District of Kitimat Council tonight (March 4, 2013) approved building permits for the KMLNG work camp at the old West Fraser Eurocan paper mill site.
The first phase of the camp, called 1A will have 155 beds, followed by a second camp, called 1B with 145 beds. Council also approved a second phase, Camp 2, which will have an additional 300 beds. The camp will consist of single-storey, 44 bed dormitories, similar to those now being used at the Rio Tinto Alcan Kitimat Modernization project, a couple of kilometres away.
“This camp will support the construction of the LNG terminal,” KM LNG’s Ron Link told council, “the focus right now is a 600 man camp. Beyond that, if the final investment decision is approved, it will eventually grow to 2,800.
To build the camp KMLNG will have to demolish some of the remaining blow pipes and chip screening facilites that are there.
“Under the regulations it is a contaminated site and we have a company called Constega Rovers that are participating in sampling the site. It is certainly our attention to clean it up.
If the full 2,800 bed camp is built, the remaining part of the facility will be directly west of the current proposed campsite.
Later in the meeting council continued to debate the contenious issue of an over all camp policy for the District of Kitimat and voted to instruct district staff to “bring back a calendar with the process and dates for discussing camp policy.”
Staff would prepare a document indicating where camps are presently permitted within the District of Kitimat followd by a committee of the whole meeting dedicated to the pros and cons of camps within the district and perferred locations, services provided by the district and size limits.
There will likely be both a public town hall and a “public meeting” of council to discussion the issues later in the spring,
The debate was prompted bya proposal from the PTI Group to build a large “lodge style” work camp within the boundaries of the residential part of Kitimat, near the hospital and City Centre Mall. The PTI proposal would require amendments to both zoning and the Official City Plan. The KMLNG and RTA camps are in areas zoned for industrial use and would not be affected by a change to the official plan for the residential area.
There’s one question about the Enbridge Northern Gateway project that many people ask and few can answer: Who is responsible for the port of Kitimat? Who would be liable should there be a disaster in the port? Nobody really knows.
If there’s a dispute, the question of responsibility and liability would probably end up in the Supreme Court of Canada, with the justices sorting out a historic puzzle. Or perhaps that historical puzzle could mean that the future of the port of Kitimat might be decided by the next B.C. provincial election.
Most of the other harbours in Canada are the responsibility of Ports Canada, a branch of Transport Canada or run by (usually not-for-profit) semi-public port corporations or local harbour commissions.
To find out why Kitimat is one of the few private ports in Canada, the first thing to do is watch Eliza Kazan and Bud Schulberg’s classic 1954 multiple Oscar winning movie, On the Waterfront, starring Marlon Brando, about how the mob ran the New York docks.
What has On the Waterfront got to do with Kitimat? It goes back to when the then Aluminum Company of Canada/Alcan (now Rio Tinto Alcan) was planning the Kitimat project; much of that work was done in New York both by employees and consultants. It was in 1949, that Malcolm Johnson, a New York Sun reporter, wrote a Pulitzer Prize winning series of investigative reports called “Crime on the Waterfront,” exposing corruption and Mafia involvement with the docks and the longshoremans’ union. The movie was based, in part, on that investigative series.
So in its planning, Alcan was determined that the longshore unions would not be involved in running the docks in Kitimat. The publicly stated reason has always been that Alcan wanted a seamless 24/7 operation that would be integrated with the aluminum smelter. Alcan would sign a collective agreement with the United Steelworkers that covered both the smelter and the docks. (CAW 2301 now represents most of the workers at the Kitimat smelter.)
When the Kitimat project was being finalized in 1949 and 1950 at the height of the Cold War, aluminum was a strategic commodity, security was high on the agenda, and it was not just the Soviet bloc but the mob as well that worried the authorities.
Add two factors. First, in 1949 the province of British Columbia was anxious to promote what would today be called a “mega-project.” Second, in the post-war era when corporations were relatively enlightened compared to today, Alcan was determined not to create the traditional “company town.”
To promote private-sector development of both hydro-electricity and aluminum, B.C. signed a rather loosely worded agreement with Alcan, noting that the project was going on “without investment by or risk to the government.” That agreement was implemented by the Legislative Assembly of B.C. by an equally wide open Industrial Development Act. One aim of both was try to ensure that future “socialists” would not expropriate the project.
