Enbridge is striking back against the First Nations and intervenors who oppose the Northern Gateway pipeline and marine terminal projects by filing questions that those groups must answer as part of the Joint Review Process.
On May 11, 2012, Enbridge filed questions with 24 organizations, and from the questions, it appears that Enbridge isn’t just building a strictly legal case in their favour but are preparing to try and discredit opponents.
Enbridge’s questions are part of the legal process. For months, First Nations and intervenors have been filing a whole series of questions asking for clarification of items in the Enbridge’s filings on the project with Joint Review Process and Enbridge has the legal right to ask the First Nations and intervenors to clarify their positions.
However, the difference is that Enbridge is a giant corporation which can afford to spend millions of dollars on both the approval process as well as the current nationwide advertising process, while some of the intervenors are made up of volunteers or retirees working on their own time. Sources among the intervenors have been saying for months that they believe that Enbridge is following a perceived policy of working to wear down the opponents so much they burn out and drop out of the process.
A large proportion of the questions Enbridge is demanding that First Nations and intervenors answer are overtly political, rather than technical responses to their filings.
In an apparent escalation of its campaign against its opponents, Enbridge is using the Joint Review process to ask intervenors about funding, naming such hot button organizations such as Tides Canada, which is under attack by the Harper government. Enbridge is also questioning the “academic credentials” of numerous intervenors and commenters, even though the Joint Review Panel has spent most of the past seven months asking people to comment based on “local knowledge,” leaving the technical questions to the documents filed with the JRP
Some key questions directed at both the Haisla and Wet’suwet’en First Nations seem to indicate that Enbridge is preparing to build both a legal and probably a public relations case questioning the general, but not unanimous support for liquified natural gas projects in northwestern BC, by saying “Why not Northern Gateway,” as seen in this question to the Haisla Nation.
Please advise as to whether similar measures would be requested by the Haisla First Nation to deal with construction-related impacts of the Northern Gateway Project.
A series of questions to the coalition known as the Coastal First Nations questions the often heard assertion that an oil spill on the BC coast is “inevitable,” and Enbridge appears to be prepared to argue that spills are not inevitable. Enbridge asks Coastal First Nations about a study that compared the bitumen that could be shipped along the coast with the proposed LNG projects.
Please provide all environmental and risk assessment studies, including studies of “Black Swan” events, conducted by the Coastal First Nations or any of its members in respect of the LNG projects referred to.
Enbridge is referring to Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s now widely known “theory of high-impact, hard-to-predict, and rare events that are beyond the realm of normal expectations in history, science, finance and technology.”
It is Black Swan events that most of the people of the northwest coast fear when it comes to all the major energy projects, but if as Taleb says they are hard-to-predict and rare, how can the studies Enbridge is requesting actually predict those disasters?
Enbridge’s questions to the Haisla Nation runs for 28 pages and many of those questions are political, not technical, including asking for details of the Haisla support for the various Kitimat liquified natural gas projects and who may be funding the Haisla participation in the Joint Review Process. Many technical questions around the questions of “acceptable risk” and it appears, despite the fact Enbridge officials have listened to the Haisla official presentation at Kitamaat Village last January and the speeches of Haisla members this week at the pubic comment hearings, that Enbridge is preparing to use a paper-based or Alberta-based concept of acceptable risk as opposed to listening to the First Nation that will be most directly affected by any disaster in the Kitimat harbour or estuary.
A series of questions seems to negate Enbridge’s claim that it has the support of many First Nations along the pipeline route because Enbridge is asking for details of agreements that First Nations have reached with the Pacific Trails Pipeline. Enbridge has consistently refused to release a list of the First Nations it claims has agreements with the company, but in the questions filed with the JRP, Enbridge is asking for details of agreements First Nations in northern BC have reached with the Pacific Trails Pipeline.
For example, while Enbridge is refusing to name all the backers of the pipeline for reasons of corporate confidentiality, the company is asking who may be funding the Wet’suwet’en First Nation in its appearances before the Joint Review Panel, including the US-based foundations named by right-wing blogger Vivian Krause, (note Krause recently declared victory and suspended her blog) right-wing columnists and the Harper cabinet:
Please confirm that the Office of the Wet’suwet’en has received participant funding from the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency to participate in the Joint Review Panel (“JRP”) proceeding.
