Kispiox costs

Columnist Rob Brown questions the true costs of an LNG pipeline running through the Kispiox valley

John Dunn, a veep for TransCanada’s Prince Rupert Gas Transmission project (PRGTP), part of which is proposed to run through the Kispiox Valley, challenges anyone to find another project that has moved as far as TransCanada in response to local concerns.

“This project started as a 750 kilometre pipeline … We have added almost 150 kilometres largely in response to consultation around environmental and construction impacts along the length of the pipeline, including the Kispiox,” Dunn whines to the Globe and Mail May 13.

But in order to feel sorry for putative hardships suffered by the folks at the Corporation, we’d need to ignore the atomistic PR corporations are always eager to promote in favour of a holistic view.

Plainly put, TransCanada wants to carry gas that has been fracked near Hudson Hope through pipes laid along right-of-ways cut through wild corridors in northern B.C. to plants near Prince Rupert where it will be liquefied then shipped off shore.

The project has a life expectancy. It will operate until the gas runs out or until market demand diminishes below the point of profitability due to an increased demand for alternate energy, or because the environmental Armageddon brought on by the over consumption of fossil fuels has reached the point where the survival of homo sapiens is doubtful, or some combination or permutation of all these factors.

The fundamental motive for the enterprise is to increase the profitability of the corporation thereby ensuring the greatest return to its owners and shareholders.

So what are the costs of the entire venture?

Fracking has an enormous environmental expense since it squanders millions and millions of litres of water while contributing huge amounts of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.

Laying a pipeline has an ecological cost. Some places are more costly than others. As in real estate, location is everything. A prairie pipeline will be less environmentally destructive than one built in a wilderness valley in mountainous northern B.C. because the latter is chock full of wildlife values.

The risk to the line is also significantly greater here because the rugged land in our back yard is inherently unstable, as well as being prone to slides, floods, and seismic events. With each injury to the line caused by these events, there will be more ecological impacts during the resulting repairs to the line.

A lot of trees must be cut and a lot of streams crossed to push pipe through a river valley. Every crossing comes with a cost. The smaller tributary streams in all our river valleys have an importance in inverse proportions to their size. They are wild hatcheries critical to salmonids and, by extension, everything that depends on salmon – which is everything because salmon are the hub of the ecological wheel.

In the Kispiox Valley, every smaller valley cut by a creek is vulnerable to ATV tires, road building, and brushing. The additive effect of all these small impacts needs to be carefully assessed before considering development of any kind within the valley as a whole.

The construction of LNG infrastructure on the coast will provide temporary jobs at a cost to the estuarine environment. Edges, hedges, and ledges are generators of life. Estuaries, edge environment where the land meets the sea, are the richest and most important life generating habitat in the world, which is why they should be free of coal ports, fish farms, pulp mills, and LNG plants. Sadly, humanity has compromised estuaries throughout its history, but this fortifies the argument that the healthy ones still standing should remain intact.

To liquefy natural gas requires staggering amounts of electricity that could be put to domestic use. Producing the final product adds another load of greenhouse gasses to the environment as does burning it when it reaches its foreign destination.

It doesn’t take a Nobel Laureate to appreciate that shipping away resources that can be used at home is Third World Country behaviour, but that is exactly the behaviour this project is predicated upon.

The environmental assessment  process for the PRGTP will be conducted by private firms contracted for this work by the proponent. It should be conducted by provincial government biologists on our payroll, and to have any validity there should be a “NO” option. Unfortunately, this won’t happen because provincial governments since the Gordo Regime have systematically disabled what we used to call the Ministry of the Environment to the point where they can’t possibly live up to their mandate.

The Kispiox Valley is a beautiful place with one of the world’s greatest salmon streams running through its middle. Given the number of anti-pipeline signs I saw there last fall, I will bet that opposition to the pipe is close to unanimous. The only reasonable argument that the project should proceed against such stout local opposition is if it was in the national interest and the national interest was deemed to outweigh the local interest.

And given the latest UN report on climate change and its causes, and the downsides of the venture as outlined above, it’s in nobody’s interest in the long term.