Editorial: It’s time for the District of Kitimat to play hardball on Gateway


Who speaks for Kitimat?

Someone has to speak for Kitimat on the Northern Gateway project.

The District of Kitimat Council no longer has a choice. It’s time to play hardball with Ottawa and Enbridge on the Northern Gateway Pipeline.

You can’t negotiate from a position of weakness.

The game of pipelines changed forever in recent weeks, when the Conservative government introduced Bill C-38, the Budget Implementation Act.

Bill C-38, which passed Second Reading on May 14, 2012 is an affront to basic democratic principles, a 425 page omnibus monster that will not permit the kind of careful consideration of major changes in Canadian society that what was once normal in a free and democratic society. The omnibus bill not only concerns the federal budget but also repeals the environmental assessment process and guts fisheries protection for the smaller spawning streams where salmon are born. By giving the federal cabinet the power to overrule the National Energy Board, the decision on the pipeline rests with just one man, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who has made no secret that he intends to push the project through no matter how fierce the opposition to the project.

This week has seen devastating cutbacks along the west coast, to environmental monitoring and pollution control, to Coast Guard protection.  It is now clear that protection of the environment  along the BC coast and the lives of the mariners who sail those waters are of little importance to Ottawa, and of no importance to the war room types counting votes in Alberta and suburban ridings outside Toronto and Vancouver.

The District of Kitimat Council has voted to wait to make a decision until after the report of the Joint Review Panel, when “all information” is available.

The news this week that the Joint Review Panel decided to bypass Kitimat, that the town that is to be the terminal of the proposed pipeline is irrelevant to the process, shows more than any other move what the JRP thinks of Kitimat. Not much.

The Joint Review Panel has lost all credibility. Even if the JRP does produce a fair and honest report with valid recommendations for conditions and restrictions, it is highly unlikely that those recommendations will be fully implemented, because the final decision will be made in the Prime Minster’s Office and that decision will be build, baby, build.

Media reports in recent months have shown that Enbridge has easy access to the senior levels of the Conservative government and Enbridge lobbying preceded the changes to the Fisheries Act in Bill C-38.  Enbridge  walks the halls of power in Ottawa. Kitimat, on the other hand, counts for little, as the JRP schedule clearly shows.

So, for example, even if the Joint Review Panel recommends strict conditions on the pipeline to insure the safety of Kitimat’s water supply, and if Enbridge doesn’t like those conditions, there is no guarantee that Harper and the cabinet will implement those recommendations. That would leave the District of Kitimat holding the water barrel for several years.

(One of the many reasons, it seems, that the JRP wants to have all the northwest hearings is in Prince Rupert is so the high-priced energy lawyers from Calgary can have comfortable accommodation. So, if any protests from the District and the Haisla Nation are successful and there actually are final hearings in Kitimat,  perhaps the District could arrange for the lawyers to camp in Radley Park, so they can actually grasp the realities of living in Kitimat by the Kitimat River.)

The District of Kitimat Council has a duty to make sure that this region is protected.

So what does this mean?

“Armed neutrality”

It is now too late for the District Council to take a position for or against the pipeline. It no longer matters whether Mayor and Councillors support the pipeline, are sitting on the fence or oppose the pipeline. Bill C-38 has made the decision for the Council.

Council must assume that Stephen Harper will impose the pipeline on Kitimat and will impose conditions that could be determinable to the District in favour of Alberta and Enbridge.

From now on Council must unify and work to protect the District from Stephen Harper. The Council must make sure that the District is an aggressive force at any negotiating table or court battle.

That means Council should retain its position of neutrality, leaving opposition to the pipeline to others like Douglas Channel Watch. Given the growing witch hunt against the environmental movement, an official position of neutrality is negotiating from a position of strength and protects the District from any accusation that “radicals” are distorting the District’s position.

In international affairs, countries like Switzerland and Sweden are neutral, robustly neutral. Both Switzerland and Sweden practice what is called “armed neutrality.”

“Armed neutrality” means that Kitimat Council can no longer continue its current wishy-washy neutrality, arguing over the nuances of words in letters to the Joint Review Panel and Enbridge. To protect Kitimat, Council must adopt its own policy of “armed neutrality,” an aggressive stance that represents the entire community, both opponents and supporters of the pipeline.

So what now?

Professional advice

The announcement this week that Shell is planning to build a liquified natural gas facility in Kitimat, in combination with the KMLNG and BC LNG projects plus Enbridge, means it is vital for the District to have independent, professional advice on energy issues.

The District must immediately start paying much closer attention to the all the relevant documents that are filed with the Joint Review Panel. The District Council and staff must have their own independent advisers rather than juggling the views of Douglas Channel Watch and Enbridge and hoping for the best. That means hiring more professionals to supplement current staff that will understand the technicalities of both the Enbridge pipeline and the LNG projects; staff who can advise the senior administration and Council about how to proceed where the issues of the pipeline construction, terminal construction and management of the terminal come under municipal jurisdiction or could adversely affect the municipality.

That takes money, even though money is tight, Council must budget for that staff. When it comes to negotiating factors within the responsibility of the municipality, Kitimat must be at the table at full strength.

