Chevron has applied to the BC Ministry of the Environment for a permit to discharge storm water from the liquified natural gas construction site at Bish Cove and along the shore of Douglas Channel.
The construction site is currently operating on a Waste Water Discharge Approval that expires on Oct. 31.
The application sets new objectives that “will be protective of the receiving environment.” Various construction areas will discharge storm water (likely due to clearing of the bush cover) from areas at Bish Cove itself and the Bish Creek watershed “including the following watercourses and associated tributaries: Bish Creek, West Creek, Skoda Creek and Renegade Creek.”
The application says that the “maximum rate of effluent discharged from this project and support areas will vary based upon seasons and weather.” Areas and amounts of water may change as the construction proceeds. “The characteristics of the stormwater runoff will be water produced from precipitation, including snowmelt that contains suspended sediment from earthworks and construction.” The application adds, “The types of treatment to be applied to the discharges are: erosion prevention and sedimentation control management practices and devices which may include sedimentation ponds, oil water separators, pH adjustment, flocculent addition and sand filtration.
The public and concerned individuals or groups can provide “relevant information” to the Regional Manager, Environmental Protection, #325-1011 Fourth Ave, Prince George BC V2L 3H9 until September 20, 2014 or call Marc Douglas at 844-800-0900.
Rio Tinto had a 19 per cent stake in Northern Dynasty, a Vancouver-based mining company whose main asset is the Pebble project in Alaska.
The FT reports that Pebble is one of the world’s largest known undeveloped copper resources. The project is mired in disagreement because of concern over its potential effect on salmon stocks.
The FT report says the US Environmental Protection Agency said that it would investigate whether fisheries in the region could be protected. The EPA investigation stops any award of environmental permits for the mine in the meantime, and could lead to a permanent block on the project by the EPA.
According to the report, Rio Tinto said it would donate its shares in Northern Dynasty – worth about $19 million Canadian – to two charitable foundations in Alaska: the Alaska Community Foundation, which funds educational and vocational training, and the Bristol Bay Native Corporation Education Foundation, which supports educational and cultural programmes in the region.
The Pebble Mine would be near rich salmon rivers which flow into Bristol Bay, Alaska. Opponents of the project fear that the giant mine would irreversibly damage salmon stocks for centuries to come.
That was 25 years ago. The media loves anniversary stories and the Exxon Valdez look-backs and updates are already ramping up—right in the middle of the Kitimat plebiscite on the Northern Gateway pipeline and terminal project.
The hashtag #ExxonValdez25 is beginning to trend, based on a Twitter chat for Monday sponsored by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The voters of Kitimat who will have to cast their ballots on the Joint Review Panel’s interpretation of the Northern Gateway proposal will find once again that the JRP tilted toward the industry and downplayed the lingering risks from a major tanker disaster—and that means neither the pro nor the anti side can be happy with the events that will be marked on March 24, 2014.
The Exxon Valdez accident is part of the Joint Review Panel findings that the economic benefits of Northern Gateway outweigh the risks. The JRP generally accepted the industry position, taken by both Northern Gateway and by ExxonMobil that Prince William Sound has recovered from the Exxon Valdez incident, something that is fiercely debated and disputed.
One area that is not in dispute is that the Exxon Valez disaster brought laws that forced energy companies to use double-hulled tankers. However, commercials that indicate that Northern Gateway will be using double-hulled tankers because the company respects the BC coast is pushing things a bit far, since those tankers are required by law.
Northern Gateway told the Joint Reivew Panel that
on a worldwide basis, all data sets show a steady reduction in the number
and size of oil spills since the 1970s. This decline has been even more apparent since regulatory changes in 1990 following the Exxon Valdez oil spill, which required a phase-in of double-hulled tankers in the international fleet. No double-hulled tanker has sunk since 1990. There have been five incidents of double-hulled tankers that have had a collision or grounding that penetrated the cargo tanks. Resulting spills ranged from 700 to 2500 tonnes
The Haisla countered by saying:
The Haisla Nation said that, although there have been no major spills since the Exxon Valdez spill in Prince William Sound, there were 111 reported incidents involving tanker traffic in Prince William Sound between 1997 and 2007. The three most common types of incidents were equipment malfunctions, problems with propulsion, steering, or engine function, and very small spills from tankers at berth at the marine terminal. The Haisla Nation said that, in the absence of state-of-the-art prevention systems in Prince William Sound, any one of those incidents could have resulted in major vessel casualties or oil spills.
The herring of Prince William Sound still have not recovered. Neither have killer whales, and legal issues remain unresolved a quarter of a century later. Monday is the 25th anniversary of the disaster, in which the tanker Exxon Valdez ran aground on Bligh Reef and spilled at least 11 million gallons of oil into the pristine waters of the sound.
Prince William Sound today looks spectacular, a stunning landscape of mountainous fjords, blue-green waters and thickly forested islands. Pick up a stone on a rocky beach, maybe dig a little, though, and it is possible to still find pockets of oil.
“I think the big surprise for all of us who have worked on this thing for the last 25 years has been the continued presence of relatively fresh oil,” said Gary Shigenaka, a marine biologist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The legal dispute over the spill is still ongoing, with the Telegraph’s Joanna Walters noting:
[S]tate senator Berta Gardner is pushing for Alaskan politicians to demand that the US government forces ExxonMobil Corporation to pay up a final $92 million (£57 million), in what has become the longest-running environmental court case in history. The money would primarily be spent on addressing the crippled herring numbers and the oiled beaches.
“There’s still damage from the spill. The oil on the beaches is toxic and hurting wildlife. We can’t just say we’ve done what we can and it’s all over – especially with drilling anticipated offshore in the Arctic Ocean – this is significant for Alaska and people around the world,” she told The Telegraph.
