Spill the beans not the oil.

This post is about the frustration and deep concerns the citizens of British Columbia, Canada have regarding the oil pipelines and tanker traffic planned for our province. I have some experience in this having worked in the Environmental field for 35 years and I have responded to fuel and chemical spills on land and water. Clean up of these spills was very difficult  and they were not even close to the magnitude that Enbridge is threatening.

Have you been following the issues surrounding the Enbridge pipeline/port proposal? This is the pipeline company pushing hard and lobbying our governments for a new 1177  km oil pipeline from Bruderheim (NE of Edmonton) Alberta, Canada to the port of Kitimat, BC.  The pipeline would carry the “oil”, that is actually diluted bitumen (dilbit),  from the tar sands / oil sands of Alberta, across our province of British Columbia, to the sea port of Kitimat for export through the Douglas Channel and on to China. This project is an example of arrogance rife with political interference.

A year ago there was a patronizing blitz of ads from Enbridge telling us how good this project would be for us.  When that did not work and opposition started to mount, Enbridge told us not to worry as tankers are safe to traverse our coast and pipelines are secure. They showed an animation of tankers in the Douglas Channel – but they deliberately did not show the convoluted route and the islands they would have to avoid. When that fiasco blew back in their face they began to tell us how safe pipelines are until their own reports and their recent and ongoing leaks and spills contradicted that. Opposition was growing fast from real concerns for the inevitable disaster that would ruin our coast from a marine spill or a pipeline leak that would contaminate our creeks, rivers, land and habitat along the pipeline route. Now Enbridge, in a reverse tactic, is touting how beautiful our coast and Province is and they show pictures in their ads of all the beauty and natural wonders we all love and care for and that they will take care not to harm it. But it actually reinforces to the viewer a heightened awareness of the risk this project poses to all the things we love about this province and shows the natural beauty they will inevitably destroy. Enbridge is now in the midst of a public relations nightmare due to their patronizing, condescending arrogant, attitude and inaccurate information.

In the mean time, our illustrious Prime Minister Harper and former Minister of Natural Resources Joe Oliver, began to systematically gut environmental legislation to pave the way for approvals, restricted public input in an already biased process, gagged government scientists and were spouting their own rhetoric, that was also spewed forth by useless Conservative puppet MPs, about “environmental radicals” hijacking the process and fanning opposition. They claim it is outside (American) interference and funding that is driving the Non Government Organizations against Enbridge and oil. They even went so far as to cut funding to organizations, began harassment and tax audit intimidation campaigns and were basically spying on those who dared oppose them – e.g. world renowned David Suzuki Foundation and several others.  (CRA harassment). Of course it was and still is B.S. perpetrated by our oil friendly government.

In fact, according to our federal government, about 60% of the BC population can now be classified as “environmental radicals” for standing up to this abuse of process, intimidation and blatant favouritism and government interference.  A few days ago it also became known that our BC Premier, Christy Clark was a partner in a lobbying firm working for Enbridge and her former Chief of staff was also a former lobbyist for Enbridge. (Lobbyist)  So her rhetoric on a tough stand for BC and the environment was just window dressing from a complacent and deceitful Provincial government.

So as expected and with no surprise, the supposedly impartial Joint Review Panel approved the project subject to 209 conditions. So Enbridge now claims they can abide by these requirements. In particular by “building a safer pipeline”. The interesting twist is that they now say that improved safety and monitoring features will be applied to the pipeline; so why was that not part of the plan in the first place as it was obviously available from the start? Because they had no intention of building to the safest standard until challenged on it – another reason not to trust this company.

But it doesn’t really make any difference anyway as the risk is still unacceptable.  A spill will happen on land or at sea and despite what they say even a small spill by their standards (which is actually very big), cannot be contained or cleaned-up. A leak in the rugged, remote mountainous regions of our Province ( 4 major mountain ranges and numerous sub-ranges to cross) will be very difficult or impossible to attend, especially in winter or during a natural disaster (e.g. landslide) and will immediately pollute the watercourses, snow, runoff and soak into the land long before any response could be mounted.

Despite the statements about spill prevention and state of the art clean-up technology on the sea, the fact is an oil spill in the marine environment cannot be contained or cleaned up.  Studies show that at best, even in ideal meteorological conditions , only 15% of a spill could be contained and recovered and only 5% in the conditions on the BC coast. (inadequate spill response).  The technology and capability they claim does not exist. This is some of the roughest coastline in the world with large tidal swings, strong currents, changing winds, waves and big waves, storms and storm surges that will make any response slow, ineffective and basically useless. And then there is the disturbing fact that dilbit will sink through the water column when mixed with organic matter and suspended solids.

Why are we doing this? The Federal Government will tell us that it is in the national interest despite the opposition, science and unacceptable risks.  But what is in the national interest?  I submit that preserving our natural and cultural heritage for future generations is in the national interest; keeping our fisheries healthy and streams alive is in the national interest; maintaining our wilderness, wildlife and tourism is in the national interest; not contributing to climate change and to quit subsidizing carbon intense and polluting industries and save our tax dollars is in the national interest; and that having a political process that is transparent, respects democracy, science and the principles of sustainability is in the national interest. This is about much more than short-term economics. It is about the long-term implications to environmental and human health. Our leadership should instead be developing a National Energy Policy that reduces oil dependency over time – not to promote and expand it.

The public understands the need for jobs and sustaining economies – we get that. What is missing is the true cost accounting of the risk and costs of this project and the costs associated expanding the carbon intensity of our economy. It is time we spill the beans on the real cost and risks of our continued dependence and exportation of oil.

Please join with the tens of thousands of concerned BC citizens and write to Prime Minister Harper and Premier Clark to express your opposition.

More to come on this and related topics.




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