The Enbridge Pipeline is Wrong for British Columbia and Should Be Stopped: It’s Bad Business for the Environment
Imagine, if you will, that it’s the spring of 2020.
Splashed across every newspaper in the province is the following story:
Enbridge Pipeline accident claims millions of salmon including Chinook and Coho. Bullhead trout also threatened, with clean-up estimated in the billions: Communities of Burns Lake, Smithers and Prince Rupert devastated. Managing Directors Kim Haakstad, Rebecca Scott were unavailable for comment. President Pamela Martin’s office advises that she is away on vacation in Maui.
Or how ’bout this:
Enbridge Senior Vice-President of Communications and former premier Christy Clark confirms the spill that has destroyed several sensitive eco-systems off the Queen Charlotte Sandspit will take at least five years to clean-up. Containment is presently hampered by rising tides and high winds. Ms. Clark assures, “Everything’s going our way, right? We’ve contained the, uh, spill, and gosh, ya know, we’re gonna do everything we can to get those salmon fry their jobs back, right? I had this thing waiting on my desk when I got here, eh? So, it’s not easy. We’re doing the best we can with what we’ve got to work with. No one could have anticipated this when we agreed to it in 2012. It was like something from a movie, right? We’re gonna get the people responsible and put cameras in the courtrooms so that everyone knows who they are, right?”
Wrong. It’s a bad deal.
The proposed Enbridge pipeline represents a bad deal for British Columbia and shouldn’t be signed. The federal government should be told, in as polite a way possible, that BC’s pristine forests and rivers are not Alberta’s lab rats. Notwithstanding the fact that the Albertans have already reckoned that the notion of a 730 mile, cross-province pipeline that spans Northern British Columbia–and benefits mostly Alberta, won’t fly in a province that just told its government to pack sand when it comes to a relatively “measly” consumption tax. Therefore, and quite logically I might add, they’re advocating what I’d like to endorse now: that we refine the Oil Sands bitumen (sludge) here in BC (and Alberta), come into a profit sharing agreement with our neighbor and the federal government and find another way of sending the end product to China and the United States. I know that double hulled tankers didn’t exist in the day of the Exxon Valdez and pipeline safety has come a long way too. But the risk is too high and the cost too great if that sludge ends up in valley floors, watersheds and fish escapements.
Firstly, two words about China and the Oil Sands. I respect my friend Ezra Levant’s use of the word ‘Ethical Oil’. It well represents the fact that we should be doing business with our larger trading partners (including the oft and appropriately condemned, shamefully anti-Tibetan Chinese) instead of pumping the pockets of the Arab world that seeks to destroy humanity by having them half ignite Islamofascism with direct support and indirectly by turning the other cheek. I get all that. It makes sense to reduce adding to their bottom line. Young girls shouldn’t be mutilated. Women deserve the right to vote, drive and be seen–not covered up, but as the beautiful creatures they are and homosexuals should be able to live free and with pride. Adultery (because you’ve been married to your misogynistic 94 year old uncle for ten years) shouldn’t be cause for a firing squad. I appreciate all this, very much. Not funding such lunacy, or at least, reducing it where and when we can, makes perfect sense.
Secondly, I also understand and appreciate that the Oil Sands represent too significant a portion of our GDP to be ignored. As much as the enviro-alarmists want to bellyache (have they ever done anything else?), the world is still driven (pun intended) by oil. Like it or not, we drive cars and will not ever turn into a cycling country. Our weather is inclement and at least in this province (with Vancouver as prime example) we live in cities with peaks and valleys. We drive our children to school. We deliver our parents to hospitals, hairdressers and hockey games–cars are here to stay. You can whine all you like, it won’t change a damn thing.
But this doesn’t mean we risk virgin forest and unspoiled land. If an accident happens, the impact is absolutely devastating. It’ll never get cleaned up.
The proposed pipeline is actually two pipelines, with bitumen in one and condensate–used to push through the sludge, in the other–and it will almost certainly be compromised at some point. Enbridge actually admits to this in several of their latest efforts at rhetorical spin and I find that most disconcerting.
It’s not just that the pipeline itself crosses 1,176 kms (730 miles), it’s that it straddles, crosses or barely bypasses almost 800 streams, 600 of them fish bearing. Nevermind that mule deer, moose, elk, white tails, mountain goats and bears inhabit several of the regions the pipeline crosses. Forget that several northern BC towns would be shut down. The impact to the environment, in the most beautiful province in the country, would be perfectly calamitous.
The Enbridge pipeline would have to cross wetlands, flood plains, bird sanctuaries, valuable watersheds and productive fish escapements.
You want to run 525,000 barrels a day of bitumen past all that? And 193,000 barrels per day of condensate?
If you answered ‘Yes!’ to that, you must have rocks for brains. In which case you should be more sensitive to protecting your earth brothers.
Any of Chinook, Pink and Coho salmon could have their stocks ransacked for decades. Bull head trout, plentiful in the area just to the west of and below Burns Lake, as far as to the south of Prince Rupert, could be wiped out completely.
Steelhead, which have only really come back there in the last ten years, could be finished from the region. The diluted bitumen combined with debris and sediment would likely accrue in spawning fields causing the kind of environmental ruin that would rank somewhere near the top of world disaster standards.
I’m supposed to support such lunacy?
I’ve hunted and fished in the region in the past and I can tell you from traveling that terrain both on ATV (where you can!) on foot, and above it by helicopter, it’s the most beautiful in all British Columbia. And damn well challenging. You’ve never fished, until you’ve fished sockeye in the Bulkley. And if you think a pack and rifle are tough to slog in such remote areas, try getting in there with thousands of tons of necessary remediation infrastructure and finding a leak or spill and then fixing it. The whole pipeline idea–in that part of the province, makes zero sense.
And I’m not listening to the alarmists that are idiotically telling the country to shut down the Tar Sands. That’s the other extreme.
I’ve gone to authorities on the likely problems.
From the ‘Independent Report for the Northwest Institute for Bioregional Research’ written by Mike Miles, M.Sc. (P. Geo), and David Bustard, M.Sc. (R.P. Bio):
“There do not appear to be any proven techniques for effectively mitigating these (potential) impacts.”
Critical spawning and rearing habitats, like those for the rare mountain white fish, might be subject to an inability to assuage the risk for such catastrophic circumstances.
Why take the bloody chance?
And then there’s the business case against it: Alberta gets the majority of the benefit, and we eat all the risk. No rider from the Alberta government, nothing. No assurances from the feds, zilch. Although, I must state, that Premier Redford is doing a superb job in getting the proponents–like former premier Loughheed, out there and their voices heard. In fact, out of anything I’ve read, Peter Loughheed’s suggestion of refining the bitumen in Canada, resonates. Again, the extremists who believe in climate change alarmist hooey will whine, but that makes as much sense as the pipeline proposal.
If you consider that the spill toxicity and dispersal reach of the Exxon Valdez impacted various regions up the BC and Alaskan coasts to the point that, even today, the habitats affected remain largely degraded, then you understand the potential tragedy.
That was March of 1989–TWENTY TWO YEARS AGO.
A pipeline to the coast, through Burns Lake, past Houston, near Smithers and Hazelton that dips below Prince Rupert out to the Queen Charlotte sandspit, where tankers would be required to navigate often treacherous waters, is as asinine as anything I’ve ever heard.
Selling the Tar Sands is important, but a cross-province pipeline like the one proposed is too dangerous and represents a bad deal for BC–and most importantly our environment.
Please write Premier Christy Clark and Prime Minister Stephen Harper and tell them so.