An ExxonMobil spokesman then told The Telegraph, the energy sector’s standard response:
Richard Keil, a senior media relations adviser at ExxonMobil, said: “The overwhelming consensus of peer-reviewed scientific papers is that Prince William Sound has recovered and the ecosystem is healthy and thriving.”
But federal scientists estimate that between 16,000 and 21,000 gallons of oil from the spill lingers on beaches in Prince William Sound and up to 450 miles away, some of it no more biodegraded than it was at the time of the disaster.
Overall, the Exxon Valdez disaster was, as US National Public Radio reported, a spur to science. But NPR’s conclusion is the exact opposite of that from the Northern Gateway Joint Review Panel—at least when it comes to fish embryos.
Twenty-five years of research following the Exxon Valdez disaster has led to some startling conclusions about the persistent effects of spilled oil.
When the tanker leaked millions of gallons of the Alaskan coast, scientists predicted major environmental damage, but they expected those effects to be short lived. Instead, they’ve stretched out for many years.
What researchers learned as they puzzled through the reasons for the delayed recovery fundamentally changed the way scientists view oil spills. One of their most surprising discoveries was that long-lasting components of oil thought to be benign turned out to cause chronic damage to fish hearts when fish were exposed to tiny concentrations of the compounds as embryos.
It seems that some species recovered better than others from the oilspill.
For example, the recovery of the sea otter population has received widespread media coverage, but with widely divergent points of view. The more conservative and pro-industry writers point to the recovery of the otter population, while environmental coverage stresses the quarter century it took for the otter population to rebound.
Although recovery timelines varied widely among species, our work shows that recovery of species vulnerable to long-term effects of oil spills can take decades,” said lead author of the study, Brenda Ballachey, research biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey. “For sea otters, we began to see signs of recovery in the years leading up to 2009, two decades after the spill, and the most recent results from 2011 to 2013 are consistent with recovery
The Joint Review Panel generally accepted Northern Gateway’s and the energy industry’s evidence on the Exxon Valdez incident and concluded
The Panel’s finding regarding ecosystem recovery following a large spill is based on extensive scientific evidence filed by many parties, including information on recovery of the environment from large past spill events such as the Exxon Valdez oil spill. The Panel notes that different parties sometimes referred to the same studies on environmental recovery after oil spills, and drew different conclusions.
In its consideration of natural recovery of the environment, the Panel focused on effects that are more readily measurable such as population level impacts, harvest levels, or established environmental quality criteria such as water and sediment quality criteria.
The Panel finds that the evidence indicates that ecosystems will recover over time after a spill and that the post-spill ecosystem will share functional attributes of the pre-spill one. Postspill ecosystems may not be identical to pre-spill ecosystems. Certain ecosystem components may continue to show effects, and residual oil may remain in some locations. In certain unlikely circumstances, the Panel finds that a localized population or species could potentially be permanently affected by an oil spill.
Scientific studies after the Exxon Valdez spill indicated that the vast majority of species recovered following the spill and that functioning ecosystems, similar to those existing pre-spill, were established.
Species for which recovery is not fully apparent, such as Pacific herring, killer whales, and pigeon guillemots, appear to have been affected by other environmental factors or human influences not associated with the oil spill. Insufficient pre-spill baseline data on these species contributed to difficulties in determining the extent of spill effects.
Based on the evidence, the Panel finds that natural recovery of the aquatic environment after an oil spill is likely to be the primary recovery mechanism, particularly for marine spills. Both freshwater and marine ecosystem recovery is further mitigated where cleanup is possible, effective, and beneficial to the environment.
Natural processes that degrade oil would begin immediately following a spill. Although residual oil could remain buried in sediments for years, the Panel finds that toxicity associated with that oil would decline over time and would not cause widespread, long-term impacts.
The Panel finds that Northern Gateway’s commitment to use human interventions, including available spill response technologies, would mitigate spill impacts to ecosystems and assist in species recovery..
It is clear, however, from the local coverage in Alaska and from the attention of the world’s media that Prince William Sound has not fully recovered from the Exxon Valdez incident (it may yet in who knows how many years). Anger and bitterness still remains among the residents of Alaska, especially since the court cases are dragging on after a quarter century.
Those are the kinds of issues that Kitimat residents will face when they vote in the plebiscite on April 12. Just who do the people of Kitimat believe, those who say the chances for a spill are remote and the environment and the economy will quickly recover? It probably depends on whether or not you consider 25 years quick. Twenty-five years is quick in geological time but it is a third or a half of a human life time.
As for the residents of Kitamaat Village, and probably many people in Kitimat, Haisla Chief Counsellor Ellis Ross summed it up in a Facebook posting on Sunday
If this happens in Kitamaat, all those campaigning for Enbridge will pack up and leave for another coastline to foul. Haisla don’t have much of a choice. We would have to stay and watch the court battles on who should pay what.
Ross is right. Whether it’s Prince William Sound or Douglas Channel, the people who live the region are stuck with the mess while the big companies walk away and the lawyers get rich.
A group of biologists from across Canada have proposed a nine step program to sustain healthy waterways and fisheries not only in this country but around the world.
The key to clean waterways and sustainable fisheries is for the management plan to follow nine guiding principles of ecological water management, according to John Richardson, a professor in the Dept. of Forest and Conservation Sciences at the University of British Columbia, one of 15 freshwater biologists who created the framework to help protect fish and ecosystems into the future.
Fish habitats need waterways that are rich in food with places to hide from predators and lay eggs, according to the framework published on January 31 in the journal Environmental Reviews.
“Fish are strongly impacted when nutrients, sediments or pollutants are added to their habitat. We cannot protect fish without maintaining a healthy freshwater ecosystem,” Richardson,who led the policy section on protecting fish habitats, said in a UBC news release. Other policy sections addressed areas such as climate change and biodiversity.
