Enbridge says to let the review do its work

Enbridge responds to one more case of bad press after Fort St. James takes a stand opposing Northern Gateway.

Enbridge is hoping other communities along the pipeline will not follow Fort St. James lead after the community came out in opposition to the proposed Northern Gateway Project.

 

“It’s our hope that municipalities wait and allow the Joint Review Panel (JRP) process to unfold,” said Todd Nogier, spokesperson for Enbridge.

He said the company will continue to work with the ongoing JRP which will provide an avenue in which “all the issues and concerns and so forth can continue to be aired and questioned and our plan can be put to the test among the various intervenors.”

The final hearings, which begin this fall, will be the opportunity for Enbridge to bring forward their plan and is when intervenors have a chance to question them.

“It’s a long and thorough process and we would expect that a lot of concerns that people have in British Columbia will get aired and (they will get) to question us during the process,” said Nogier.

He conceded incidents like the ones in Wisconsin and Michigan will become a part of the Northern Gateway debate, and it is fair for British Columbians to ask questions of the company because of them.

However, he also emphasized the overall size of their network, comprising 26,000 kilometres of pipeline carrying 2.5 million barrels a day.

“So it’s up to Enbridge to continue to assure people that we’re doing everything we can to improve, we’re doing everything we can to strive to have zero incidents, and clearly we have work to do and we intend on doing it.”

Since the review process began and the release of the NTSB report on the Michigan spill as well as a spill in Alberta at a pumping station, Enbridge has brought forward some revisions to it’s plan which will add an estimated $500 million to the cost of the project.

“We’ve heard a number of concerns (in the review process) and we heard over and over again that people had concerns with pipeline safety in remote areas and pipeline safety in environmentally sensitive areas,” said Nogier. “So we heard that and recently we’ve announced a number of additional measures that go “over and above the already safe proposal in the application process.”

While he made it clear Enbridge already felt their plan was “industry-leading” the company wanted to address these concerns.

Thicker-walled pipe, more isolation valves and 24-hour, seven days a week on-site monitoring of remote pumping stations are among those changes.

This will include isolation valves on either side of the Stuart River, approximately 3.5 kilometres apart and an on-site monitor at the Fort St. James proposed pumping station. The person hired to monitor the pump station could then travel the right-of-way and inspect it.

The review process he called “long and thorough” may, however, not be as long as originally expected, as the Harper government’s Budget Bill C-38 which was passed at the end of June brought in a time limit on environmental review processes.

But Nogier said while the bill had provisions to make it take effect on ongoing review processes, which includes the Northern Gateway JRP, the company has not yet heard if there will be any changes to the review’s timeline.

“We’re continuing on with the process as directed by the JRP,” he said.

A statement from Al Monaco, Enbridge president which came out as the paper was going to press on Friday, also defended the company’s commitment to safety and pipeline integrity.

“Enbridge operates the largest and most complex liquids pipeline system in the world,” he said in the statement. “Over the last decade we’ve transported almost  12 billion barrels of crude oil with a safe delivery record better than 99.999 per cent. “That’s good, but for us, it’s not good enough.  We will never stop striving for 100 per cent.”

He said the company has invested about $400 million in safety and integrity of their pipeline systems, and the company is planning to increase this amount to $800 million in 2012.

 

Enbridge in the news

This is only one more bump in an already bumpy road in the media for Enbridge. The company has already been dealing with the fallout of yet another oil spill, with 1,200 barrels leaking from the company’s Line 14 pipeline in Wisconsin.

The company faced some strong reprisals from U.S regualtors in response to the Wisconsin leak last week.

A letter to Enbridge from Jeffrey Wiese, associate administrator for pipeline safety at the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), was quoted last week in a Globe and Mail article and used strong language admonishing Enbridge.

“The history of failures on [Enbridge’s] Lakehead Pipeline system, of which the affected pipeline is part, the defects originally discovered during construction, and the 2007 failure indicate that [Enbridge’s] integrity management program may be inadequate,” he said.“The continued operation of the pipeline without corrective measures would be hazardous to life, property and the environment.”

The letter was a response to a request from Enbridge to restart the line after the spill in Wisconsin took place. Permission to restart the line was denied, and instead the company was notified they would need to hire an independent agency in order to develop and implement a new safety plan for the Lakehead network, which includes 3,000 km of pipeline, of which Line 14 is part.

This comes on the heels of the release of a U.S. National Transportation and Safety Board (NTSB) report on the 2010 oil spill in Kalamzaoo, Michiga. The spill    took 17 hours for Enbridge to recognize as a line break and shut down the line, resulting in over 800,000 gallons of heavy oil releasing into the area and the Kalamazoo River.

Deborah Hersman, NTSB chair remarked the actions of the Enbridge staff as the spill was occurring was reminiscent of the “Keystone Kops.”

This comes at a crucial time for Enbridge, in the middle of the in-depth Enbridge Northern Gateway Joint Review Panel, the federal review which will determine whether the proposed twin pipeline to carry oil from  northern Alberta to Kitimat, B.C. on the west coast gets federal approval.

Story on District of Fort St. James opposition to Northern Gateway