The Fort St. James Sustainability Group is not satisfied.
The group is preparing a series of follow-up questions after considerable research on their part to submit questions to Enbridge about the proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline.
The first round of submissions for registered intervenors took place in August, and Enbridge had until the first week of October to answer all of the questions put forward by the intervenors.
However, answers given to the local group in the first round were criticized for being “generic” in their follow-up to Enbridge, and ask for further clarification of many of the questions from the first round.
Many of the group’s questions were specific to the proposed pumping station near the community, one which may be the closest pumping station to any community across the pipeline.
When asked why the proposed pumping station off Malcolm Road was located so close to homes and the main highway, Enbridge’s response detailed the factors considered when selecting a site.
While hydraulics of the pipeline are a factor, they do provide some flexibility, according to the response, so the deciding factors then for the specific site are: Proximity to power source, proximity to permanent access, potential environmental impact, proximity to occupied land, hydraulic efficiency, and geotechnical conditions.
“The final selection reflects a balance of these factors within the bounds of the hydraulic limitations,” said the response. “The ground conditions are favorable at this location and there do not appear to be any sensitive environmental areas at or adjacent to the site.”
The Fort St. James Sustainability Group, however, strongly questions this statement about adjacent sensitive areas, given the positioning of the pumping station uphill from Pitka Creek which flows into Stuart Lake, which drains into the Stuart River, which eventually flows into the Fraser River, a river system vital for salmon throughout the province.
They plan on speaking to local biologists to get their educated opinion on the sensitivities of the area and bringing their concerns back to Enbridge.
The group also expressed their frustration to a response regarding what hazardous materials would specifically be housed in the pumping station, and will be asking for specific names of the chemicals along with their potential effects on health and groundwater.
In addition, spill response at the pumping station would be lead by an Enbridge employee, according to the one response the company gave, however, the nearest Enbridge employees would be located in Burns Lake or Prince George. The group would like to know a more specific time frame of how fast the alarm in Edmonton would be able to actually have someone in Fort St. James to deal with any problems and organize the emergency responders for a clean up and if there is even a person on standby 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The group characterized the spill response answers as “generic” as well and said they are “not specific enough to our area.”
Their concerns brought up discussions of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill disaster in which BP was widely criticized later for using “cut and paste” response plans from arctic oil drilling and conditions, which were very different to the conditions where the disaster occurred and didn’t take into account local ocean currents, temperatures and conditions.
The group has therefore requested Enbridge put together a more specific spill response plan for both Pitka Creek and at the Stuart River crossing under winter conditions and asked when factors such as temperatures and ice thickness make spill response efforts no longer possible.
They also requested information on the plans for traffic on Highway 27 during the construction phase of the project, which would take the pipeline under the highway, and the plans for transporting the materials for the construction.
The group was preparing these and other follow-up questions to the responses to their first round submission as well as a second round of questions last week.
There were over 2,000 information requests submitted in the first round, according to Paul Stanway, Enbridge spokesperson.
“It was larger than anything we’ve dealt with before,” said Stanway, but he said the company was prepared.
“We have a rigorous and well-organized team that’s looking at all those (information requests),” said Stanway.
“It’s our policy to give people the fullest answer that we can,” said Stanway, who said the group should take their concerns to the National Energy Board if they are not satisfied with the answers.
He admitted some of the responses will look quite similar sometimes because if they have provided the information as part of the application or in other answers, it may appear the same to people.
“We’re fully supporting the regulatory process and we’re providing all the resources and all the answers that we possibly can,” said Stanway.