Humans have put key waterways at risk because of land development and the loss of the vegetation along rivers and streams, Richardson said, adding connecting waterways are also critical for healthy ecosystems. “If fish can’t get to breeding or rearing areas because of dams, culverts, water intakes or other changes to their habitats, then the population will not survive,” he said.
With more pressure on Canada’s waterways, Richardson and his colleagues wanted to create a framework of evidence-based principles that managers, policy makers and others could easily use in their work. “It’s a made in Canada solution, but the principles could be applied anywhere in the world,” he said.
The paper says:
Freshwater ecosystems are among the most imperiled on Earth with extinction rates of freshwater fauna higher than for many other ecosystems and vastly exceeding historic background rates/ Freshwater is vital to humans, and clean water is rapidly becoming a limiting resource for many societies. The greatest threat to freshwater ecosystems is the loss or alteration of freshwater habitats through human development yet our societies and economy depend directly on the services provided by healthy freshwater ecosystems.
It also notes:
Most ecosystem services of fishes are supported by a diverse fauna, not by merely the few species directly favoured by humans. Humans live side-by-side with fishes and other aquatic organisms in watersheds, and we derive our quality of life from the health of these ecosystems.
The paper, which was supported in part by federal government financing, only touches on the controversy over the gutting of the environmental protection for Canadian waterways by the Harper government. It goes on to stay that the protests are not enough and more is needed:
Recent changes to Canadian fisheries policies have motivated responses by the public and the scientific community yet a broad contemporary scientific assessment of what is required to manage freshwater fisheries resources is lacking. A template of the core ecological concepts underlying sound fisheries policies, based on the best available science will support policy and management decisions and the design of monitoring programs to evaluate the success of these actions.
With more pressure on Canada’s freshwater ecosystems, Richardson and his colleagues wanted to create a framework of evidence-based principles that managers, policy makers and others could easily use in their work. “It’s a made in Canada solution, but the principles could be applied anywhere in the world,” he says.
Healthy freshwater ecosystems are shrinking and reports suggest that the animals that depend on them are becoming endangered or extinct at higher rates than marine or terrestrial species, says Richardson. Humans also depend on these ecosystems for basic resources like clean drinking water and food as well as economic activity from the natural resource sector, tourism and more.
The components of a successful management plan include:
Protect and restore habitats for fisheries
Protect biodiversity as it enhances resilience and productivity
Identify threats to ecosystem productivity
Identify all contributions made by aquatic ecosystems
Implement ecosystem based-management of natural resources while acknowledging the impact of humans
Adopt a precautionary approach to management as we face uncertainty
Embrace adaptive management – environments continue to change so research needs to be ongoing for scientific evidence-based decision making
Define metrics that will indicate whether management plans are successful or failing
Engage and consult with stakeholders
Ensure that decision-makers have the capacity, legislation and authority to implement policies and management plans.
These recommendations are based on nine principles of ecology:
Acknowledge the physical and chemical limits of an ecosystem
Population dynamics are at work and there needs to be a minimum number of fish for the population to survive
Habitat quantity and quality are needed for fish productivity
Connecting habitats is essential for movement of fish and their resources
The success of freshwater species is influenced by the watershed
Biodiversity enhances ecosystem resilience and productivity
Global climate change affects local populations of fish
Human impacts to the habitat affect future generations of fish
Enbridge has missed the US Environmental Protection Agency’s deadline to clean up parts of the Marshall, Michigan bitumen spill by December 31, 2013.
Local television news, WOOD-TV says the EPA is now considering “enforcement options.”
The EPA had already granted Enbridge a 10 month extension that the company requested in March, 2013, setting the new December deadline.
In November, Enbridge requested a second extension. The EPA denied that request.
From the EPA letter it appears that, as in previous years, Enbridge is trying to avoid continuing clean up work into the winter. The EPA rejects that position, telling Enbridge it shouldn’t wait until the spring run off could spread the sunken bitumen.
The EPA says that beginning in March, 2013, “Enbridge has successfully removed oil and sediment from two of the three major impoundment areas identified in the order and from several smaller sediment trap locations.”
The letter to Enbridge, from Jeffrey Kimble, Federal On-Scene Coordinator denying the extension is another scathing indictment of Enbridge’s attitude toward the public and the cleanup, citing Enbridge failing to prepare “adequate contingency plans,” by failing to recognize the “serious opposition” the dredging plans.
Although the EPA had told Enbridge to consider alternative plans—and Enbridge claimed it did that—the EPA found the Enbridge’s own logs showed the company didn’t start considering alternatives until it was obvious that Comstock Township would reject their dredging plans.
The EPA letter also reveals that once again Enbridge is reluctant to do further cleanup work during the Michigan winter. The EPA rejects that stance, saying that “Removal of oiled sediments prior to the spring thaw will lessen the potential oiled sediment transport in the spring to Morrow Lake via increased river velocities from rain and ice melt.”
Although we recognize that the work required by the Order is unlikely to be completed by December 31, 2013, U.S. EPA believes that had Enbridge taken appropriate steps earlier as requested, it would not require an extension now. In particular, U.S. EPA believes that Enbridge has continuously failed to prepare adequate contingency plans for a project of this nature. For example, U.S. EPA acknowledges that failure to obtain a site plan approval for use of the CCP property for a dredge pad was a setback in the timely completion of the work in the Delta.
However, Enbridge failed to prepare any contingency plans recognizing the possibility of such an occurrence. Enbridge has known since at least the middle of July 2013 that there was serious opposition to its proposed use of the CCP property. When it became clear in August 2013 that opposition to the site use might delay the project, U.S. EPA directed Enbridge to “conduct a more detailed review of your options in short order.”