With the province handing over the Crown land at the head of Douglas Channel at a very nominal price to Alcan, next came the creation of the District of Kitimat. With the town under construction, with few buildings and a small population, under normal B.C. practice, the area would be “unincorporated” and would not have a municipal government. But Alcan and the province came up with a new concept, which they called “an industrial township,” which would allow a municipal government to be established in anticipation of future growth.
The act that established the District of Kitimat put the boundaries outside the land owned by Alcan (excluding land reserved for the Haisla Nation).
The District of Kitimat has some legal responsibility for “wharfs” at the port of Kitimat. At council meetings, the environmental group, Douglas Channel Watch, has raised the question of the district’s responsibility and liability in case of an Enbridge incident but there’s been no definitive response from district staff. There is no municipal harbour commission as there is in other jurisdictions.
Up until recently, it was a convenient arrangement for everyone involved. Alcan, Eurocan and Methanex ran their dock operations without any interference, beyond standard Transport Canada oversight.
Things began to change in 2007, when the Rio Tinto Group bought Alcan, creating Rio Tinto Alcan. A couple of years ago, a senior staff source in the Canadian Auto Workers explained it to me it this way. “Alcan was a big corporation, but Alcan was a corporation with a big stake in Canada. As a union, we could do business with them. Rio Tinto is a transnational corporation with businesses in lots of countries but no stake in any of them. So it’s a lot harder now.”
With the Rio Tinto acquisition of Alcan, things tightened up in Kitimat. Negotiations between the District and RTA for the District to obtain more land stalled. Access to the estuary and other RTA lands that had been somewhat open under Alcan became more restrictive. In 2010, the Eurocan paper mill shut down along with its dock. In 2011, Rio Tinto bought the dock from West Fraser, owner of Eurocan. The Kitimat community noted that when the dock was repainted, it said just “Rio Tinto.” not “Rio Tinto Alcan” and that led to lots of gossip and wondering about what the Rio Tinto Group really plans for Kitimat. Last fall, Shell Canada purchased the former Methanex dock for part of its liquified natural gas operations.
With the Enbridge Northern Gateway project, the BC LNG project at North Cove and the KM LNG project at Bish Cove all along the shore of Douglas Channel and within the boundaries of the District of Kitimat which extends as far south as Jesse Lake, the question that has to be asked is, what happens now? If the Enbridge project is built, it will start just beyond the boundaries of the land owned by Rio Tinto Alcan.
That old arrangement between Alcan and the District of Kitimat is facing many new challenges.
The district once had a harbour master, but the position was eliminated because he had nothing to do. Alcan owned its docks, Alcan managed the docks and Alcan union employees worked on the docks. Later came the Eurocan (now owned by Rio Tinto) and Methanex (now owned by Shell) docks, again owned and operated by private corporations.
The District of Kitimat, nominally in charge, was content to sit back and collect taxes.
With the Enbridge Northern Gateway project, the B.C. LNG project at North Cove and the KM LNG project at Bish Cove all along the shore of Douglas Channel and within the boundaries of the District of Kitimat, the question that has to be asked is, what happens now? If the Enbridge project is built, it will start just beyond the boundaries of the land owned by Rio Tinto Alcan.
In Canada, ports and harbours are normally under federal jurisdiction and Transport Canada has oversight. But Alcan’s “private port” and the District of Kitimat were created by acts passed by the B.C. government.
The original agreement between the province and Alcan mentions an “aluminum plant” and “low-cost electrical power,” it doesn’t mention bitumen or liquified natural gas. Those provincial acts do not cover bitumen, supertankers and liquified natural gas.
B.C. Opposition Leader Adrian Dix has made it clear that his New Democratic Party opposes the Northern Gateway project. The federal government has said the province can’t really do anything to stop Enbridge Northern Gateway once Stephen Harper has decided that the pipeline project is in the national interest.
So, if, as expected, Adrian Dix becomes the next B.C. premier, he has one very strong hand to play. Any act can, with proper legal advice, be amended by the B.C. legislature. That means the “socialists” so feared by Alcan and the premier of the day, Byron “Boss” Johnson, could alter the 1949 law. That in turn may upset the decades-old arrangement that created the private port which Enbridge is banking on.