All the way to the Supreme Court

It is now certain that after Stephen Harper orders the pipeline to go ahead, disputes over the Northern Gateway Pipeline will end up in the courts. Lawyers are already talking about the constitutional necessity to consult First Nations, that pushing the pipeline across aboriginal traditional territory will violate Rights and Title.

First Nations across British Columbia are already represented by some of the best lawyers in Canada.

Vancouver is already looking at what powers a municipality has to make sure that city is fully protected in case of a catastrophic tanker accident from the Kinder Morgan pipeline and project.

Yes, the District is wary because of the long and bitter fight over power allocation, but that is in the past. Again Bill C-38 gives the District no choice but to prepare for new legal battles, probably all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada.

The District of Kitimat must immediately budget for, seek out, retain and instruct a law firm that  can advise the District on its rights and responsibilities now and in the future once the Harper government imposes the pipeline on Kitimat. As we have seen from the Joint Review and other National Energy Board hearings, the energy industry hires the best lawyers money can buy.

If Kitimat has to face those lawyers, the District can’t act like a Junior B team facing the NHL All-Stars. That law firm should be able to advise Kitimat on the constitutional issues involved and what powers a municipality has to protect the community from unwanted and unwarranted aspects of pipeline and tanker development. That law firm must also be able to participate in hardball business negotiations.

Seeking Alliances

The District must build better bridges with the Haisla Nation and find where there is common ground in the Kitimat region as Stephen Harper imposes the pipeline on the northwest. They may be arguments before the courts or with Enbridge where both the Haisla and the District of Kitimat are allies in a fight.

Stephen Harper and his government are prepared to impose the pipeline, terminals and tanker traffic on northwestern British Columbia, again no matter what local municipalities and regions say. All the environmental and Coast Guard safeguards that might have brought acceptance of the Enbridge project are being cut to the bone. That means Kitimat must also forge alliances with those municipalities and regions, again to make sure that local rights and responsibilities are fully protected once the government decides to impose the pipeline on the northwest.

It is highly likely that the constitutional consultation and Rights and Title cases on the pipeline will end up at the Supreme Court of Canada. If there are other cases, perhaps raised by Vancouver or other Lower Mainland or northern communities or even the Province of British Columbia, it may be that the Supreme Court, as it has with some cases in the past, could consolidate all the pipeline cases into one. That means Kitimat will need to be a participant in any case on the pipeline before the Supreme Court.

Unless District of Kitimat Council starts playing hardball, Stephen Harper will drive a bulldozer down bank of the Kitimat River to Douglas Channel, ignoring the council standing and watching from the hill looking over the pipeline trench. 

Enbridge to spend $1.6 billion to upgrade Michigan pipeline, old line will be “abandoned in place”

Enbridge announced Thursday, May 10, 2012, it plans to spend $1.6 billion to upgrade and replace its pipeline through Michigan and Indiana, including the site of the leak in to the Kalamazoo River in July 2010. What Enbridge calls the “6B pipeline” broke open near Marshall, Michigan and spilled more than 840,000 gallons of bitumen sands oil into Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River.

That doesn’t mean, however, that the broken and now disused pipeline will be demolished. Enbridge says that pipeline will be “abandoned in place,” meaning it will be deactivated, purged of any remaining oil and then filled with an “inert gas,” a move that is permitted under United States pipeline safety regulations.

In a fact sheet, Enbridge says it plans to replace approximately 75 miles of its 30-inch diameter “Line 6B pipeline.” The 75 miles to be replaced with new pipe consists of about 10 miles in Indiana and 65 in Michigan, with replacement pipe to be either 30 or 36-inch diameter pipe in Indiana and southwestern Michigan and 30-inch pipe in the eastern Michigan segment.

Enbridge map of pipeline 6B
A map, released by Enbridge, showing its plans for upgrading and replacing the 6B pipeline in Michigan and Indiana.

Enbridge says the new pipeline will closely follow the route of the old one.

Completion of this project, scheduled for late 2012, should result in fewer integrity digs and repairs along the replacement segments in the future, resulting in fewer disturbances to landowners and local communities.

For this project, we plan to remove the oil from the pipe segments being replaced and fill them with nitrogen before abandoning in place, as prescribed in regulations. In most cases, the new pipe segments will be installed adjacent to those segments being replaced.

Enbride says the “The Line 6B Maintenance and Rehabilitation Project” is part of the company’s “pipeline integrity maintenance program” that includes:

  • Using high-quality steel and anti-corrosion coatings when constructing our pipelines.
  • Installing cathodic protection (a low-level electrical charge) to inhibit corrosion of underground pipelines. Pressure testing of new and existing pipelines with
  • Periodically inspecting the inside of the pipeline with sophisticated tools called “smart pigs” to locate
  • pipe abnormalities so they can be corrected.
  • Conducting preventive maintenance programs.
  • Continually monitoring pipeline operations from Enbridge’s control center, which has remote shut-down capabilities and can monitor pressures and conditions when the pipeline is flowing.
  • Completing regular ground and aerial inspections of the right-of-way.
  • Providing public awareness safety information to emergency responders, local public officials, excavators and those who live and work along our pipelines.

Enbridge says the aim of the project is to restore the capacity of the pipeline to meet increasing
demand driven by current and planned refinery upgrades and expansions in Michigan, Ohio
and eastern Canada.

