Nearing the last word

Final written arguments for or against the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline have been filed

Fort St. James intervenors in the Enbridge Northern Gateway Joint Review Panel process submitted their final arguments May 31.

The District of Fort St. James was still the lone municipality along the proposed heavy oil pipeline to openly oppose the project, and the district re-iterated this in their final written arguments.

The 11-page written submission to the panel reviewing the project was prefaced by a strongly-worded letter from the District and signed by Mayor Rob MacDougall which invoked values of the people of Fort St. James, including the close ties to the land, the water and the First Nations.

The letter speaks of Chief Kwah watching over the return of the salmon from where he is buried on the shores of the Stuart River, not very far upstream from where the proposed pipelines would cross it.

We rely on the land for our livelihoods and our quality of life. We are not the ‘radical environmentalists’ or advocacy groups that Northern Gateway opposition have been painted as in the media. A strong majority of people in our community are loggers, miners, carpenters, welders and machinists; we are industry workers who live in a resource-based local economy through which we have learned the value of sustainable industry practices. We are not drawn to this project based on the potential for jobs – labour projections already show that we have huge labour gaps to contend with, and it is suggested that Northern B.C. will be facing a labour shortage of nearly 20,000 workers by 2015. We do not want to see temporary foreign workers brought in to work on a project which puts at risk the livelihoods of resident Canadians.

Our community is small. We have 1,700 residents, and thereby we are highly susceptible to the potential environmental and economic impacts that a spill or other accident along the Northern Gateway pipeline could impose. We have had numerous meetings with Enbridge representatives and while we appreciate their efforts at consultation we remain firm that they do not have a social license to operate this project in or around our community. This is the strongly spoken opinion of our constituents and we convey their message proudly.

In the final paragraph, the letter details the strain participation in the process has put on the district.

We want to ensure that our homes, livelihoods, and the landscape we live from and appreciate are available to our future generations to ensure also that there is a future for our community to continue to thrive and flourish. It is for these reasons that we have dedicated hundreds of hours of time to researching and participating in the Enbridge JRP process. We operate a small municipal office in Fort St. James, with six administrative staff to oversee the entire operations of our community. Participating in this process has put a strain on our resources, however we have felt obliged and committed to doing so in order to fulfill our commitment to our citizens.

The letter was written and prepared by Emily Colombo, economic development officer for the District of Fort St. James based on direction from mayor and council and her previous work on the review process.

The Fort St. James Sustainability Group also filed a final argument, which provided a detailed 17-page argument against the approval or, alternatively, conditions should the project be approved.

The group used excerpts from the entire review process, including submitted evidence from both Northern Gateway themselves and intervenors or government participants. The submission argued against the project based on the National Energy Board definition of “in the public interest” given many if not most of the companies producing to supply the project are either partly or mostly foreign-owned, and the group provided quotes from oral evidence given during the review process which they believe suggest the potential benefits of the project are in no way guaranteed.

The group also detailed the Enbridge record on safety and spill response, which they believe calls into question Enbridge’s self-declared title of “world-class” in pipeline operations. The group then argued landowner consultation was inadequate and Northern Gateway submitted contradictory information in the application.

In the 395-page submission by Enbridge Northern Gateway, the proponent argued the project would “bring extraordinary benefits to all Canadians” and the project “presents a once in a generation opportunity to diversify the market for one of the building blocks of the Canadian economy – an opportunity that must not be lost.”

In their final written submission, Northern Gateway specifically discusses the location of the Fort St. James proposed pumping station.

“Based on Northern Gateway’s hydraulic design philosophy and the evidence, it is clear that the current proposed location for the Fort St. James pump station is the best location and that the concerns raised have been fully addressed,” it said.

The review process, for which Enbridge Northern Gateway filed their application back in May 2010, will soon close with the final oral arguments beginning on June 31 in Terrace.

Brenda Gouglas will be speaking for the District of Fort St. James and Kandace Kerr, Louise Evans-Salt and Brenda Gouglas will all potentially be representing the Fort St. James Sustainability Group.

The joint review panel must then submit their recommendations on approving or not approving the project by December 13, 2013.


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