Dear Premier Clark,
Thank you for your reply, on June 21, to my letter of May 31. My concern is that the BC government will ultimately act in the interests of the oil companies, NOT in the interests of the people of this province, especially now that Bill C-38 has made it possible for the federal government to ignore the findings of the Joint Review Panel.
In your letter you state “ … I want to assure you that we are committed to responsible environmental policies in this regard. The federal government … creates and enforces regulations pertaining to the safe operation of vessels … (and) sets standards and oversees marine operations to ensure that environmentally responsible practices are employed”.
These statements fly in the face of reality. Yes, there are regulations and standards in place but these have been shown to be utterly ineffective. One need only open any Canadian newspaper to know this is so. Oil pipelines spill millions of litres of oil into the environment every year. And there is really no such thing as a “clean-up”. Even after being “cleaned up”, for example, at least 90 per cent of oiled birds die.
In July 2010, Enbridge’s Lakehead pipeline ruptured near Battle Creek, Michigan, spilling approximately four million litres of crude oil into the Kalamazoo River. The US Transportation Department’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) uncovered two dozen regulation violations related to the leak. On July 2 they fined Enbridge $3.7 million, the largest penalty ever imposed. PHMSA’s order states that Enbridge tried to bring the pipeline back into service despite receiving multiple leak alarms the night it ruptured. (I’m sure you’ve seen the transcripts of the Enbridge control room staff who let alarms ring for 17 hours, doing absolutely nothing to stop the oil from continuing to flow.) This spill contaminated 60 km. of the Kalamazoo River, shut down the pipeline for more than two months, and necessitated a massive clean-up that the company has estimated will cost more than $700 million. But really, will the Kalamazoo River and environs ever return to their original state? Not likely!
Closer to home, Alberta suffered three oil spills between mid-May and June 19 2012. In mid-May a spill of 800,000 litres of a mixture of oil and water was discovered by a pilot on a routine flyover near Rainbow Lake in northern Alberta. On June 7, 480,000 litres of oil spilled into Jackson Creek, a tributary of the Red Deer River. On June 19, 230,000 litres of heavy crude oil spilled from a pumping station on Enbridge’s Athabasca pipeline near Elk Point, Alta.
Enbridge is telling us that The Northern Gateway Pipeline is “the promise of the future”. The future what? The future Alberta? Where three spills a month is becoming the norm? Certainly it will not be a future where healthy rivers and a healthy coastline support a flourishing fishery and tourism industry. I can’t see hordes of tourists spending their good money to come and gawk at oil-strewn west coast beaches from their hotel rooms. If Enbridge’s Northern Gateway Project is approved, “Beautiful BC” will soon become “Black BC”. Oil, oil, everywhere …
Let’s be clear: every year the Northern Gateway Pipeline would bring over 200 super-tankers of up to 1,155 feet in length to some of the most difficult waters in the world, the same waters where the 410 foot Queen of the North sank south of Prince Rupert in 2006. (It ran into an island: remember? And diesel fuel is still leaking from the tanks of the sunken ferry.) These are waters through which grey whales migrate and where orca whales feed and humpback whales sing.
It is obvious to me (and between 75-80 per cent of British Columbians, according to multiple polls) that the Northern Gateway Pipeline Project would create an unacceptable risk to the environment and to the well-being of all the people of BC. There is no doubt in anyone’s mind (even the Enbridge folks’) that the pipeline will leak. Indeed, the same day the review panel hearings opened, Enbridge reported a leak in another one of their pipelines.
When you write that “… we are committed to responsible environmental policies …” I can only shake my head in wonder. These past few months I have watched in amazement as you seem to have been transformed into an automaton completely under the thumb of BIG OIL. How sad – for BC and for you.
Please wake up and open your eyes before it is too late.
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