Enbridge plans to complete the Indiana segment of the replacement pipeline by 2012. As for the Michigan pipeline, the company says four segments will be completed in 2012 and the last 160 miles will be completed in late 2012 or early 2013.

All of Enbridge’s plans are subject to U.S. Federal and state approvals.

As for the spill in the Kalamazoo River, the Kalamazoo Gazette, in covering the Enbridge announcement reported today

Although one section of small section of the Kalamazoo River that had been closed following the Enbridge spill in 2010 reopened last month – just three of the 40 miles affected – environmental officials have said significant amounts of oil still remain submerged in the river bed, although they say it is not dangerous to human health. State and federal agencies are slated to open more parts of the river in coming months pending investigation.


Related Links:
WOOD-TV Enbridge plans new $1.6 bil pipeline Oil pipeline will not be demolished

NPR Michigan Radio Enbridge wants to replace 200 miles of aging pipeline in Michigan


Enbridge Handout Line 6B Phase 2  (pdf)

Enbridge Handout Line 6B Replacement Project  (pdf)

A map released by Enbridge showing its central Canada and US pipelines


More oil leaking from sunken WWII US transport near Hartley Bay, Gitga’at warn

Oil slick in Grenville Channel (Gitga`at First Nation Guardians)
Oil slick in Grenville Channel (Gitga`at First Nation Guardians)

The Gitga’at First Nation at Hartley Bay report that a large oil slick  has been spotted in Grenville Channel near Hartley Bay.  It is believed that the oil is coming from the  USAT Brigadier General M.G. Zalinski, a U.S. army transport ship that sank in 1946 with 700 tonnes of bunker fuel on board.

A news release from the Gitga’at says the oil spill is between  between two and five miles (four to eight kilometres) long and 200 feet wide (70 metres) inside the Grenville Channel.

A Canadian Coast Guard vessel from Prince Rupert is expected in the area sometime this afternoon.

The Gitga’at are sending their own Guardians to take samples and have chartered a plane to take aerial photos of the spill, the release says.

“If this spill is as big as the pilots are reporting, then we’re looking at serious environmental impacts, including threats to our traditional shellfish harvesting areas,” says Arnold Clifton, Chief Councillor of the Gitga’at Nation. “We need an immediate and full clean-up response from the federal government ASAP.”

The USAT Brigadier General M.G. Zalinski was carrying Bunker C when it sank. The First Nation says the Canadian government has been saying it would remove the oil and munitions from the ship since 2006, but with no results.

“Right now we’re focused on getting a handle on the size of the spill and the clean-up that’s required,” says Clifton. “But this incident definitely raises questions about the federal government’s ability to guard against oil spills and to honour its clean-up obligations. As a result, our nation has serious concerns about any proposal to have tankers travel through our coastal waters, including the Enbridge proposal.”

The spill is just the latest in a series of spills of bunker oil and diesel coming from the Zalinski and the BC Ferry Queen of the North, which sank in 2006. Despite government assurances of clean-up, both wreckages continue to leak fuel, fouling the marine environment, and heightening the fear of future oil spills.

The Gitga’at depend on the ocean for 40 per cent of their traditional diet.

According to Wikipedia, the Zalinksi was enroute from Seattle to Whittier Island, Alaska, when it struck rocks at Pitt Island on Grenville Channel 0n September 26 1946, 55 miles (88 kilometres)  south of Prince Rupert. The ship sank within twenty minutes, while her crew of 48 were rescued by the tug Sally N and the passenger steamer SS Catala. According to a report in The Vancouver Sun on  September 30, 1946, at the time of her sinking she was transporting a cargo of at least twelve 500-pound (230 kg) bombs, large amounts of .30 and .50 caliber ammunition, at least 700 tonnes of bunker oil, and truck axles with army type tires.

Oil was first spotted leaking in Grenville Channel in 2003 and the wreck of the Zalinski was identified later that year by a remotely operated undersea vessel.

Hartley Bay is the entrance to Douglas Channel where tankers will go to Kitimat for the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline and three liquified natural gas projects.





BC NDP formally opposes Northern Gateway in letter to Joint Review Panel

The British Columbia New Democratic Party has written to the Northern Gateway Joint Review panel formally opposing the controversial pipeline project, while at the same time supporting the Kitimat LNG projects, as long as there are strong environmental controls on those projects.

Adrian Dix
NDP leader Adrian Dix (BC NDP)

A long letter from NDP leader Adrian Dix to the panel concludes by saying

as the Official Opposition, we have carefully weighed the risks and benefits of the NGP to British Columbia, and to Canada. After much consideration and consultation, we have come to the conclusion that the risks of this project far outweigh its benefits. We believe that the NGP will cause significant adverse economic and environmental effects and is not in the public interest. Therefore the NGP should not be permitted to proceed.