Please advise as to the amount of participant funding received to date from the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency.
Please advise whether or not the Office of the Wet’suwet’en has received funding within the
last 5 years from Tides Canada, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, or any other similar foundations, to oppose the Northern Gateway Project or to oppose oil sands projects in general.
If so, please provide the amount of funding received from each foundation.
In the case of the Raincoast Conservation Foundation, Enbridge is asking for details, including a membership list.
Please provide a description of the Raincoast Conservation Foundation.
Does the Raincoast Conservation Foundation prepare Annual Reports? If so, please provide the most recently published Annual report available.
If the Raincoast Conservation Foundation is a collection of like-minded individuals, please list its members.
Did the Raincoast Conservation Foundation apply for and receive participant funding in this proceeding? If so, how much was received?
While many of Enbridge’s question to the RainCoast Foundation are technical, the company which is currently conducting a multi-million dollar public relations campaign in favour of the pipeline, asks:
Please confirm that the “What’s at Stake? study” was prepared for use as a public relations tool, to advocate against approval of the Northern Gateway.
Enbridge also appears to be gearing up for personal attacks on two of the most vocal members of Kitimat’s Douglas Channel Watch, Murray Minchin and Cheryl Brown, who have been appearing regularly before District of Kitimat council to oppose the Northern Gateway pipeline.
On Murray Minchin, Enbridge asks:
Written Evidence Regarding Proposed Liquid Petroleum Pipelines from the proposed Nimbus Mountain West Portal to the Kitimat River Estuary submitted by Murray Minchin of Douglas Channel Watch…. Supplemental Written Evidence Photographic Evidence Regarding Proposed Liquid Petroleum Pipelines from Nimbus Mountain to the Kitimat River Estuary submitted by Murray Minchin of Douglas Channel Watch….
Mr. Minchin provides extensive opinion relative to geotechnical and other technical matters. Request: Please provide Mr. Minchin’s curriculum vitae which includes his education, training and employment history, to demonstrate his qualifications to provide geotechnical and other technical opinions that appear….
Minchin is one of Enbridge’s strongest opponents in Kitimat and in his various appearances (the latest at the anti-Enbridge demonstration in Kitimat on Sunday, June 24, 2012, Minchin has told the audiences that he is self-taught and has spent much of his spare time over the past few years studying the documents Enbridge has filed with the JRP.
As for Cheryl Brown, a vocal critic of the Enbridge Community Advisory Board process, Enbridge has filed a long series of questions about her involvement with the CAB, including asking how many meetings she has attended (see document below)
Two of Enbridge’s questions about Brown stand out
Has Ms. Brown offered a suggestion for a speaker that would have provided a differing viewpoint from those of Northern Gateway?
Many people in Kitimat, not just the outspoken members of Douglas Channel Watch, say they do not trust the Community Advisory Board process. When the CAB held a meeting recently to discuss marine safety, a meeting that was heavily advertised in Kitimat Terrace area, the CAB facilitators ( from a Vancouver -based company) attempted to bar the media, including this reporter, from this “public” meeting, until apparently overruled by Enbridge’s own pubic relations staff. On the other hand, everytime Douglas Channel Watch has appeared before the District of Kitimat Council to request a public forum on Gateway issues, DCW has always insisted that Enbridge be invited to any forum, along with DCW and independent third parties.
Ms. Brown states that Enbridge has not addressed the hard questions. Please confirm that Northern Gateway responded to questions put forth by the Douglas Channel Watch in Letters to the Editor in both the Kitimat Northern Sentinel and Terrace Standard in August of 2009.
Here Enbridge appears to be basing its case on one letter to the editor that appeared in local papers three years ago. During the public comment hearings that the JRP held at Kitamaat Village earlier this week, numerous people testified time and time again that Enbridge was failing to answer major questions about the pipeline and terminal, by saying that those questions would be answered later, once the project is approved.