Although your letter claims that Enbridge “has considered such alternatives,” your logs indicate that Enbridge did not hold initial discussions with the majority of these property owners until long after the final decision to abandon plans for use of the CCP property. These contact logs do not demonstrate that Enbridge fully explored and reviewed alternative options in a timely manner so as to avoid delay in completion of the work. Although Enbridge claims that use of identified alternative properties would be denied by Comstock Township, Enbridge did not present any site plans to the Township for approval (other than use of the county park for staging of frac tanks). To the extent that any of Enbridge’s contingency plans include the use of land for dredge pads, U.S. EPA believes that Enbridge should begin multiple submissions for property use until one is accepted….
Enbridge claims that it cannot install winter containment in the Delta to prevent the potential migration of sediments to the lake. To support that claim, Enbridge has attached a letter from STS directing Enbridge to remove anchors and associated soft containment during winter monthsas these structures could damage STS’s turbines. However, none of the correspondence provided by Enbridge discusses the use of more secure containment methods, such as metal sheet piling, which may not pose the same risks as soft containment structures. Enbridge should consider using sheet piling to construct cells which would both allow winter work and contain the sediment during that work. Enbridge should therefore try to obtain access from STS for this specific work, and for other appropriate work, for the winter timeframe. Use of sheet pile cells would allow continued operations during the winter, especially in the southern zone of the Delta outside of the main river channel. Removal of oiled sediments prior to the spring thaw will lessen the potential oiled sediment transport in the spring to Morrow Lake via increased river
velocities from rain and ice melt.
Finally, U.S. EPA is unwilling to allow Enbridge to wait until after the likely spring high
velocity river flush to reinstall the E-4 containment structures. U.S. EPA has reviewed Enbridge’s modeling, which Enbridge claims supports its requested timeline, and has found it incomplete. The model has not incorporated, and does not match, field observation of flow velocities and water levels and their potential to impact upstream critical structures if containment is in place. Moreover, U.S. EPA completely disagrees with Enbridge’s assertion that there is no evidence of migration of submerged oil during high flow events. The results of three years of poling and sheen tracking demonstrate that Line 6B oil is mobile during periods of
high flow. Now that Enbridge has a five year permit from MDEQ for the E-4 containment system, U.S. EPA reiterates that this containment must be in place immediately upon thawconditions in the spring….
Although Enbridge’s proposed two phase approach may have components that can be incorporated into a final plan, it should not be considered the approved way forward. U.S. EPA believes that pausing the work cycle until new poling can be done in June or July of 2014 could again result in a wasted construction season in the Delta. Enbridge should consider and utilize a combination of techniques in the plan. For example, several dredge pad sites have been identified by Enbridge. Enbridge should obtain approval for one of these sites, or a combination of smaller sites, so as to support hydraulic dredging in conjunction with the current approved
approach and any potential dry excavation techniques. Enbridge should also consider other winter work techniques, such as cell build out and dewatering in the Delta via sheet piling.
As always, U.S. EPA will continue to work with Enbridge to develop adequate plans and complete the work required by the Order. However, nothing in this letter excuses any noncompliance with the Order nor does it serve as the granting of any extension to any deadline in the Order. U.S. EPA reserves all its rights to pursue an enforcement action for any noncompliance with the Order.
The EPA letter also calls into question the ruling of the Joint Review Panel on the Enbridge Northern Gateway. The JRP accepts, without question, Enbridge’s assurances that the company has changed its attitude and policies since the long delay in 2010 in detecting the pipeline rupture in Marshall, Michigan.
The JRP, on the other hand, accepts, without question, Enbridge’s assurances that it has expertise in winter oil recovery from a pipeline spill.
Parties questioned Northern Gateway about locating and recovering oil under ice. Northern Gateway said that Enbridge conducts emergency exercises in winter and that Northern Gateway would learn from those experiences.
Northern Gateway outlined a number of oil detection techniques including visual assessment (at ice cracks and along the banks), drills, probes, aircraft, sniffer dogs, and trajectory modelling. It said that, once located, oil would be recovered by cutting slots into the ice and using booms, skimmers, and pump systems to capture oil travelling under the ice surface.
The company said that oil stranded under ice or along banks would be recovered as the ice started to melt and break up. It discussed examples of winter oil recovery operations during Enbridge’s Marshall, Michigan incident, and said that operational recovery decisions would be made by the Unified Command according to the circumstances.
Northern Gateway said that equipment caches would be pre-positioned at strategic locations, such as the west portal of the Hoult tunnel. It said that decisions regarding the location or use of pre-positioned equipment caches would be made during detailed design and planning, based on a number of considerations including, but not limited to, probability of a spill, access, site security,
environmental sensitivities, and potential for oil recovery at the response site.
(vol 2 page 153)
In its ruling, the Joint Review Panel said
The Panel finds that Northern Gateway’s extensive evidence regarding oil spill modelling, prevention, planning, and response was adequately tested during the proceeding, and was credible and sufficient for this stage in the regulatory process.
Parties such as the Province of British Columbia, Gitxaala Nation, Haisla Nation, and Coalition argued that Northern Gateway had not provided enough information to inform the Panel about proposed emergency preparedness and response planning. The Panel does not share this view.
Northern Gateway and other parties have provided sufficient information to inform the Panel’s views and requirements regarding malfunctions, accidents, and emergency preparedness and response planning at this stage of the regulatory process.
Many parties said that Northern Gateway had not demonstrated that its spill response would be “effective.” Various parties had differing views as to what an effective spill response would entail.
The Panel is of the view that an effective response would include stopping or containing the source of the spill, reducing harm to the natural and socio-economic environment to the greatest extent possible through timely response actions, and appropriate follow-up and monitoring and long-term cleanup. Based on the evidence, in the Panel’s view, adequate preparation and planning can lead to an effective response, but the ultimate success of the response would not be fully known
until the time of the spill event due to the many factors which could inhibit the effectiveness of the response. The Panel finds that Northern Gateway is being proactive in its planning and preparation for effective spill response….
