Tankers, spills focus of Enbridge meet

KITIMAT RESIDENT Danny Nunes appeared as “Captain Planet” at a Feb. 1 forum held here to discuss Enbridge’s $5.5. billion Northern Gateway pipeline project. - kat lee PHOTO
KITIMAT RESIDENT Danny Nunes appeared as “Captain Planet” at a Feb. 1 forum held here to discuss Enbridge’s $5.5. billion Northern Gateway pipeline project.
— image credit: kat lee PHOTO

TANKER OWNERS and not Enbridge will be responsible if there’s an oil spill in B.C.’s coastal waters, a company official told a forum here Feb. 1.

Morgan Yates told 350 people at the REM Lee Theatre that there is a Canadian and international fund to clean up spills into oceans.

“We as a pipeline operator are responsible for any liability associated with respect to the pipeline or terminal,” he said. “The liability in respect to the marine spill rests with the tanker.”

Yates was one of four people speaking at the forum held to discuss Enbridge’s plans to build the $5.5 billion Northern Gateway pipeline to carry oil from Alberta to a marine export terminal at Kitimat.

The oil would be made easier to pump with the addition of a thinner called condensate. It’ll be pumped from Kitimat to Alberta in a twin pipeline.

Pipeline bursts were also a main topic at the session with a second panelist, Greg Brown of the Northwest Institute of Bioregional Research in Smithers questioning their overall reliability.

“The thing about pipelines is that they get old and they eventually wear out,” Brown said.

“The risks are there, the consequences are high, B.C. could suffer greatly, and Canadians could lose an important part of our economy,” he said.

Yates said there have been significant improvements in pipeline technology and that the Gateway plan is being rigorously reviewed.

“This project can be designed, built and operated safely,” he said. “Pipeline and marine transportation technology have both improved significantly in recent decades, and these improvements will be incorporated.”

Yates said the project will bring significant economic benefit to the country, the province, and the northwest.

Mike Bernier, mayor of Dawson Creek, was one of the panelists.

“I’m not here today to say I’m for or against the Enbridge pipeline, I’m not here to say what’s right or wrong for the people in this area,” he said, instead going through the impacts and the economic benefits his community sees from the northeast oil and gas industry.

“You can appreciate that not everybody’s happy with what goes on in the area, and respectfully so,” said Bernier, adding there are issues with land use and community groups unhappy with the development.

“Rural residents struggle with this, when you look at the disruption next to your house, the damage to the land in your backyard, and the hazards that come along with this, yes, there are definitely some concerns.”

But Bernier said development has increased, and there are spin-off benefits.

An agricultural town has now changed into an oil and gas town with jobs allowing residents to stay instead of leaving to find work.

There’s been an increase in tax dollars, houses, hotels and industrial parks have been built, Bernier said.

Kitselas chief councillor Glenn Bennett was the fourth panelist, saying Kitselas will wait until the federal Gateway review is completed before stating whether the project is being supported or not.

“I know we’ve heard there are a lot of concerns when you look at these types of projects,” he said, adding similar projects have damaged the environment.

“We have to weigh the balances as to how, ultimately, these projects are going to affect our traditional territory,” said Bennett.

The meeting was sponsored by the City of Terrace, the Terrace Economic Development Authority and the Terrace and District Labour Council.

The city didn’t have to pay any travel costs for Yates, Brown and Bennett, but the bill to the city ended up being almost $1,800 for Bernier’s travel, dinner and gifts for participants.

The labour council paid for the REM Lee Theatre Rental, advertising and the cost of the programs.

Enbridge had initially refused a city invitation to participate in the session but agreed after assurances were made that the session would be orderly.

A few uniformed police officers were visible but at most there was only light heckling from the crowd after some of Yates’ answers.

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