A small crowd of about a dozen people came out to watch a film on the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline at the local library Tuesday, August 16.
The two speakers’ presentations generated some discussion amongst the crowd afterward, with one man warning the rest the pipeline is a “disaster for Fort St. James.”
One man suggested it would help people to understand the nature of this project’s real and potential impact on the area. He was concerned people couldn’t grasp the long-term implications for the pipeline project.
Another viewer expressed her concerns about how Enbridge has been working quietly, behind the scenes, meeting with the Fort St. James District Council and staff and will be presenting at a Chamber of Commerce meeting and a Bulkley-Nechako Regional District forum, but has not directly engaged with the community.
People with concerns were urged to speak up and ask questions, in order to get some answers and to encourage politicians to get involved as well.
“I think we are having an effect,” said Kandace Kerr, film event organizer, pointing to the fact Enbridge has asked to come and speak at a local Chamber of Commerce meeting, to speak to the business owners in town.
The Tuesday night films at the library are being put on by Kerr in order to inform the local community about the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline project, which will be crossing both the Stuart and Necoslie Rivers just outside of Fort St. James and would also put a large pumping station in the Airport Road neighbourhood.
Future Tuesday night films will be advertised on the electronic sign by the RCMP station.
The August 16 film was a video recording of speakers who came to communities across the proposed pipeline route last year, to talk about their experiences with Enbridge pipelines.
The first speaker was Erin O’Brien, who presented her talk: Beyond Spills: Environmental Considerations for Communities Along Pipeline Corridors.
O’Brien is a wetland policy director with the Wisconsin Wetlands Association which was hired to do some of the independent over site of the construction of an Enbridge pipeline through Wisconsin. Prior to construction, O’Brien said Enbridge promised to minimize the impacts to the land, and to ensure this happened, government-appointed independent observers were hired to monitor the construction process.
Over the two-year construction of the pipelines, more than 500 violations of their permits were filed against Enbridge, and after repeated warnings and arbitration, the state filed litigation against Enbridge for the violations, according to O’Brien.
Enbridge settled out of court for $1.1 million.
The second speaker was Beth Wallace, who documented the response to the oil spill from an Enbridge pipeline in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
After testifying the company could detect a leak almost instantaneously, in the case of the spill into the Kalamazoo, Enbridge did not report the spill to officials until 18 hours after it had begun, spilling between 850,000 and 1 million gallons of oil into the area, affecting 30 miles of river, rendering the area toxic to residents and the water unusable for local agriculture.
The two spoke both at Kwah Hall in the Fort and at the Drop-In centre in Vanderhoof last November. Enbridge responded to their presentations by saying every project has its opponents and its supporters and they feel people will become less concerned as they learn more about the project, emphasizing the overall safety of pipelines.