The letter also calls on the federal government to legislate a permanent ban on tankers for the west coast. The letter goes over the history of the Exxon Valdez spill

Eight of 11 cargo tanks were punctured, releasing about 258,000 barrels of crude oil, most of which was lost in the first eight hours. There were widespread ecological and economic impacts….To this day, vital shore habitats remain contaminated, the herring fishery has been closed for 15 seasons since the spill, and herring are not considered recovered. The clean-up costs alone are estimated at $3.7 billion…Wildlife and natural resource damages range from $8.5 billion to as high as $127 billion…. Related to the economic hardship felt by families and communities, a wave of social problems followed – alcoholism, high divorce rates and even suicides swept through the Sound’s small towns….

We simply cannot let this happen in British Columbia: the risk is just too great. Therefore, we are calling on the federal government to legislate a permanent moratorium on oil tankers and oil drilling activity on B.C.’s north coast to ensure the ecological integrity and economic and social vitality of the lands and waters of this unique region.

The letter also takes Premeir Christy Clark to task for not taking a stand on the Northern Gateway Issue

The Government of British Columbia agreed to the Joint Review Panel (JRP) process, limiting its ability to give voice to B.C.’s interests. In addition, the Province did not seek government participant status and has failed to exercise its intervenor status to fully represent the interests of British Columbians.

We note that other government agencies including an Alberta municipality, the Province of Alberta and Alberta’s Transportation Ministry, as well as the federal Department of Indian and Northern Affairs, Department of Justice, Environment Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Natural Resources Canada and Transport Canada have registered as government participants in the JRP.

We also note that the Union of British Columbia Municipalities, and a number of local
governments have passed motions opposing the NGP. These include: the Village of Queen Charlotte, Sandspit, Masset, Port Clements, Prince Rupert, Terrace and Smithers.

As the Official Opposition, we take our responsibility to represent and to protect the interests of British Columbia and British Columbians seriously. We have listened to the concerns and diverse perspectives of constituents throughout the province and we have met with stakeholders and experts about the NGP.

The letter also expresses concern about the fairness of the Joint Review Process

Four New Democrat MLAs are actively participating in the JRP, as intervenors or as presenters. Three of these MLAs represent constituencies that will be directly impacted if the NGP proceeds. The fourth MLA is our environment critic. All of them, like the thousands of other British Columbians who are participating in the JRP, are doing so in good faith.

We are very troubled by statements of the Prime Minister and Minister of Natural Resources that have caused several commentators and JRP participants to question the objectivity of the process and ask if its outcome is predetermined.

Dix is quick to point out that the New Democrats are not against sustainable economic development.

The importance of sustainable economic development International trade and responsible resource extraction are essential to B.C. and Canada’s economy.

International trade creates good-paying jobs and vital communities. To this end, we are committed to building on our tradition of further developing trade relations with China and other Asia Pacific markets to build a strong B.C. economy.

Further, we have been clear about our support for the Kitimat liquefied natural gas project while emphasizing it comes with the serious responsibility to ensure strong environmental protections. We acknowledge that all resource development and extraction has inherent risks.

Other points in the NDP letter were:

  • The tanker traffic to ship Alberta oil to Asian markets will require lifting of the current tanker moratorium and the Tanker Exclusion Zone, and will put the British Columbia coastline at serious risk of devastating environmental and economic damage from potential oil spills;The NGP will traverse remote and highly valued areas of B.C., and will cross almost 800 streams. The risk of spills from the proposed pipeline will put these valuable
    environments and species, such as salmon, at risk;The impact of an oil leak or spill would be most severely felt by First Nation
    communities. As has been affirmed by the Supreme Court of Canada, First Nations must be consulted effectively and be respected on a government-to-government level;• The greenhouse gas emissions generated by NGP-related oil sands development will
    contribute to the economic, social, and environmental costs of climate change;
    The NGP provides few long-term and sustainable economic benefits for British
    Columbia, while shipping raw bitumen forgoes important value-added economic
    development opportunities involving upgrading and refining the oil in Canada;• The NGP is forecast to increase Canadian oil prices for Canadian consumers.

 NDP BC news release 

BC NDP caucus letter to Joint Review Panel (pdf)

NDP BC backgrounder on the Northern Gateway  (pdf)

Kitimat council calls on Joint Review Panel, Enbridge to ensure viability of town water supply

District of Kitimat council votes on JRP motion
District of Kitimat Council votes unanimously Apr. 2 to inform the Joint Review Panel about concerns about the town's water supply. (Robin Rowland/Northwest Coast Energy News)

District of Kitimat council voted on Monday, April 2, to ask the Northern Gateway Joint Review Panel to ensure that the town’s water supply is protected if the controversial pipeline is built. A second motion called on Enbridge to give the district a detailed and public presentation on its provisions to protect the water supply in the case of a pipeline breach along the Kitimat River.

That second motion was passed after a motion from Councillor Phil Germuth holding Enbridge responsible for any disruption to the water supply was defeated by a vote of 4-3. However, council’s new motion did not preclude Germuth asking Enbridge his original questions about liability.

Germuth had presented council with the two original motions, after a presentation in March
by Douglas Channel Watch about the dangers avalanches could present to the Enbridge twin pipelines along the Kitimat River watershed.

The first motion called on the District of Kitimat to present a written position to the Joint Review Panel based on the district’s status as a government participant emphasizing the potential dangers to the water supply and noting that the mayor and council are “legally responsible to make every effort to ensure the city of Kitimat’s water supply is uninterrupted and of the highest quality.”

