Latest Enbridge Oil Spill Proves Once Again the Risks of the Northern Gateway Pipeline Are Too Great for the Project to Be Approved
VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA - In the wake of a large new Enbridge Pipeline oil spill that spilled 190,000 litres of oil in Wisconsin on Friday, BC leaders including First Nations, a municipal councillor, a former cabinet minister, and conservation groups held a press conference today to call for the rejection of the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline and tanker proposal. The Northern Gateway pipeline would pass through some of BC's most inaccessible and difficult terrain, crossing hundreds of rivers and streams, and resulting in over 225 oil supertanker transits each year in the unpredictable waters of the north coast, through whale habitat, fishing grounds, and other sensitive marine areas.
"Well, look who just caught up. Premier Clark is right that we need to stand up to Alberta's aggressive oil agenda, but selling our coast and rivers out from under us is not the way to do it," said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs. "First Nations right across BC have vowed we will never allow Enbridge's pipeline and tankers, and non-Natives are united with us in a growing groundswell of unity to protect all of us from oil spills. The right move for Premier Clark is to take decisive action and join us in slamming shut the door on dangerous oil tanker and pipeline projects."
Over the past five years, opposition to the Enbridge pipeline and tanker project has steadily grown. Over 100 First Nations have banned tar sands pipelines and tankers from their traditional territories. Two-thirds of B.C. residents oppose crude oil supertankers in inside coastal waters while only 22% are in support (Source: Justason Poll, March 2012, http://bit.ly/H8eVAV).
"Protecting our salmon streams and our ocean coast from oil spills is not negotiable," said former BC Liberal Leader and former federal Minister of the Environment, David Anderson. "No amount of money can protect our coast, and no amount of money can repair the damage of a spill of heavy Alberta crude oil. Given the poor reputation of Enbridge for environmental and worker safety, it is high time for the Enbridge Northern Gateway application to be rejected and the 40 year ban on bulk oil movements on the waters of the West Coast to be reaffirmed. Premier Clark should make that clear to the Alberta and federal governments, and then move on to negotiating a Canadian National Energy Strategy based not on increasing production and consumption, but on the fundamental need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from all Canadian sources."
Numerous municipalities have formally opposed the project, as has the Union of BC Municipalities. Thousands of people have taken to the streets in recent months- in Prince Rupert, Vancouver, Edmonton, Saskatoon, Winnipeg and Toronto - voicing opposition to Enbridge. Over 100,000 people have signed petitions opposing the project.
"British Columbians have made clear that our coast and our communities are not for sale. Our issue isn't the money - it's about risking our fishing and tourism economies for oil tankers and pipelines. Of course Premier Clark should stand up for BC, but the only responsible stand is to say no to oil tankers and tar sands pipelines, period," said Jennifer Rice, a city councillor in Prince Rupert. The Prince Rupert city council, and other government bodies such as the City of Terrace, Town of Smithers and the Skeena Queen Charlotte Regional District, (which includes the communities on Haida Gwaii), have passed similar resolutions opposing the pipeline.
On the eve of the Premiers' Conference last week Premier Clark issued five pre-conditions that she says must be met before she will "consider support" for Enbridge. These pre-conditions include assurances about the project's safety, that First Nations rights be respected, and that BC receive financial compensation from Alberta.
"The government's pipeline pre-conditions will not protect BC from oil spills, as evidenced by Enbridge's latest spill, just three days ago," said Josh Paterson, staff lawyer at West Coast Environmental Law Association. "As the premier has recognized, government pipeline and tanker safety requirements can't eliminate the risk of pipeline ruptures or ship accidents. That's why so many people in BC have said we won't accept oil tankers and pipelines under any conditions."
Linda Nowlan of the World Wildlife Fund added: "Our concern has never been that there should be more capacity to respond to a catastrophic oil spill in our rivers or on our coast. Our concern has never been that this province's share of revenues was not yet high enough. Our concern is that the Great Bear region of BC's north coast is no place for crude oil pipelines or oil tanker traffic. Not now, and not ever, and not at any price."
Two years ago Enbridge was responsible for the worst inland oil spill in U.S. history. The company's botched response drew unprecedented criticism from the US National Transportation Safety Board, which described Enbridge as a "Keystone Kops" operation with a "culture of deviance" around safety. This past weekend Enbridge shut down a major pipeline in the US because of an oil spill, and there have been at least 3 pipeline spills in Alberta in the past 3 months, triggering an admission of safety problems by the Alberta provincial government which has led to a pipeline safety review.
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip
City of Prince Rupert
West Coast Environmental Law Association