Members of the Fort St. James community are planning on their own information session on the Northern Gateway Pipeline.
Enbridge, the company behind the proposed pipeline project, has cancelled one information session scheduled in the community and promised to reschedule but no date has yet been set.
Instead, local opposition to the pipeline has decided to hold their own information session, rally and concert on Friday, June 24 in Spirit Square.
While the list of speakers has not been confirmed, there will be drummers, dancers, and a performance by Rachelle Van Zanten, a “rootsy blues rocker” with some slide guitar. Van Zanten is from Francois Lake and has toured internationally and appeared in publications across the globe, as well as national Canadian press.
Rally organizer Lionel Conant has a vested interest in preventing the pipeline, as it would pass through ranch property once owned by his wife’s family only 1 km from their home on Necoslie Road.
“It’s been a concern for us since it was first proposed,” said Conant.
He fears the pipeline would ruin his home’s view of the valley, cutting across a “beautiful landscape being destroyed.”
His opposition to the pipeline is due to more than his own viewscape, however.
“It’s wrong on so many levels,” said Conant. “It’s like exporting raw logs when you export raw bitumen,” saying how the profit for Canadians would be dramatically increased if the bitumen were refined before being shipped.
The pipeline would simply allow for greater production in the already controversial Alberta Tar Sands, and Conant doesn’t think this is where Canadians should be heading, citing the devastation in the Gulf of Mexico due to the BP oil spill, the Exxon Valdez disaster and the more recent oil spills in Michigan and Alberta.
“Do we really want to bring that here and to what benefit,” he asked, and with “virtually no economic benefit to this area.”
Conant instead would like to see the billions of dollars the pipeline would cost invested in research into alternative energy.
“If we don’t stand up and make our voices heard it’ll happen under our noses,” said Conant.
Northern Gateway Project by Enbridge consists of two 1,170 km pipelines between Bruderheim, Alberta and a marine terminal in Kitimat, B.C.
The pipeline from east to west would send bitumen, a precursor of crude oil, mixed with what they call diluent. Diluent is what thins the thick, unrefined bitumen enough to pump it through the pipeline.
The pipeline from west to east would return the diluent to be reused.
The diluent itself is made up of different hydrocarbons which are the lighter components of oil such as benzene, forms of naphtha and pentane. While benzene especially is a high-risk carcinogen, and forms of naphtha are carcinogenic, they are also found in gasoline and other common products.