to them. It talks about almost everything.

However, the report states there are a number items which were beyond the JRP’s mandate. The most important of these is Aboriginal Rights and Title. The report at least recognized these issues existed but they were not factored into the final decision.

I also read the 209 recommendations which are laid out in Volume 2, Appendix 1 and cover the scope of the project. Some will have to be done prior to construction, others can be complete during construction or prior to operating and others have to be completed after commencing operations. They are there to make sure Enbridge builds the safest pipeline it can.

The report tells us any of these conditions may be reconsidered if the Governor in Council orders it to do so, specifying any factor which they must take into reconsideration. The NEB can confirm a condition, remove it or replace it.

Finally, the report expressed that Enbridge had provided a larger number of studies and information than they were supposed to and were given some leeway on not providing detailed plans. The Panel concluded they had enough information to make their decision.

Once again, it is about risk vs reward. The report says it well on Page 73 of Volume 1: “Considering the burdens and benefits, we found that the project would bring significant local, regional, and national benefits. These benefits, on balance, outweighed the potential burdens of the project. These benefits would be both social and economic. In addition, Northern Gateway has made commitments that we believe would contribute to improved environmental knowledge and protection, especially in the marine ecosystems along the British Columbia northern coast. We found that the construction and operation of the project would have adverse environmental effects on some ecosystems. They would be temporary. In two cases we recommend the project effects, in combination with effects of past, present, and reasonably foreseeable projects, activities, and actions, be found likely to be significant. We found that these would be justified in the circumstances.”


The final factor in this whole mess is the question of what the Council will do with the results. It might not even matter who comes out on top. After all, this term of the Kitimat City Council has a track record of doing the opposite of what the community wants them to do.

The Mayor has made a stance over the last 6 years of not going against industry. That said, she has also put forward a stance of healing previous mends in the community. Unfortunately, the Enbridge issue has the potential to rip the town all apart again… Much like the Power Sales issue of old.

Anyone who attends Council should have an inkling of where the Councillors stand. Three of our elected officials are clearly opposed, three of them in favour and one of them is a mystery still. However, as several have not officially come out yet, the question becomes, will they side with the winning side of the Plebiscite to better their chances in the upcoming election, later this year?

Have we, the taxpayers, put forward $15,000 for a fall re-election campaign?

Finally, if I were on the yes side, I would not trust that question. The results could be twisted to a no victory should those 209 conditions suddenly decrease.


Do the rewards, outweigh the risks? That is slightly less convoluted than the question Kitimat is going to answer on April 12th. However, in the end, it is a decision the community will have to make, and most likely, live with.

After all, it is the future generations which will look back on us, with pride or with shame, based upon the decisions we make today.
Comment by rick on 30th March 2014
you hit the nail on the head. bingo..
Comment by Kev on 30th March 2014
"You are not lost, it just seems like it sometimes - but just keep your general direction headed west and you will be sure to find the Pacific"

IF we keep investing in fossil fuel projects then that is where we are headed [same old path], but if that money was going into renewables we would be changing our direction [to a better future].

At the very least, EFFICIENCY is crucial at this late stage where we have put such massive amounts of CO2 into the air in just 100 years that we are seeing signs of "runaway global warming" [methane clouds are rising out of the Arctic ocean and tundra - google it!]. Really, if we are going to keep burning fossil fuels we have to do it efficiently - and the Tar Sands and even just this Gateway project is massively stupid on that front:
- solvents imported from China to Alberta
- mix solvents with bitumen = Dilbit
- huge energy used to shove the Dilbit thru pipe
- do the solvents stay mixed in on the Tankers?
- if so the solvents go back to China
- and make a spill highly toxic