The Panel is of the view that an effective response does not guarantee recovery of all spilled oil, and that that no such guarantee could be provided, particularly in the event of a large terrestrial, freshwater, or marine spill.
The oil spill preparedness and response commitments made by Northern Gateway cannot ensure recovery of the majority of oil from a large spill. Recovery of the majority of spilled oil may be possible under some conditions, but experience indicates that oil recovery may be very low due to factors such as weather conditions, difficult access, and sub-optimal response time, particularly for large marine spills. …
To verify compliance with Northern Gateway’s commitments regarding emergency preparedness and response, and to demonstrate that Northern Gateway has developed appropriate site-specific emergency preparedness and response measures, the Panel requires Northern Gateway to demonstrate
that it is able to appropriately respond to an emergency for each 10-kilometre-long segment of the pipeline.
The Panel notes the concerns of intervenors regarding Northern Gateway’s ability to respond efficiently and effectively to incidents in remote areas, and its plan to consider this during detailed design and planning. The Panel finds that Northern Gateway’s commitment to respond immediately to all spills and to incorporate response time targets within its spill response planning is sufficient to
address these concerns. Northern Gateway said that its emergency response plans would incorporate a target of 6 to 12 hours for internal resources to arrive at the site of a spill. It also said that it would target a response time of 2 to 4 hours at certain river control points.
The Panel agrees with Northern Gateway and several intervenors that access to remote areas for emergency response and severe environmental conditions pose substantial challenges. The Panel notes that the company has committed to develop detailed access management plans and to evaluate contingencies where timely ground or air access is not available due to weather, snow, or other logistic
or safety issues.
Despite the EPA letter (which admittedly was released long after the JRP evidentiary deadline) that shows that Enbridge did not consult the people of Comstock Township, Michigan, the JRP says
The Panel accepts Northern Gateway’s commitment to consult with communities, Aboriginal groups, and regulatory authorities. The objective of this consultation is to refine its emergency preparedness and response procedures by gaining local knowledge of the challenges that would be present in different locations at different times of the year
(Vol 2 p 165-167)
This announcement was not discussed with Rio Tinto Alcan in advance.
We are endeavoring to have meetings with the federal government to gain clarity on this announcement as it specifically relates to our operations in Kitimat.
Monaghan told CFTK she still hasn’t been able to get anyone with the federal government to tell her more about the plan.
Since today, Thursday, is budget day, it is likely that federal officials would be unavailable for further comment until next week.
Who pays for upgrades?
Another point that is unclear from Monday’s announcement is whether or not the federal government fully intends to take over the navigation aids and enhancements on Douglas Channel and the BC Coast. If so, that means that the Canadian taxpayer would become, at a time of budget cuts, responsible for millions of dollars that Enbridge Northern Gateway has consistently said that the company will pay for.
So far, since I returned to Kitimat, I have had few chances to “go down the Channel,” as the people of Kitimat say.
Of course, when I do go, I always have a camera with me, even in the roughest weather–and the Channel can be rough most of the year.
It is in these waters that the energy industry, both the Enbridge Northern Gateway and the Liquefied Natural Gas projects want to use supertankers to send their products to markets in Asia. Many of the photographers who come to Douglas Channel in high summer choose to capture the brilliant colours of ocean, forest and mountain, as I have on several assignments.
For this gallery, I have chosen to use black and white to show the stark beauty of the mountains, the often menacing seas and the clouds, ever changing, as the westerly winds from the Pacific drive those clouds against the mountains.
Images from this gallery are available for purchase for personal, editorial and commercial use on Photoshelter. Simply click on the image above.
Today BC Premier Christy Clark’s government outlined a series of “world leading” standards for environmental protection on the ocean and on land, if pipeline projects like the Northern Gateway and the Kinder Morgan expansion are to go ahead.
One has to wonder what Premier Clark told Prime Minister Stephen Harper when she gave him the “heads up” call on the new policy last week?
After all, the BC Liberal’s call for “world leading” standards comes just weeks after the Harper’s government, in Bill C-38, changed environmental assessment into a pro-industry process, gutted the Fisheries Act protection for habitat and severely cut back the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and Environment Canada.
So far, in the province of British Columbia, with both the governing Liberals and opposition New Democrats have been spectacularly unsuccessful in persuading the Harper government to reverse the closure of the Kitsilano Coast Guard station.
In the background paper released along with the news release on the five conditions for pipeline and tanker safety, the BC government is calling for greatly enhanced Coast Guard resources and tanker monitoring as well as payment for oil spill response.
Among the conditions for marine safety enhancement BC is asking:
Current response times and planning capacity are less stringent than other jurisdictions like Alaska and Norway. For example, for the types of tankers being proposed for Canada’s west coast, Alaska requires planning for 300,000 barrels. In Canada, response organizations are only required to maintain response plans for spills up to approximately 70,000 barrels (10,000 tonnes). Further, Alaska allows responders 72 hours to reach the spill site, while Canada allows 72 hours plus travel time, which can sometimes add days to the response.
In shared bodies of water, the United States’ requirements exceed Canada’s. For example, the United States requires escort tugs for laden tankers and mandates industry pay for designated and strategically placed emergency response tugs. Canada does not have any similar requirements.
Ensure the Canadian Coast Guard adopts a unified command/incident command structure.
The Canadian Coast Guard has a unique response system which is only used in B.C. The United States, companies and governments worldwide use a unified command/incident command response structure for a range of emergency responses, including marine spills. By bringing the Coast Guard under this system, an effective, co-ordinated response is better ensured while reducing layers of approvals that can delay critical, prompt decision-making.
At Enbridge community briefings in Kitimat last year, the company’s own marine experts said that the 72 hour response time from Vancouver and Victoria for a possible spill in the Douglas Channel was completely inadequate. In its fillings with the Joint Review Panel, Enbridge has proposed setting up and funding its own response stations along the BC coast, although so far, Enbridge has not provided any details on how the response stations would be set up and how they would work.
