Friday, October 04, 2013

British Columbia's Position - Enbridge Cannot Be Trusted, No to Northern Gateway

The British Columbia government, it seems, has spoken out loud and clear in opposition to the Northern Gateway pipeline.   Even Christy Clark would be in peril if she tried to step down from this stand.  Here are excerpts from the government's brief.

“Many parts of the pipeline will be located in remote areas, some distance from road networks and population centres, “ said the government in a lengthy brief submitted to the National Energy Board appointed review panel earlier this year. “Many of the rivers (along the route) are identified as remote or having no access.”

Then, too, “the topography is prone to slope failures.” In wintertime, “the pipeline could be covered by heavy snow,” to a depth of nine metres in some places.

Heavy water flows (“a common occurrence in B.C. rivers”) could make it next to impossible to contain a spill: “At certain water velocities, booms become ineffective and are potentially unsafe to operate.”

The B.C. team was not impressed with he Northern Gateway (NG) proponent’s often vague preliminary plans for detection and management of potential spills.

“Leak detection techniques, such as aerial surveillance and third party notification, which may be effective in other locations, would have less effectiveness in B.C. due to remoteness and snow cover.”
Superior techniques include fibre-optic detectors, backup power for pumping stations, and an automatic shut-off system to preclude human error.

“While NG asserts that its spill detection systems will be world-class, it has not yet chosen to adopt technologies that would achieve that objective.”

The company’s proposed time frame for responding to spills was also found wanting.

NG’s targeted spill response time of six to 12 hours needs to be set against the reality that oil may travel many kilometres downstream while NG is still mobilizing,” says the report. “Travel times to the control points that have been identified do not take into account mobilization time and assumes all roads are drivable.”

As a worst-case scenario, the province cited the Clore River, located in a steep-sided valley east of Terrace.

“A full-bore spill into the Clore River could, over a 12-hour period, flow through the entire length of the river and continue on to the Copper (Zymoetz) River ... The province submits that NG cannot assert today that it would have the ability to respond effectively, if at all, to a spill were it to enter the Clore River.”

By the time the response team got to the site, the river would be ruined.

The effects of a spill on fish could span over several generations,” says the report, quoting the proponent’s own evidence. “At certain times of the year, multiple-year classes of certain fish species could be affected. Furthermore, the effects of a spill on threatened species, such as eulachon, would not necessarily be reversible. Already weakened populations may simply not recover.”

“It is NG that has asserted its ability to respond to any spill from the pipeline. It is NG that has asserted that it intends to have in place world-class response capabilities. Having made these claims, presumably, for the purpose of obtaining a positive recommendation from the review panel, the proponent cannot then say ‘Trust us.’ We submit that Northern Gateway must be able to demonstrate that the mitigation measures it proposes are in fact practicable and effective.”

Lest there be any doubt as to why the B.C. government is not prepared to trust Enbridge, the brief cites the company’s sorry record as it emerged after that huge spill in Michigan in 2011.

Enbridge has not demonstrated its ability to learn from its mistakes in order to avoid spills,” says the B.C. brief. “There are serious reasons for concern that the commitments it has made in this proceeding will be hollow.”

Bottom line: “The challenges posed by the pipeline route, the nature of the product being shipped, the conceptual nature of its plans to date and Enbridge’s track record mean that the province is not able to support this project’s approval at this time.”


Rural said...

This brief as presented on your post is perhaps the clearest most concise outline of the dangers of letting a company focus on profit over environment consideration.I hope that the BC gov sticks to their guns!

Troy Thomas said...

I can't help feeling the BC Libs didn't take this position, initially.
I get the feeling they recognized just how intransigent opposition was, and still is, becoming.
They must recognize just how dangerous to their hold on power this loose coalition of NG opposition is if they become further unified.

The Mound of Sound said...

@ Rural - it is a compelling argument, one that will show the NEB review a farce if it's rejected. It's certainly powerful ammunition if it comes to civil disobedience.

@ Troy - I fully share your skepticism about our government. I wonder how recently the decision was taken to file this particular brief.

The point is, Troy, that we should not let this apparent opposition make us complacent. I think the odds are quite high that we're still in for a fight.

Anonymous said...

Let's refine the bitumen in Alberta and ship&pipe gasoline and diesel.
Spills of those are bad but never catastrophic.

The Mound of Sound said...

Yes it makes sense to refine the bitumen in Athabasca - to everyone save the producers, the transporters, the Alberta and federal governments. Notice how they resolutely avoid the subject. There's real significance in their silence.

Anonymous said...

Don't think that you can refine it there..IIRC, refining needs water also, and there's just not enough to go around in Northern Alberta..

the salamander said...

..on what basis could the BC Government, or whatever other government or corporations that can dictate BC's decisons ... avoid the same risk analysis per LNG ??

Whether pipelined in from Alberta, or extracted in BC with all the water loss, processed water disposal and energy needs and vast construction drilling infrastructure damage?

One might assume a fiscally and ethically incoherent government such as the current 'Liberal' one that avoids sitting in legislature, would opt to drive their own resource (shale oil, LNG) extraction agenda via fracking, pipeline, supertanker - China .. then and only then, allow pigggybacking expanded transport of Alberta's extracted energy resources.

Put another way .. once BC is getting away with getting rid of its resources and environment.. it will be no concern to bring Alberta's resources through as well.

The Mound of Sound said...

In some respects, LNG and dilbit are vastly different commodities. Liquefied gas is easily transmitted, dilbit requires heat and more pressure and is more corrosive to pipelines. LNG,when spilled, is quickly vaporized and absorbed into the atmosphere. Dilbit contaminates soil and water resources.

Fracking remains a huge peril but Christy's attitude seems to be it's too far north to worry about. To try to duck the issue of emissions, her trite response is that we frack better than they do elsewhere. She's not offering anything to back that up.

Clark is sensitive to one issue. She has acknowledged she'll need a "social licence" to permit bitumen pipelines. She knows that degree of solid, public support isn't to be had from British Columbians. She knows the likelihood of large scale civil disobedience and doesn't seem eager to wind up on the wrong side of that.