Phil Germuth
Councillor Phil Germuth (Robin Rowland/Northwest Coast Energy News)

After introducing the motion, Germuth said he believed the motion went along with council’s position to remain neutral because nothing in the motion took a position for or against the project.
Councillor Mario Feldhoff said he supported the motion without supporting all the details of Germuth’s full statement, a indication of the more intense debate to come over the second motion.

Mary Murphy also supported the motion, pointing to the potential problems of “transporting hydrocarbons” by both tanker and pipeline.

Mayor Joanne Monaghan said she had a problem with the motion because had earlier passed a motion saying it would wait to take a position until after the Joint Review Panel had reported.

Councillor Corinne Scott said she would speak for the motion, agreeing that this was a request for information and not saying council was for or against the project, adding “we are all concerned about the potential of what could happen to our water supply.”

Read Councillor Phil Germuth’s motions (pdf)

Feldhoff agreed that a letter to the JRP was not taking a position, adding, that on receipt of a letter the Joint Review Panel should take a very serious look at the issue of the water supply of Kitimat. Monaghan agreed but said if the council was to write the letter that it be accurate.

Feldhoff then proposed a friendly amendment calling on District staff to write a draft letter to the Joint Review Panel that council could then examine and agree to.

With the amendment, the motion passed unanimously.

Germuth’s second motion was more contentious, calling on Enbridge to provide detailed plans for ensuring the quality of water for the District of Kitimat and accepting “full liability” for the restoration of the Kitimat’s “entire water system” in case of a pipeline breach. Although some councilors had reservations about Germuth’s list of items, they agreed that Enbridge be called to meet council “face to face,” as Monaghan put it, by responding in person rather than by letter.

Enbridge had already responded to the motion from the previous meeting, calling on it to respond to the concerns raised by Douglas Channel Watch about the possibility of avalanche danger in the Nimbus Mountain area.

In an e-mail to council, Michele Perrett of Enbridge maintained that most of the issue had been addressed by Enbridge in either its original filing with the Joint Review Panel or by subsequent responses to information requests to the JRP, adding

Specifically we have filed geotechnical studies and responded to information requests that include information on avalanches, rock fall, glaciomarine clay slides, debris flows and avulsion in the Kitimat area and have reviewed information filed on this subject by intervenors.

The e-mail said that Drum Cavers, a geotechnical specialist would be making a presentation to council on Monday, April 16.

Enbridge e-mail to District of Kitimat Council (pdf)

Monaghan noted that Douglas Channel Watch and other groups are limited by council policy to 10 minutes and that Murray Minchin had told council that to be fair, Enbridge’s response should also be limited to 10 minutes. Council agreed that the 10 minute limit is needed to make sure that council meetings finish on time and there was some discussion of allowing Enbridge to make a more lengthy presentation outside of a regular council meeting. That would allow Enbridge to not only respond to the earlier concerns about the Nimbus Mountain avalanche danger but also to the concerns about the town’s water supply.

Some members of council, led by Feldhoff, also expressed reservations about the seven points raised by Germuth; others wanted to possibly add their own concerns to any questions for Enbridge. Feldhoff was not prepared to vote for the original motion without more information.

Feldhoff then asked that the district administration prepare a report on the water supply, saying “I think the concerns may be somewhat overstated at the moment.” Councillor Rob Goffinet also called for a report from district staff on the “ramifications for our water supply,” adding that council should not “engage with Enbridge” until that report was ready.

Germuth’s motion, with all of the original questions, along with the invitation for Enbridge to make a public presentation, was then defeated by a vote of 4-3.

Councillor Scott then moved as part of the presentation that Enbridge was earlier invited to present that water issues be added to the list and that council draft a list of questions for the company, that could include Germuth’s original questions.

Germuth asked if the council could put a time limit on Enbridge’s response because the federal budget calls for limiting to the Joint Review Panel. Feldhoff responded that the new motion concerned council’s concerns just with Enbridge and that council should be respectful of Enbridge and hopefully the company could integrate those questions as well.

Goffinet said he wanted Enbridge to know all of the district’s concerns and so, in effect, this motion would get what Councillor Germuth wanted but by a different route, adding that if Cavers, Enbridge’s geotechnical expert, was unable to answer the question, Enbridge would be asked to return and answer the questions at a later date at a public meeting.

That motion passed unanimously.



Mary Murphy clarified her remarks in an e-mail by saying

I stated I had concerns with all hydro carbons transported along the river coastline…like CN Rail and transporting hydro carbons and the likelihood of a derailment etc, andhow that would also effect our waters. CN Rail is and has been transporting hydro carbons, etc for some time, and have had severe derailments.

Douglas Channel Watch calls on Kitimat council to “get off the fence”

The environmental group, Douglas Channel Watch, Monday, Feb. 20, called on the District of Kitimat Council to “get off the fence” and oppose the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline.

Dieter Wagner, spokesman for Douglas Channel Watch, addressed the council at its regular meeting. His call came after both Terrace Council and the Skeena Queen Charlotte Regional District voted to oppose the controversial pipeline that would carry bitumen from Alberta to the port of Kitimat and condensate back to Alberta.

