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Have a say on the Enbridge pipeline!

with 2 comments

Poster designed by Roy Vickers against the Enbridge pipeline

There’s still plenty of time to submit letters of comment to the Enbridge Northern Gateway joint review panel.  I just submitted mine – easy as pie.  Letters can be submitted electronically here.

The website also provides access to all the letters of comment submitted (there are 581 as of now).  I opened a few, at random; those I read are all in opposition to the pipeline.  There are also 4507 requests to make a presentation – wow!

Will it make a difference?  If it’s just up to the review panel, probably not.  MP Nathan Cullen refers to the process as a farce (it’s worth watching the full videoclip).  The only project that the National Energy Board has ever vetoed, to my knowledge, was the Sumas II energy project (that was easy; the benefits were all to the US proponents, the costs were to Canadians).  But even then, what prompted the veto was the level of public opposition.

Which is why it is important, in my opinion, to bother with sending a letter.  It doesn’t have to be eloquent – mine isn’t particularly pretty, for instance – but it has to be there.  Numbers matters to politicians.

I am pretty optimistic about the final result: the pipeline won’t be built.  It’s much too risky, and makes little economic sense, but that likely won’t matter.  What will matter is the formidable array of formidable opponents: CEP, the biggest union in Fort McMurray, sees it as a net export of Canadian jobs, as does the former premier of Alberta, Peter Lougheed; the Union of BC Municipalities is against; fisheries and tourism workers are against; and, most importantly, Enbridge has managed to unite against it every relevant First Nation, because of its bullying.  And these folks have clout, and know how to use the law.

But opposition from the general public is also key – which is why it is important to make your voice heard.    And submitting a letter is an easy way to do so, if Kitimat, where the hearings are held, isn’t in your neighbourhood.  It takes just a few minutes.  Copy my letter, if it helps!  I’m not proud.

Here’s the letter:

I wish to register my opposition to the construction of the Enbridge Northern Gateway project.  As a private citizen, and as an environmental scientist and chair of a university program in environmental protection, I oppose this project.

I oppose this project because of I believe that this proposal would produce considerable damages to our environment but also to the economy and to society.

I am concerned for the environment of the northern coast of British Columbia as well as for the terrestrial and aquatic environment along the proposed route of the pipeline.  I believe that the likelihood of a spill may be higher than for a pipeline carrying conventional hydrocarbons, because of the nature of the material.  Mostly, I am concerned that should such a spill occur, its consequences would be serious.  This is because of a combination of factors:  the fluid transported is bitumen diluted with proprietary fluids, the combination of which is likely to produce important toxicity problems (as was the case with dispersants used in the Gulf of Mexico spill) and, because of reluctance to divulge information about proprietary diluants, hinder information flow; the terrain is difficult, characterised by sheltered fjords on the coast and narrow valleys, which would hinder dispersion and clean-up operations should a spill occur; and the terrain is of high ecological importance (particularly in and around the Great Bear rainforest), as well as rich in spiritual and cultural values, worsening the impact.

I also believe that the construction itself would impact the environment negatively.

I am concerned that the development of the pipeline would lock the Canadian energy policy towards hydrocarbon production and combustion at the expense of renewable energy.  At best, this is a wasted investment; at worst, pursuing a fossil-fuel economy not only continues to worsen our role in causing climate change, it exposes Canada to international shame and eventual trade sanctions.  The consequences of rapid climate change on wilderness need no description; I will simply mention its impact on our economy, from increased frequency of crop failure from drought, flooding problems for harbours, roads, and airports along the BC Coast, to structural damage due to permafrost melting.

I am concerned for the economic well-being of the country.  An economy focussed on fossil fuels neglects the development of alternate energy programs.  Canada is endowed with a high potential for wind, tidal, solar, and geothermal energy development, but is lagging other nations in developing these resources, depriving the Canadian economy of exportable equipment and expertise.  Further, an economy based of fossil fuels extraction is highly vulnerable to the so-called Dutch Disease: our currency becomes an over-valued petro-dollar, making uncompetitive other sectors of our economy such as manufacturing and forestry.  Further, very few direct and indirect jobs would be created for such a large investment, compared to renewable energy projects.  Finally, the environmental risks themselves would negatively impact current employment in the fisheries and tourism sector.

Finally, I am very concerned for the state of our democracy.  Canada is not immune to the so-called Curse of Oil, whereby the wealth that should result from oil resources instead undermines democracy and fosters social inequality.  The recent declarations of public figures and politicians branding opponents of the pipeline as radicals at the pay of foreign interests illustrate how vulnerable respectful debate and fair decision making have become.  That such outburst, best characterised as bullying, could originate from members of the government shows how strong the curse of oil is, and how fragile our democracy has become.

For these reasons: the dangers posed to our local environment, our climate, our economy, and our democracy, I submit that the Enbridge Northern Gateway proposal must be rejected.


2 Responses

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  1. Just a quick note on the comment, “The only project that the National Energy Board has ever vetoed, to my knowledge, was the Sumas II energy project (that was easy; the benefits were all to the US proponents, the costs were to Canadians).” This process is very different – it is the first panel under the recently revised Canadian Environmental Assessment Act – that gives NEB a “responsible authority” status under this Act. See the review panel’s terms of reference for more details ( This process is the first of its kind and is a direct product of legislation passed by the Conservatives – which is why it is so ironic that the review process is being targeted. However, the concerns raised re: hijacking the process are largely the result of high opposition to the project. This is the most high-profile project Canada has seen since the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline Inquiry in the 1970s, so (obviously) the typical review process is not able to handle it. What else is new about this process is that the review panel has a clear responsibility for First Nations’ consultation via the “Whole Government” approach… see the same document and its references…


    January 22, 2012 at 7:12 am

  2. As an interested Canadian citizen, I strongly disagree with the development of the Enbridge Northern Gateway project.
    It would be a total waste of money, and would seriously damage our already thorny relations with native communities and the environment. There is absolutely no urge whatsoever to build such a structure in sensitive and wonderful natural landscape. Energy produced in Alberta could be easily sold in Canada or US. Of course the Harper government would be glad to poke a finger in the eye of the evil Obama government, following his delay of the Keystone project. In Canada, everybody is bullied by Conservative fanatics, so how this socialist tree hugger government dare resist them? Despite the Obama rebuke, Enbridge pipeline has so much more obstacles and inconvenient than the Keystone project that someone has to wonder why Enbridge and the Tories are pursuing such a lost cause. To ignite their base, always eager to fight against infamous tree huggers and lazy native people, or to give arguments to their fellow Republicans in their crusade against Obama the impure? China is now more palatable for the Tories than the American Democrats. What a fantastic policy reversal in less than 4 years; when Bush was in office, China was treated as wicked beyond the pale.
    Besides, what is the big deal in waiting to have the Keystone or other fossil fuel project approved? Price of fossil fuel will continue to rise, so every barrel of oil not sold today, could be sold in 20 years at an even higher price with less environmental impact from improved technology. What is the rush for our generation to deplete our national resources as fast as possible?


    January 23, 2012 at 6:55 pm

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