In one series of questions, Enbridge is demanding a professional level database from the Kitimat Valley Naturalists, the local birdwatching group. Quoting a submission by the naturalists group, Enbridge asks
Paragraph 2.2, indicates that the Kitimat Valley Naturalists has birding records for the estuary for over 40 years and that Kitimat Valley Naturalists visits the estuary at least 100 times per year.
Paragraph 2.3 indicates the Kitimat Valley Naturalists have local expertise in birds of the Kitimat River estuary as well as other plants and animals that utilize those habitats.
Request: To contribute to baseline information for the Kitimat River estuary and facilitate a detailed and comprehensive environmental monitoring strategy, please provide the long term database of marine birds in and adjacent to the Kitimat River estuary, with a focus on data collected by the Kitimat Valley Naturalists in recent years, and where possible, the methodology or survey design, dates, weather and assumptions for the data collection.
Today the Kitimat Valley Naturalists, three local retirees, Walter Thorne, Dennis Horwood and April Macleod filed this response with the JRP:
Northern Gateway has specifically requested the long-term database of birds occurring over many years within the Kitimat River Estuary. The data we have collected includes monthly British Columbia Coastal Water Survey (BC CWS) and yearly Christmas Bird Counts (CBC). The data from
these bird counts are available on the web or in print form.
For access to BC CWS enter http://www.bsc-eoc.org
For access to CBC data, enter http://birds.audubon.org
Historical results for CBC counts have also been published by the journal American Birds. The earliest CBC count for Kitimat was 1974.
In regard to the long-term database, we have significant numbers of records for the foreshore of the Kitimat River Estuary. The number increases when the larger estuary perimeter is considered. These cover a 40-year period with the majority in the last 20 years. We would be willing to provide this information in a meaningful format.
The Kitimat Valley Naturalists, however, lack the expertise or financial ability to convert the data into a format that would address Northern Gateway’s interest in methodology, survey design, dates, weather, and assumptions for data collection.
Alternatively, we do have access to a consulting firm, which is willing to analyze our data and convert it to a useable and practical design. We assume, since this is a considerable undertaking in both time and cost, that Northern Gateway would be willing to cover the associated fees.
We look forward to hearing back from Northern Gateway and pursuing this with a budget proposal.
Northwest Coast Energy News consulted data management experts who estimated that complying with the Enbridge request would likely cost between $100,000 and $150,000.
Some Wet’suwet’en houses have opposed the Pacific Trails Pipeline, and while negotiations with Apache Corporation are continuing, Enbridge is asking the First Nation for details of what is happening with that pipeline.
Is it the position of the Office of the Wet’suwet’en that each First Nation whose traditional territory is traversed by the proposed pipeline has a veto on whether it is approved or refused?
Please confirm that the Office of the Wet’suwet’en opposed approval of the Pacific Trails Pipeline (also known as the Kitimat Summit Lake Looping Project).
Does the Office of the Wet’suwet’en continue to oppose construction of the Pacific Trails Pipeline?
Have the First Nations who are proposing to participate as equity owners in the Pacific Trails Pipeline Project advised the Office of the Wet’suwet’en that they accept that the Office of the Wet’suwet’en has a right to veto approval and construction of that Project?
Please confirm that the First Nations holding an equity ownership position or entitlement in the Pacific Trails Pipeline Project (also known as the Kitimat-Summit Lake Looping Project) include:
• Haisla First Nation
•Kitselas First Nation
•Lax Kw’alaams Band
•Lheidli T’enneh Band
•McLeod Lake Indian Band
•Metlakatla First Nation
•Nadleh Whut’en First Nation
•Nee Tahi Buhn Band
•Saik’uz First Nation
•Skin Tyee First Nation
•Stellat’en First Nation
•Ts’il Kaz Koh First Nation
•West Moberly First Nation
•Wet’suwet’en First Nation
The majority of questions filed with the Coast First Nations are technical challenges to studies filed by the coalition. Enbridge also filed questions with the Gitga’at, Gitxaala, Heiltsuk Nations and the Metis Nation of Alberta.
(Disclosure: The author, who is also a photographer, sometimes accompanies members of the Kitimat Valley Naturalists to photograph birds during the time they are doing the counts)