The council listened to Wagner’s presentation but took no action, despite calls at the close for a referendum on the issue.

Dieter Wagner
Dieter Wagner addresses District of Kitimat Council, Monday, February 20, 2012. (Robin Rowland/Northwest Coast Energy News)

“Our group and many others can’t quite comprehend why our mayor and council hold the position of neutrality regarding the Northern Gateway. We are requesting you to abandon this position and officially oppose this project,” Wagner said. “Few places tend to lose as much as Kitimat does from the inevitable dilbt spill, either in our river system or our marine environment.”

(“Dilbit” is the industry term for “diluted bitumen.” The pipeline from Alberta will carry oil sands bitumen but for it flow through the pipeline, it must be diluted using a form of refined natural gas called condensate.)

Wagner said that most of the “massive amount of information available on everything concerning this project” is negative. He warned that some documents said there is even a risk of death and injury if humans are exposed to dilbit. He also said that in his view, neither Enbridge nor any level of government have given people enough warning and education abut the effects of a dilbit spill.

Wagner returned to a point made time and time again by Douglas Channel Watch, that is often the local people who detect pipeline spills, sometimes by smelling them, not the sensors used by Enbridge. He cited the case of the Enbridge pipeline breach at Kalamazoo, Michigan, where the spill was reported by calling 911 to local police, rather than by Enbridge’s Edmonton control centre.

Wagner pondered who would detect such a spill on the Kitimat River where there is nobody to report it.

“We are concerned who would detect a spill along the Kitimat River, especially in winter time,” he said. “If there is a spill in the upper Kitimat River, no one will know about it until it gets way down here.”

He maintained that the Gateway project has not adequately addressed the issue of emergency response along the water courses, a point that Enbridge would certainly dispute, given the thousands of pages of documents it has filed with the Joint Review Panel concerning emergency procedures and contingency plans. (For example, Douglas Channel Watch recently objected to an Enbridge plan to burn the Kitimat estuary if there was an oil spill there)

Wagner then turned to the sinking of the cruise ship Costa Concordia off Italy. “The latest technology is no absolute safeguard against a shipping disaster,” he told the councillors. “Cruise ships are normally really well equipped to take care of thousands of people. No technology has yet been invented to deal with human error. Many of these things are due to human error, not equipment failure.”

He quoted the Polaris Institute which he said has found there were 204 spills in Enbridge pipelines from 1999 to 2010, spills which leaked 169,000 barrels of oil into the environment.

Wagner then turned to the growing controversy over the credibility of the Joint Review Process, especially due to political interference by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and members of his cabinet.

“We believe it is better to be proactive to influence the JRP, rather than wait for their decision,” he said’ “When they have made their decision, it is no good, it [ a decision by Kitimat] has to be done before, by making it known that our community does not support this project.”

“The impartiality of the JRP is already threatened by the federal and provincial government officials. Mr Harper in China has already said this project is gong to go ahead and you’re going to get yours, so why are we having the JRP hearings?

“We believe that the management of large corporations and foreign political interests are not in the best interest of our community; the environmental movement has been labelled as enemies of the state by Prime Minister Harper and [Natural Resources] Minister [Joe] Oliver.

Wagner added that support “for these so called radicals, so called enemies” is growing, as seen through growing contributions to the environmental groups.

“When our government labels every day citizens who are actively participating in democracy and its processes, we feel that we need to speak out against that and to address the serious levels of interference we face on the issue,” Wagner said.

“We believe not in the risk of a spill we believe that a spill is a certainty.”

He concluded by saying that in the pre-election all candidates meeting last fall, new councillors Mary Murphy and Edwin Empinado had backed calls for a referendum on the pipeline issue.

Mary Murphy
An angry Councillor Mary Murphy listens to accusations from Dieter Wagner that she broke an election promise. (Robin Rowland/Northwest Coast Energy News)

Wagner then pointed to the vote by council not to take any decisions until after the JRP report, adding:  [New councillors] “Edwin Empinado and Mary Murphy backed down from this promise at the last council meeting. I wonder if this is something they learned from Ex-Premier Gordon Campbell; that this intended to be a promise not kept.

“We ask you to abandon the official position of neutrality.”

(Wagner was referring to an election promise by former premier Campbell not to introduce the HST, which lead to a political campaign to rescind the tax, ending a successful anti-tax referendum and the end of Campbell’s tenure as premier of British Columbia)

The partisan audience, many members of Douglas Channel Watch or supporters, applauded, while Mayor Joan Monaghan admonished Wagner for “knocking down our council.”

Murphy then responded by saying.“ We all debate. Once we became councillors, we represent everybody in the town, not just one particular group,” she said. “We represent every citizen in Kitimat now so personal opinions,” Murphy said.

She then pointed that Haisila Chief Counsellor Ellis Ross told the JRP on the first day of hearings that he would wait for the JRP to make their decision. What Murphy did not mention was that the federal government has told the Haisla and other First Nations that the constitutional mandated consultation with First Nations will not take place until after the JRP report. That means that it would be a bad tactic for First Nations directly affected by the pipeline to make any decision until after the report that could affect those consultations.

As the council moved on to other business, there murmurs of dissatisfaction from the audience with cries of “referendum” and “why did I vote for her?” (referring to Murphy). Most of the Douglas Channel Watch supporters then left the chambers.




