Michele Perret, senior manager of community relations for Enbridge, made a short presentation to the outgoing mayor and council on Nov. 23.
Perret spoke about the pipeline’s purpose in diversifying markets and addressed some of the questions brought forward by the District of Fort St. James and the Fort St. James Sustainability Group in the Enbridge Northern Gateway Joint Review Panel Process. Both the district and the sustainability group are registered intervenors in the process.
Newly-elected councillors Joan Burdeniuk, Riley Willick and Russ Gingrich were also present at the meeting, along with some community residents and members of the sustainability group.
Right away Perret announced a newly-scheduled public meeting, after the previous one had been cancelled. Enbridge will now be holding a public meeting on Dec. 8 at the curling rink from 6-8 p.m..
Perret said while concerns over the Keystone Pipeline Project to bring tar sands oil to the eastern United States has emphasized the need for another market, delays in the Keystone Project will not impact Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline.
She emphasized the independent nature of the joint review panel currently examining the Northern Gateway Project, dismissing the impact comments by the prime minister or the premier of Alberta could have on the panel.
Some of the intervenor questions from the joint review panel process Perret attempted to address were questions regarding the proposed pump station and the security associated with it.
She also used a slide to help illustrate the noise levels at 500 m from the pump station, comparing the estimated 40 to 60 decibels to the noise ranging from urban nighttime noise up to heavy traffic.
The presentation also included an explanation of the emphasis on safety the company has, including route selection and remote valves.
Perret also mentioned the proposed 10 per cent equity in the project, which the company will finance for the communities.Mayor Sandra Harwood later asked why this equity share wasn’t offered to the non-aboriginal communities along the route.
Perret said the equity option came about after feedback during consultation with First Nations.
Perret also addressed concerns regarding first responder training and issues related to emergency response.
She said first responders would not be asked to do anything outside of their job descriptions, and could be used to secure an area and would be awaiting the arrival of Enbridge responders to the area.
These responders could come from either Prince George, or possibly from Burns Lake.
“Those are the types of things that would be determined,” said Perret.
Fire Chief Rob Bennet asked if there would be a parnership between Enbridge and the local firefighters for funding to bring the training of the personnel up to a higher standard.
Perret said some grant funding could be applied for through the company’s Safe Community Program, but she does not see the firefighters having to deal with any extra responsibilities.
“You wouldn’t be asked to do things you’re not comfortable doing or you’re not trained to do,” said Perret.
Harwood said it would be necessary for the company to engage with the community so it was included in the community’s emergency plan.
Bennet emphasized the community’s self-reliance given how long it takes to normally have technicians respond to problems in the area.
“We’re not a community to sit back and be reactive, we’re proactive,” said Bennet.
“If there is a pipeline going through here, we are going to have the training that we feel is necessary to mitigate the situation until we get other resources to help us,” said Bennet. “Because I know, it takes a long time to get them here.”
Hazardous materials stored at the pumping station site was also a concern Perret addressed, and she said the chemicals stored in the hazardous materials building at the pump station are similar to what would be stored at a gas station, except there would be smaller quantities at the pump station.
Other community members present questioned the risk-benefit balance for Fort St. James specifically after Perret made it clear there will be no direct jobs for Fort St. James once the pipeline was operational, if it is approved.
“So, currently, we’re being asked to take a (collective) risk, what is our long-term, permanent benefit?” said Alison Leach.
The benefits for this community are the property tax benefits to the regional district, and the increased activity in the area, according to Perret.