Submission to the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project Joint Review Panel

As leader of the Green Party of Canada and as the Member of Parliament for Saanich-Gulf Islands, I appreciate this opportunity to place on the written record my comments on the Enbridge proposal for a 1177 kilometre long, twinned pipeline across northern British Columbia and a port at Kitimat to receive diluents and pipe it to Alberta, while piping back to Kitimat the mixture of diluents and bitumen.  The proposal further involves the shipping of this mixture by super-tankers to be operated by persons unknown to, as yet undisclosed, ports.

Having observed the hearings and the evidence over the nearly eight months since the hearings began, I wish to make the following observations:

  1. The proponent, Enbridge, has failed to provide any specific information about the impact of spills, on land or at sea, of the mixture it proposes to move by pipeline and sell to other carriers for shipment by sea.  Bitumen and diluents were shown in the Kalamazoo Michigan spill to be considerably more difficult to remediate than conventional crude.  The proponent has now admitted all its evidence was based on a substance it is not proposing to ship.  Meanwhile, it should be noted that few improvements or technological advances on handling spills of conventional crude have been made since the Exxon Valdez spill.
  2.  The proponent has violated its social licence to operate through a culture of negligence. This failing is well-documented in the report of the United States National Transportation Safety Board  (Enbridge Incorporated, Hazardous Liquid Pipeline Rupture and Release, Marshall Michigan, July 25, 2010, Accident Report NTSB/PAR-12/01, PB2012-916501, July 10, 2012).  The spills and pipeline leaks in Kalamazoo, Michigan in 2010 and additional spill in the summer of 2012 in Wisconsin are ample evidence of the corporate culture of Enbridge being negligent. The panel is commended for accepting the report of the US. NTSB into evidence.  As evidence before this panel, the litany of failures in preventing the Kalamazoo spill and subsequent negligence in ignoring alarms and pumping more bitumen-diluent mix into a broken pipeline must lead to a rejection of this proposal at this time.
  3.  The July 2012 report of the US NTSB is also relevant as it is clear that the Enbridge proposal was developed without any consideration of the experience of the serious spill in 2010 in Michigan.  As such, the current proposal should be rejected and the proponent instructed to revise any proposal to take into account lessons learned in the 2010 failure.
  4. The proponent has offered to this panel a mathematical risk estimate for spills in which the proponent deliberately chose to exclude local spill and accident events in the waters in which the proponent proposes to operate. This evidence of dramatically under-estimated risk of accident should be entirely discounted as fanciful and absurd.  The review of this mathematical alchemy by the Raincoast Conservation Foundation should be accepted instead.
  5. The need for the additional pipeline capacity has not been established.  On this point, the evidence of J. David Hughes should be accepted that unless and until bitumen production increases by 150% from current levels, the existing pipeline infrastructure is adequate. (“The Northern Gateway Pipeline: An Affront to the Public Interest and Long Term Energy Security of Canadians,” November 22, 2011).
  6. Transport Canada’s submission to this panel was reported in the media as establishing that there was no serious risk in super-tanker traffic. In fact, it did not say that at all.  It merely said there were no “regulatory gaps.”  In other words, it said, if there is a spill, we know which department will be in charge. In the entire Transport Canada review, there is no specific assessment of the particularly turbulent and navigationally challenging passages any super-tanker would encounter. The words “Hecate Strait” do not appear in the Transport Canada review, even though, Environment Canada’s Marine Weather Hazards Manual states that the Hecate Strait is “the fourth most dangerous body of water in the world.” The Transport Canada submission should not be used in evidence as relevant to the specific risks of the British Columbia coast.
  7. No federal body nor the proponent have come forward with any credible analysis to lift the 1972 moratorium, honoured by every federal and British Columbia government since that time. It banned super-tanker traffic along the BC coastline, with the Port of Vancouver grandfathered.  The federal government and the proponent would like to “pretend” the moratorium away.  Admittedly, the moratorium was not enshrined in law, but its observance for four decades is a significant statement about its existence and importance. This panel has an obligation to consider Enbridge’s proposal as one that has the burden of proof to lift an existing moratorium.
  8. The increased tanker traffic has been found to be a source of significantly increased risk to the endangered whales in the area. Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) review of threats to humpback whales in 2005 named the proposed tanker traffic to Kitimat as a threat to whale recovery.  Humpback whales are listed as a species at risk in the threatened category.  Scientists actually think the fin whales may be even more at risk of tanker collisions. Proposed mitigation measures of whale spotters on board tankers are mere “window dressing.” The notion that whale spotters can avoid collisions with endangered whales would only be plausible if super-tankers were prohibited from travelling at night, in dense fogs (typical in the area) or in storms and gales (also typical in the area).
  9. First Nations constitutionally protected rights have not been honoured by the proponent.  The proponent made false claims about the extent of its relationship with the Haida Nation, according to a letter sent to this panel by the President of the Council of the Haida Nation last year.  The timelines and deadlines for this panel’s work will be unlikely to survive a court challenge under many precedents of the requirement for consultation and for the federal government’s fiduciary obligations to First Nations.
  10. Dr. Jeffrey Hutchins of Dalhousie University has drawn attention to the fact that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans was unable to provide the detailed scientific information this panel requires to make any judgement about the extent of damage to ecosystems and fisheries in the hundreds of stream and water crossings the pipeline will entail.  It is outrageous that a government agency would conclude all damage can be mitigated when, by its own admission, it lacks the capacity, due to a loss of scientists and budget, to be capable of assessing the situation on the ground.
  11. Recent budgetary cuts make this project even more risky due to a loss of capacity to respond to a spill. Environment Canada’s Environmental Emergency Programme has been shrunk from regional offices, including one in Vancouver, to one office in Quebec.  Ten Coast Guard operations are being shut down.  In BC alone, we are losing the search and rescue operation in Vancouver plus marine communication operations in Kitsilano, Comox and Tofino.  The cuts affect the ability of the Coast Guard to monitor and deal with marine pollution offences. As well, the safety of mariners could be affected.
  12. Further loss of capacity is found in the decision to reduce staff and budget to DFO’s Centre for Off-shore Oil, Gas, and Energy Research (COOGER), ending work in progress in many areas, including a “Baseline Hydrocarbon Study in Hecate Strait.” It was studying impacts of oil and gas leaks, counter-measures for an oil spill, restoration of environment after any spill, among other key areas.
  13. Meanwhile, the entire marine mammal contaminants programme within DFO has been shut down.  Nearly all of the DFO scientists studying marine toxicology across Canada are being laid off.   Dr. Peter Ross, a globally respected scientist working at the Institute for Ocean Sciences in my riding, lamented, “The entire pollution file for the government of Canada, and marine environment in Canada’s three oceans, will be overseen by five junior biologists scattered across Canada – one of which will be in BC.”  (quoted in Times Colonist, “Ottawa sinks pollution checks,” May 20, 2012)
  14. The Joint Review Panel should take note of the fact that even when the programmes listed in points 10, 11, 12 and 13 were in operation, the Commissioner for the Environment and Sustainable Development, within the Office of the Auditor General, concluded that Canada lacked the capacity to respond to an oil spill or other marine emergency.

These comments are not exhaustive, but represent substantial evidentiary hurdles on which the current proposal must fail.

Respectfully submitted,

Elizabeth E. May, O.C.
Member of Parliament
Saanich-Gulf Islands