Editorial: Calgary Herald calls Northern Gateway opponents “eco-pests”

You can expect a newspaper in Alberta to support the oil-patch, that’s a major part of its audience, its advertising market, its mandate. A newspaper supporting local industry is perfectly fine in a free and democratic society.

The question has to be asked: does that support include juvenile name calling, worthy of a spoiled 13-year-old? In an editorial Friday, The Calgary Herald calls the opponents of the Northern Gateway pipeline “eco-pests.”

Note I said “spoiled” 13-year-old. There are many 13-year-olds across Canada who are clearly more mature than The Calgary Herald editorial board.

Editorial: Eco-pests force government to streamline hearings

The editorial goes goes over the same old line that environmentalists are “stacking” or “hijacking” the hearings. The Herald, like the rest of the Alberta media, trumpets the expose that two people out of the more than 4,000 who signed up for the hearings are from Brazil.

Those two people from Brazil, who may have signed up inadvertently, are just .005 per cent of the total number who want speak, either as intervenors or present 10-minute comments.

So far no foreign billionaires have appeared before the hearings. Why not? After all, foreign billionaires can afford to hire all the fancy energy lawyers they need from the glass towers in downtown Calgary if they wanted to be real intervenors.

So far everyone who has appeared before what the Joint Review Panel is now calling “Community Hearings” are, to use a shopworn but applicable phrase, “ordinary people,” most of them members of First Nations directly affected by the Northern Gateway pipeline project.

The Herald says:

Regulatory reviews must be efficient and credible, and the government must not sacrifice sound environmental review for the sake of haste. But when the process becomes so cumbersome that Canada becomes uncompetitive, the federal government is rightfully forced to act.

That paragraph is typical of the coverage from The Calgary Herald going back years. Up until recently, every story in The Calgary Herald added a mandatory paragraph about “First Nations and environmentalists” opposing the Northern Gateway pipeline, without ever going into details, without ever bothering to send a reporter across the Rockies into British Columbia. Only now that there is widespread opposition to the pipeline across British Columbia is the Herald paying condescending attention. That sentence “must not sacrifice sound environmental review” is just another meaningless example of an obligatory journalistic catch phrase, added to the editorial in a vain attempt to achieve “balance.”

No wonder the media is losing credibility at warp speed.

Do you realize that while Calgary may be the headquarters of the energy industry in Alberta, Calgary itself is no where near the route of the Northern Gateway pipeline? That means that while Calgary gets let’s say 98 per cent of the benefits from the Northern Gateway pipeline, it takes absolutely none of the risk.

So while the Herald says

Warning that lengthy reviews cause investment dollars to leave Canada, [Natural Resources Minister Joe] Oliver properly enunciated a simple goal: “one project, one review in a clearly defined time period.” Imagine a process where each side presents its facts and a decision is rendered.

One has to wonder if the attitude would be any different if a major pipeline breach would mean that the entire city of Calgary would have to exist on bottled water for two or more years, a scenario for Kitimat if there is bitumen pipeline breach along our water supply, the Kitimat River (entirely possible given all the landslides here). If the Calgary water supply was threatened, how many people in Calgary would sign up to speak to a Joint Review Panel?

One has to wonder how quickly the Herald editorial board and its oil-patch loving columnists would change their minds after say just two or three weeks of lining up for those water bottles?

The problem is much deeper than that. The Calgary Herald editorial is only reflecting an attitude that seems to be widespread in the city. Over the past several weeks, there have been numerous posts on Twitter hashtagged #Kitimat, saying that because Kitimat is not within the actual boundaries of the Great Bear Rainforest, we apparently don’t live in the rainforest. Some tweets suggest that if you actually say that Kitimat is in the middle of a vast coastal rainforest, you are lying, anti-Conservative (highly likely) and (here quoting the Herald, not the tweet) an “eco-pest.”

The political agenda on the Northern Gateway pipeline is being driven by people in Alberta who live far from the pipeline route itself even in Alberta, are at least 2,000 kilometres from Kitimat, have never been to Kitimat, make up their minds by looking at maps (apparently they don’t even bother to look at Google Earth which would show all the forest around Kitimat) and won’t have to lift a finger to clean up after a pipeline breach or tanker disaster. Given attitude of many in Alberta toward taxes, they certainly wouldn’t want to help pay for the clean up either. They’ll leave it to the taxpayers of British Columbia and the people of northwestern British Columbia to deal with the mess, while again, reaping all the benefits from the energy industry.

This attitude ranges from twits on Twitter to the academic community.

About century ago, there was a similar attitude seen in academia, in the newspapers, and with the “man on the street” (since women didn’t count back then). It was the attitude in Europe toward African colonies, that the colonies existed for the sole benefit of the “mother country.”

Alberta, it seems, increasingly sees northern British Columbia as a colony, existing for the sole benefit of that province. It is likely that if some Calgary academic did some research, that academic could find a nineteenth century editorial referring to revolting colonials or rebelling natives as “pests.”

Report on Enbridge Kalamazoo spill delayed until fall: Michigan media

The official United States National Transportation Safety Board report on the Enbridge pipeline breach and oil spill at Kalamazoo, Michigan has been delayed to the fall, according to local media reports.