In 2010, the auditor general reported that Transport Canada and the Canadian Coast Guard have not used a consistent or systematic approach to tanker traffic and spills nor are there formal processes for ensuring that risks are reassessed.
Sheila Fraser found that
Procedures are not in place to verify the Canadian Coast Guard’s readiness. In other words, there is currently no process for providing assurance that the federal component of the oil spill response system is ready to respond effectively.
The Coast Guard had not conducted a comprehensive assessment of its response capacity since 2000.
The results of the Coast Guard’s response efforts—which range from identifying the source of pollution to full cleanup—are poorly documented. There are also limitations with the Coast Guard’s system for tracking oil spills and other marine pollution incidents. These gaps affect its ability to conduct reliable analysis of trends in spills and know how well it is achieving its objectives of minimizing the environmental, economic, and public safety impacts of marine pollution incidents.
In the United States Senate, Canadian Coast Guard response for an oil spill in the Strait of Juan de Fuaca was described as “call the Americans”
For some search and rescue missions the federal government has indicated that it will rely more on the all-volunteer Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue service (formerly the Coast Guard Auxiliary) which is already stretched thin in some areas of the Pacific Coast, rather than the full time professionals from the Coast Guard service itself.
On the industry response, BC says
The federal government should review its rules and requirements to ensure industry-funded response funds are sustainable and adequate to fully cover a major response without requiring public money. Currently, the total amount of ship owner insurance and industry funding available for spill response is $1.3 billion. By comparison, the U.S. federal government maintains a spill fund that is forecast to grow to nearly $4 billion by 2016.
Again given the government backs and the Conservative government’s close ties with the energy industry, one has to wonder what if those provisions can be enforced, especially since more and more of the energy industry in Canada is owned off shore, increasingly in China with its sorry environmental record. (Globe and MailCNOOC’s Nexen bid: A new test for Harper)
If there are to be “world-leading” standards for environmental protection in this country, it has to be paid for. So the question remains, who will pay for it? The federal government is cutting back, Alberta doesn’t want to raise the relatively small royalties it charges the energy industry and Canada is not likely to get a contribution from China.
Who pays to protect the coast and the northern interior going to be a big question for Stephen Harper in the coming months. With the polls showing Adrian Dix and the NDP leading in contention for a provincial election next year, and now with Christy Clark, apparently, demanding higher standards, will Harper open the Ottawa wallet now, will he wait until he faces a much tougher BC premier in Adrian Dix next year, or will he stubbornly hold his course of forcing Canada into his vision of a conservative, limited government nation, with, in the case of an oil spill on land or sea, that will cost the federal treasury billions, even if the energy industry picks up some of the tab?
Enbridge Northern Gateway today filed a massive 11-volume study with the Joint Review Panel outlining possible scenarios for oil spills along the route including the Kitimat and Morice Rivers in British Columbia.
The study, carried out by three consulting firms, Stantec Consuting and AMEC Environmental & Infrastructure both of Calgary and RPS ASA of Rhode Island, is called “Ecological and Human Health Assessment for Pipeline spills.”
Overall the models created by study appear to be extremely optimistic, especially in light of recent events, such as the damning report on by the US
National Transportation Safety Board and the finding of violations by the US Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration with Enbridge operations during the 2010 Marshall, Michigan, spill and subsequent cleanup difficulties encountered by Enbridge.
The executive summary of the report begins by saying
This document presents conservatively developed assessments of the acute and chronic risk to ecological and human receptors in the unlikely event of a full bore pipeline break on the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline project. Three representative hydrocarbon types (condensate, synthetic oil
and diluted bitumen) were evaluated with releases occurring to four different rivers representing a range of hydrological and geographic characteristics, under both low-flow and high-flow conditions. The analysis indicates that that the potential environmental effects on ecological and human health from each hydrocarbon release scenario could be adverse and may be significant. However, the probability of the releases as considered in the assessment (i.e., full bore rupture, with no containment or oil recovery) is low, with return periods for high consequence watercourses ranging from 2,200 to 24,000 years. Therefore, the significant adverse environmental effects as described in this report are not likely to occur.
So the study says that it is “conservative” that means optimistic, that a full bore pipelink break with no containment or recovery is “an unlikely event” and would probably occur every 2,200 and 24,000 years. Not bad for a pipeline project that is supposed to be operational for just 50 years.
The summary does caution:
The analysis has also shown that the outcomes are highly variable and are subject to a great many factors including the location of the spill, whether the hydrocarbons are released to land or directly to a watercourse, the size of the watercourse, slope and flow volumes, river bed substrate, the amount of suspended particulate in the water, environmental conditions (such as the time of year, temperature and wind speeds, precipitation, etc.), the types of shoreline soils and vegetative cover and most significantly, the type and volume of hydrocarbon released.
The highly technical study is Enbridge’s official response to those intervenors who have “requested additional ecological and human health risk assessment studies pertaining to pipeline spills” and a request from the Joint Review Panle for more information about “the long term effects of pipeline oil spills on aquatic organisms (including the sensitivity of the early life stages of the various salmon species), wildlife, and human health.”
The report presents modelling on the release of three hydrocarbons, diluted bitumen, synthetic oil and condensate at four river locations along the pipeline route for their potential ecological and human health effects, under two flow regimes (i.e., high and low flow), broadly representing summer and winter conditions.