Without Gateway, Tar Sands expansions will not happen.... and the Tar Sands are causing cancer to 1st Nations living downstream... think about THAT!!! Enbridge/Suncor/etc don't care about people getting cancer, they deny it... it is obvious, even in the wildlife and fish.
good article
Comment by mmurphy on 30th March 2014
good article Walter, enjoyed that although I don't agree with some comments, I really appreciate that you presented views on both sides.
Renovict residence then call a vote?
Comment by Angie Campbell on 30th March 2014
Seems a bit unfair to the actual long-term / permanent residence of Kitimat/Xaisla Territory to call for a vote when a good number of the residents have forced to move away. The new residents are here to earn money. This vote is so set-up, you might as well....ask a carpenter if he wants tools.
Comment by Bonnie on 29th March 2014
Also was impressed with your write up - very difficult and complex issue for all of Canada - it is very sad that foreign companies are taking over Canada's resources, I think the feds got themselves in way over their heads and are now puppets to China. Kind of scary.
Enbridge--Reward vs Risk
Comment by David McRae on 29th March 2014
Thank you for the great, well balanced article Walter! I do agree the vast majority of oil spill fiasco's of late have been the direct result of human failure, not technology
The bottom line
Comment by Gary Edwards on 29th March 2014
Enbridge themselves have admitted there will be spills. They don't deny it.
What should concern Kitimat and British Columbians at large is , when these spills occur what do the people plan to eat.
These pipes cross the head waters of our major fish spawning river systems . These systems don't just produce fish. They feed a whole ecosystem. When that system is polluted (and it will be) the system can't survive. So folks, what will you eat.
I can pretty much guarantee you that if a spill occurs the companies involved will tie everything up in the courts for years and continue pumping and spilling in the meantime.
The worst case scenario (if the line is built) is to shut it down until every drop is cleaned up. The best case would be to vote against it.

There are many people in the south of the province watching your town and the majority of us back the vote against this pipeline.
Comment by Frances Dietz on 28th March 2014
Dear Walter McFarlane (and the Citizens of Kitimat):

Thank you for a very well-written and balanced article, re: "Enbridge ... Reward vs Risk".

However, in the end, I have to conclude that there doesn't really seem to be much of a balance between the two. All the rewards are based on promises and are within ever-shifting parameters and "tricky" propositions. The risks are certainly more tangible and solid, and besides that, we know the consequences.

As a citizen of this province of BC, and a
resident of Vancouver, I just want to send the City of Kitimat my support in making a tough decision, coming in April regarding the non-binding plebiscite on the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project.

It really is not my position to judge one way or the other, how this outcome should turn out - I am not an expert to know what the best interests of your municipality are. I do know that Kitimat exists largely through being an industrial port.

But, I do HOPE the City's answer will be "NO".

I was born in Alberta and I lived there when the Tarsands were still in a proposal stage. Even then, a lot of people tried to stop the development
because of the damage and devastating effect it would have on Alberta's northern environment. Unfortunately, it is now the reality.

As you mentioned in this article, there are two components to transporting this oil - the pipeline and the tanker.

The pipeline, logically, can never be 100% safe (yes, there WILL be a spill, no "chance" about it) and will
always be a threatening risk to the land environment.

But it is the water's safety that truly troubles me.

Once the pipeline reaches the coast, Enbridge has no more responsibility for it. It is the tanker traffic and the movement of this heavy oil on
our coastal waters that makes this RISK truly unacceptable, in my opinion.

It definitely would be a very different situation if this product were a safe commodity to transport, but as we know, it is not.

Some of us in the Greater Vancouver area are trying to oppose Kinder Morgan's pipeline proposal through the Joint Review Panel's review for the
very same reasons. From what I know, we definitely speak out for the majority of people around here.

Of course, these JRP recommendations are not final, but personally, I feel that they only serve to inflame the Opposition when this federal Board
approves something the people do not really need nor want.

In my estimation, this issue is not and should not be considered political. Politics is so wishy-washy, and it seems so unfair and lop-sided, when they and the corporations that they stand behind have all this money to throw around to "airbrush" the facts. Peoples hands are not tied and their power is what matters. What do the people want, especially the local citizens?

It is my sincere WISH that Kitimat will vote against Enbridge's plans for Northern Gateway.

Frances Dietz
Good Article Walter...
Comment by Larry Walker on 28th March 2014
I am impressed.