Fort St. James resident responds to Enbridge presentation

A Fort St. James resident explains the concerns she had after a presentation by Enbridge.




Well, that was quite the show that Enbridge put on the other night (One more Enbridge presentation, Caledonia Courier, July 4).

To listen to them you could get the impression, spilling 20,000-plus barrels of oil into the Kalamazoo River can be a good thing for your community.

Oil spills can be an economic boon – hotels are filled with spill workers, restaurants are busy catering for clean-up crews, imagine the jobs, the potential!

And community groups reap the benefits too –Enbridge will be happy to donate their left-over tools and equipment for community use. Bitumen-stained shovels for all!

And need a new boat launch?

Let Enbridge dump a bunch of oil in your waterway, clean it up, and then use the site that has been dredged and degraded and ruined forever for wildlife and waterfowl to provide you with access to a river that is still closed because the clean-up isn’t done yet and won’t be for some time.

Get a little oil on your hand reaching for that fish you just caught?

Here’s a handy wipe to take that away – but, as the posted warning sign says, “It’s easier to clean off if you do it right away”.

Other things Enbridge said Wednesday night just didn’t, to be honest, sit right with me. So I went looking for answers. Here’s what I found.

Contrary to Enbridge’s statement that night, bitumen does not act “just like any other oil.”

It sinks. It sticks. And the toxicity is far beyond any other types of oil. And that means that clean-up is a challenge because conventional clean-up methods don’t deal with submerged oil – oil on the river bottom. The US Environmental Protection Agency admits that they are “writing the book” on bitumen spill clean-ups because they had never responded to a spill like this before. (More info? )

And Enbridge was adamant that they didn’t know about the spill when it happened because “Nobody called us.”

Documents recently released by the National Transportation Safety Board indicate that Enbridge employees at the Edmonton Control Centre knew something was wrong, that they couldn’t figure out what the problem was, but not until someone outside the company told them what the problem was they went into damage control.

Keep in mind this is the same Edmonton Control Centre that will be monitoring the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline.

Documents recently released by the US Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Agency show that the actions of the employees at the control centre pushed excessive oil into the river during a 17 hour delay, instead of following a basic company rule to shut the system down after 10 minutes when a problem is detected.

A delay of 17 hours on the Northern Gateway pipeline could push a lot of bitumen into Pitka Creek or the Stuart River.

But I guess the language that rankled me the most was their insistence that they could not discuss anything leading up to their response on the ground “because the NTSB has told us not to.”

“Just to be clear, it is the NTSB that has told us not to talk, Loraine and I would love to talk,” Michelle Peret said.”

Well, Michelle and Loraine, I contacted the NTSB and asked them if this was true.

They told me you were able to discuss any information contained in documents already released. In fact, the words the fellow that I contacted used were “parties are free to discuss factual information that has been released”. Timelines, interviews with Enbridge employees – all out there, all posted on the NTSB website, all available for discussion.

The key word here is “told.” Michelle and Loraine insisted that they were “told” not to discuss anything until the final report has been released.  The word the NTSB uses is “choose,” as in “The vast majority of parties simply choose not to talk about the investigation until our investigation is complete and we’ve made the determination of probable cause.”

No prohibition.

No order “not to talk.”

Enbridge chose not to. Hiding behind an administrative direction that gives you the option of discussing the facts as they have been released does nothing to endear a company to the community.

I would have been a lot more impressed if they had come in, said yes, this is what happened, mistakes were made, and we’ve made changes as a result.

But they didn’t. Instead, they chose to hide behind what sounded like an official decree banning them from speaking about the incident.

How’s that for open and honest communication with local residents and government?

So now Enbridge is going to come back, once again, to sell us on the merits of this proposal. Really? How many more times does this company have to show up in town to try and sell us on a proposal that has no local benefit, carries significant local risk, and is basically being forced through by the federal government?

We are being asked to carry all of the risk for a company and a government that does not live here – they won’t be told they can’t eat the fish, drink the water, or use the lake.

It’s time for those of us who care about our clean waters, our communities, and our neighbours to stand up, stand together, and say NO to Northern Gateway.

And that includes our local government officials. You elected them to represent you, to protect your community. Make sure they do.


Kandace Kerr

Fort St James, BC

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