Modelling was done for four areas:
• Chickadee Creek: a low gradient interior river tributary discharging to a large river system
located up-gradient from a populated centre within the Southern Alberta Uplands region
• Crooked River: a low gradient interior river with wetlands, entering a lake system within
the Interior Plateau Region of British Columbia
• Morice River: a high gradient river system along the western boundary of the Interior
Plateau Region of British Columbia
• Kitimat River near Hunter Creek: a high gradient coastal tributary discharging to a large
watercourse with sensitive fisheries resources, downstream human occupation, and discharging to the Kitimat River estuary
In one way, the study also appears to be a partial victory for the Kitimat group Douglas Channel Watch because the model for the Kitimat River is based on a spill at Hunter Creek, which has been the subject of extensive work by the environmental group, but the consulting study is markedly optimistic compared to the scenario painted by Douglas Channel Watch in its presentations to District of Kitimat council.
The study describes the Kitimat River:
The hypothetical release location near Hunter Creek is southwest of Mount Nimbus, in the upper Kitimat River watershed, and flows into Kitimat River, then Kitimat Arm, approximately 65 km downstream. The area is in a remote location and maintains high wildlife and fisheries values. The pipeline crossing near Hunter Creek is expected to be a horizontal direction drilling (HDD) crossing. The release scenario
assumes a discharge directly into Kitimat River…
The streambed and banks are composed of coarse gravel, cobbles and boulders. Shoreline vegetation (scattered grasses and shrubs) occurs in the channel along the tops of bars. Vegetation is scattered on the channel banks below the seasonal high water mark and more developed (i.e., grasses, shrubs and trees) bove the seasonal high water mark.
Wildlife and fish values for the Kitimat River are high: it is important for salmon stocks, which also provide important forage for grizzly bears, bald eagles and osprey on the central coast. The Kitimat River estuary, at the north end of Kitimat Arm, also provides year-round habitat for some waterbirds and seasonal habitat for staging waterfowl.
There is considerable recreational fishing, both by local people and through fishing guides, on Kitimat River, its estuary and in Kitimat Arm. There is also likely to be a high amount of non-consumptive recreational activity in the area, including wildlife viewing, hiking and camping. The Kitimat River estuary, for example, is well known for waterbird viewing.
While no fish were captured at this location during the habitat survey, salmonoid fry and coho salmon were observed downstream. Previously recorded fish species in the area include chinook, coho and chum salmon, rainbow trout, Dolly Varden, and steelhead trout.
However, the next paragraph appears to show that a full bore rupture on the Kitimat River would have widespread consequences because it would cover a vast area of First Nations traditional territory, saying
Aboriginal groups with traditional territories within the vicinity of the Kitimat River hypothetical spill scenario site include the Haisla Nation, Kitselas First Nation, Kitsumkalum First Nation, Lax-Kw’alaams First Nation and Metlakatla First Nation.
It also acknowledges:
Oral testimony provided by Gitga’at First Nation and Gitxaala Nation was also reviewed in relation to this hypothetical spill scenario, although the traditional territories of these nations are well-removed from the hypothetical spill site.
The report then goes on to list “the continued importance of traditional resources” for the aboriginal people of northwestern BC.
especially marine resources. People hunt, fish, trap and gather foods and plants throughout the area and traditional foods are central to feasting and ceremonial systems. Food is often distributed to Elders or others in the community. Written evidence and oral testimony reported that Coho, sockeye, pink, and spring salmon remain staples for community members. Halibut, eulachon, herring and herring roe,
various species of cod, shellfish, seaweed, and other marine life are also regularly harvested and consumed, as are terrestrial resources, including moose, deer, beaver, muskrat and marten. Eulachon remains an important trade item. Written evidence provides some information on seasonality of use and modes of preparation. Seaweed is dried, packed and bundled and preserved for later use. Each species of
salmon has its own season and salmon and other fish are prepared by drying, smoking, freezing or canning. Salmon are highly valued and often distributed throughout the community…
Some areas used traditionally are not depicted geographically. Upper Kitimat River from the Wedeene River to the headwaters has long been used for trapping, hunting, fishing and gathering of various foods. Fishing, hunting and gathering activities take place along the lower Kitimat River and its tributaries. Marine resources are collected in Kitimat Arm, Douglas Channel, and Gardner Canal. Old village and
harvesting sites are located along the rivers and ocean channels in this vicinity.
Intertidal areas are important and highly sensitive harvesting sites that support a diversity of species. Many intertidal sites are already over harvested and are therefore vulnerable. Conservation of abalone has been undertaken to help the species recover. Some concern was expressed in oral testimony regarding the
potential for archaeological sites and the lack of site inventory in the area. Oral testimony made reference to the Queen of the North sinking and the potential for a similar accident to result in human health and environmental effects.
A spill at Hunter Creek
The model says that all three types of floating oil in Kitimat River under high-flow conditions would reach approximately 40 kilometres downstream from Hunter Creek while low-flow conditions showed variation.
Under what the study calls low flow conditions, most condensate would evaporate. The bitumen would cause “heavy shore-oiling” for the first 10 kilometres, with some oiling up to 40 kilometres downstream.
The most sedimentation would occur for synthetic oil, and the least for condensate. Synthetic oil under both flow conditions would have the largest amounts deposited to the sediments. This is because of the low viscosity of synthetic oil, which allows it to be readily entrained into the water where it may combine with suspended sediments and subsequently settle. Synthetic oil under high-flow conditions would result in the most entrained oil and so the most extensive deposition to the sediment. Diluted bitumen, for both flow conditions, would result in the most deposited on shorelines, with the remainder (except that which evaporated or degraded) depositing to the sediments.
The condensate also would also have significant entrainment, but higher winds prevailing in under low flow conditions would enhance evaporation and rapidly lower concentrations in the water as compared to high-flow conditions. In all scenarios, a large amount of entrained oil and high concentrations of dissolved aromatics would move down the entire stretch of Kitimat River and into Kitimat River estuary.
Long term scenario
The modelling appears to be extremely optimistic when it reaches four to six weeks after the pipeline breach, especially in light of the continued cleanup efforts in Michigan, estimating that the “fast-flowing” nature of the Kitimat River would disipate all the different forms of hydrocarbon in the study saying
a fast-flowing coastal river like Kitimat River, with gravel or cobble bottom would be affected by a large volume of crude oil released in a short period of time.