The Kalamazoo Gazette and WDIV TV say the report will be six months late.

The Associated Press, quoting the Gazette says:

The National Transportation Safety Board attributed the delay to other investigations into separate pipeline incidents.

“Our investigations look at numerous aspects that could have played a role in the accident, such as maintenance, human factors, pipeline operations, and materials,” said NTSB spokesman Peter Knudson.

“We’ll also look at the emergency response and environmental remediation efforts to assess how they were handled.”

Local Enbridge spokesman Jason Manshum said the company will be able to finish its internal investigation after the report is released. Manshum said Enbridge is working to take what it’s learned from the spill and share that knowledge.

Links: New South Pacific ship disaster spills fuel off Christmas Island

The grounding of a ship off Christmas Island, an Australian territory, is turning into an environmental disaster, according to local news reports.

A Panama-flagged cargo ship carrying phosphate, the MV Tycoon split in two at Flying Fish Cove off Christmas Island Sunday afternoon. Local authorities say a huge swell ripped the ship from its moorings. Experts warned that the spill was a potential disaster for the ecologically important area, with crabs, birds and coral all threatened.

ABC News (Australia)Locals to tackle Christmas Island shipwreck spill (Dramatic video)

Sydney Morning Herald
Sunken ship oil spill leaves endangered species at risk
(includes video report)
Tycoon has history of problems: Greenpeace

The Western Australian Disaster zone as oil slick threatens wildlife

Australian Associated Press (via Herald Sun) Oil spilling from ship at Christmas Island

The MV Tycoon broke up just hours after the container Rena broke up off New Zealand.

US, European companies looking at LNG powered ships

Energy Environment Shipping

    As one ship  is grounded off New Zealand, causing an environmental “catastrophe”  and a second is grounded off  Nova Scotia,  a shipping company in New Orleans has announced that it will commission two vessels powered by a duel fuel system that includes liquified natural gas.

Harvey Gulf International Marine of New Orleans, Louisiana and Trinity Offshore of Gulfport, Mississippi said Friday it will build two offshore 92 metre (302 foot)  supply vessels, with a price tag of $55 million each with an option for a third. These vessels will service the oil and gas rigs in the Gulf of Mexico.

New Orleans City Business report

The vessels will also have environmental features to meet US  ENVIRO+ Green Passport Certification by the American Bureau of Shipping.

The ship’s propulsion system will be built by a Finnish company called Wärtsilä, which specializes in natural gas power plants on  land and integrated marine engine systems, as well as designing ships, including large ferries.

581-lngboat_500x285.jpg Wärtsilä

In a news release, John Hatley, a vice president of Wärtsilä North America remarked that “We are witnessing a transformation of the marine industry as it charts a course towards a new era for natural gas. It’s exciting for Wärtsilä to be a trusted partner in this launch with industry leader Harvey Gulf, whose natural gas supply vessel investment actions of today signal a coming paradigm shift. This is aimed at capturing operational savings while simultaneously reducing emissions.”

The company website says it supplies power systems for LNG carriers as well as container vessels, bulk carriers, drilling rigs and ships, offshore research vessels, floating production units, cruise ships  and  yachts.

The duel fuel system combines conventional marine fuel systems, gasoline, light fuel, heavy fuel or biofuel with liguified natural gas.

European shipping companies are adopting the duel fuel technology to meet emission standards that come into effect 2013.


The website says

This dual-fuel capability means that when running in gas mode, the environmental impact is minimized since nitrogen oxides (NOx) are reduced by some 85 per cent compared to diesel operation, sulphur oxide (SOx) emissions are completely eliminated as gas contains no sulphur, and emissions of CO2 are also lowered. Natural gas has no residuals, and thus the production of particulates is practically non-existent.

The shipping industry finds the operational savings that gas offers to be very compelling. Similarly, the significant environmental benefits that LNG fuel provides are of increasing importance. With fossil fuel prices, and especially the cost of low sulphur marine fuel, likely to continue to escalate, gas is an obvious economic alternative.

Two-stroke engine

On September 23, Wärtsilä, announced that it is now working on a two-stroke liquified natural gas engine.  The website says:

Wärtsilä… has successfully tested its new low-speed gas engine technology in trials conducted at the company’s facilities in Trieste, Italy…. 
Wärtsilä successfully demonstrated that the engine performance fully complies with the upcoming IMO Tier III nitrogen oxide (NOx) limits, thereby setting a new benchmark for low-speed engines running on gas.

The new RTX5 2-stroke test engine is part of Wärtsilä’s 2-stroke dual-fuel gas engine technology development programme. This is an important part of the company’s strategy to lower emissions, increase efficiency and to develop its low-speed engine portfolio to include dual-fuel gas engines alongside its medium-speed dual-fuel engines.
“The decision to initiate this project was announced in February 2011, just seven months ago. The fact that we have already conducted a successful test shows that our gas engine technology is at the forefront of meeting the future needs of shipping, a future that stipulates more stringent environmental regulation….

The tests with the RTX5 engine will continue during the autumn and winter of this year, and into 2012. More details about the engine technology and its performance will be announced upon completion of the programme.