Oiling of shoreline soils is heavy in the reaches between the release point and 10 km downstream, becoming lighter to negligible beyond 10 km. Deposition of hydrocarbons to river sediment is greatest for the synthetic oil and diluted bitumen (high flow) scenarios extending up to 40 kilometres downriver, with predicted hydrocarbon concentrations in sediment approaching 1,000 mg/kg dry weight. Deposition of hydrocarbons to river sediment is considerably lighter for the diluted bitumen (low flow) and condensate scenarios. In these scenarios, oiling of river sediment is negligible….
It says that within four weeks of the end of the acute phase of the spill scenarios, concentrations in river sediments and river water would decline becoming quite low at the end of two years.
As for the affects on plants and invertebrates:
Oiling of shorelines would be extensive, particularly at assessment locations within 10 kilometres of the pipeline break location, under both the high and low flow scenarios, for synthetic oil and condensate. High loadings occur as far as 25 kilometres downstream, again asusming that damage would begin to disipate after four weeks declining over the next one to two years. Predicted effects are generally less severe for the diluted bitumen spill scenarios, due to lower expected loading of oil onto shorelines. Low to negligible shoreline oiling would occur for Kitimat River under most of the scenarios at the 40 kilometres assessment location and points downstream. Based on this assessment, very little oiling of shorelines would extend to the estuary and the environmental effects would be minimal.
The study goes on to say that the “model suggests that there would be no significant risk to fish health based upon chronic exposure to petroleum hydrocarbons for the oil spill scenarios in Kitimat River or the potentially affected areas within the estuary, either at four weeks or one to two years following the hypothetical spill events. Risk to developing fish eggs in Kitimat River and estuary at four weeks and one to two years again indicate no significant risk to developing fish eggs in spawning gravels.”
It also claims that “chronic risks” to wildlife would be minimal, with some elevated risk for “muskrat, belted kingfisher, mallard duck, spotted sandpiper and tree swallow,” if they were exposed to synthetic oil. The muskrat, mallard duck and spotted sandpiper
could be vulnerable to bitumen and diluted bitumen.
It then claims that “no significant effects of chronic exposure (to all hydrocarbons) would occur for grizzly bear, mink, moose, river otter, bald eagle, Canada goose, herring gull or great blue heron for the Kitimat River hydrocarbon spill scenarios.”
Again, it appears from the sutdy that the spotted sandpiper would be most vulnerable to “bulk weathered crude oil exposure” includingcondensate, diluted bitumen and synthetic oil.
For the Kitimat section it concludes:
In the unlikely event of an oil spill, recovery and mitigation as well as the physical
disturbance of habitat along the watercourse would be likely to substantially reduce the exposure of wildlife receptors to hydrocarbons as compared to the scenarios evaluated here.
If there is a major disconnect between the people who live in the Kitimat region and the rest of Canada, it is the question of vessel traffic on the Douglas Channel, with Enbridge spinning that there is already major tanker traffic on the Channel.
This section from the Northern Gateway website, is often quoted by Enbridge supporters, the vast majority of whom live in Alberta, thousands of kilometres away, have never been to Kitimat, but, somehow from Calgary or Fort McMurray, claim to know more about the Douglas Channel than people who live in Kitimat, including those who have sailed Douglas Channel for decades.
According to numbers from the Port of Kitimat, not only have vessels carrying industrial products been travelling the channels safely for some 35 years, but so too have ships carrying petroleum products—like the one featured arriving in the Port of Kitimat through the Douglas Channel in the picture above.
In fact, some 1,560 vessels carrying methanol and condensate called on Kitimat port from 1982 to 2009 – that’s over 3,100 transits of vessels dedicated to the transport of petroleum products.
When you add vessel traffic of all industrial activity into Kitimat port, the number jumps to 6,112.
To be clear…the number of ships servicing industry arriving at Kitimat port between 1978 and 2009 is 6,112. That’s 12,224 transits!
So in its questions to the Haisla, Enbridge asked:
c) Please confirm that the Haisla Nation is aware of existing and proposed
marine vessel activity within its Traditional Territory, including:
(i) fuel barges
(ii) cargo/container ships
(iii) commercial fishing vessels
(iv) condensate tankers
(v) liquefied natural gas tankers
Enbridge’s question was an obvious attempt to enhance their spin on vessel traffic on the Douglas Channel, by fishing for an admission that large vessels already ply the Channel, something the residents of the Kitimat, both First Nations and non-aboriginal already know well.
In its response, the Haisla Nation replies:
The Haisla Nation is aware of the existing and proposed marine vessel activity within its Territory, including fuel barges, cargo/container ships, commercial fishing vessels, condensate tankers, and liquefied natural gas tankers.
The Haisla Nation is also aware of the increased cumulative effect of additional marine vessel activity as projects are approved. The presence of this shipping increases the significance of the potential impacts of the project on Haisla Nation aboriginal title and rights, through cumulative impacts.
The Haisla Nation is responsible for some of the vessel traffic within its Territory, with modern forms of transportation having replaced canoes. Until legal developments in the early 2000s which have defined the content of the honour of the Crown with respect resource decisions and potential impacts on First Nations, the Haisla Nation had little say about the projects with associated vessel traffic in its Territory.
While standard petroleum product tankers, many carrying condensate, a natural gas product, have been visiting Kitimat for years, there have. so far, been no supertankers, much less Very Large Crude Carriers. No bitumen carrying tankers have visited Kitimat, a fact always ignored by the region’s critics in Alberta and by Enbridge on its website.
Not only the filing by the Haisla Nation but most of the testimony at the recent public comment hearings in at Kitamaat Village, were about the fear of the growing cumulative effect of greatly increased tanker traffic on the Channel.