“This will be the first project in Canadian history to have First Nations, environmentalists and, for a lack of a better term, rednecks standing together in protest,” that sentence from Katherina Ouwehand summed up the first day of public comment testimony Monday, June 25, 2012, as the Northern Gateway Joint Review Panel returned to the Haisla Recreation Centre at Kitamaat Village.
Ten minutes isn’t that long. Ten minutes is the time that the Northern Gateway Joint Review Panel gives a member of the public to express their opinion on the controversial Enbridge project that would pipe oil sands bitumen from Alberta through the port of Kitimat to Asia.
Ten minutes is sufficient if you know what you’re talking about, if you’ve done your homework and rehearsed presentation so it can comes in right on time.
Ten minutes can be eternity if you’re an Enbridge official sitting silently at a nearby table as people who do know what they’re saying tear apart your public presentations, your multi-million dollar ads and the thousands of pages the company has filed with the Joint Review Panel. Or perhaps, as some at the public comment hearings pointed out, those ten minutes mean little if Prime Minister Stephen Harper has already decided the pipeline will go ahead no matter what, and thus any recommendation from the JRP has little credibility.
The first witness to appear before the public comment hearings on Monday afternoon was someone who knows all about the role of human error in accidents, Manny Aruda, an Emergency Response Team leader at the Rio Tinto Alcan smelter.
Aruda began by commenting, “To be clear, I do not belong to any environmental or radical organization, although I do recycle and occasionally I do eat granola.” His responsibilities at RTA include overseeing anything related to an emergency response, including dealing with spills and reporting the spills. Before that he worked at Methanex first in operations as a field operator and then as an ammonia control room operator. He also volunteers as a Search Manager for Kitimat Search and Rescue.
Talking about his time in the control room at Methanex, Aruda said, “I worked in the state-of-the-art chemical plant which is constantly being updated with the newest instrumentation. No matter how many safety features are in place, human error could supersede. Incorrect wires were cut causing plants to shut down; drain lines were left open during start-up causing methanol to go into the effluent system and eventually into the ocean; pigs [robots that operate inside pipes] are used to clean pipelines that were supposed to be collected at the end of a line at the wharf, and over-pressurizing of the line and mental error, leaving a valve open and the next thing you know pigs really do fly right into the ocean.
“Enbridge has spoken many times about how they’ll use smart pigs. Perhaps their smart pigs will know when to put the brakes on and stop.
Humans weak link
“The bottom line is that no matter what state-of-the-art infrastructure, instrumentation, safety
measures are in place human decisions or lack of decisions will affect the outcome. Humans are the weak link.
“There is an enormous pressure from management to keep plants and pipelines running. Control room operators are most at risk on start-ups and shutdowns, when conditions are changing rapidly. When a suspected issue arises it requires interpretation and analytical skills. These skills are relative to the amount of knowledge and experience of the individual.
“When in the control room you can’t see, hear or smell what’s going on outside, this is why the field operator is so valuable and utilized to go out in the field to verify a level, check a pump status, a pressure reading, identify leaks, et cetera.
Despite what some people may believe, it’s not black and white. There’s not a red Staples easy button flashing indicating that a spill is happening.
“When in the control room you can’t see, hear or smell what’s going on outside, this is why the field operator is so valuable and utilized to go out in the field to verify a level, check a pump status, a pressure reading, identify leaks… Despite what some people may believe, it’s not black and white. There’s not a red Staples easy button flashing indicating that a spill is happening.”
Any deviation from normal operations is subject to interpretation by the control room operator, “a human, the weak link,” Aruda said. He added: “Industry can continue to make improvements and make things more and more idiot-proof. History has shown that better idiots will come along.”
He told the JRP that the long Northern Gateway pipeline through remote mountain passes would have no field operators available to check every kilometre of the line to verify what the control room operator thinks is happening.
Like other witnesses, Aruda pointed to the Enbridge spill at Marshall, Michigan, where four million litres were spilled into a river in a populated area. “The spill went unnoticed due to human error,
the weak link.”
He testified that he has spent “hundreds of hours looking at Enbridge’s risk assessment,
management of spills, emergency response,” and then he said from the point of view of an
emergency response team leader, “reading these documents has flabbergasted me.” He said Enbridge’s risk management was “seriously deficient and woefully lacking in substance. They do not take into consideration the rugged terrain, the climatic conditions and dangers of fast flowing moving water.”
He said Talmadge Creek that feeds the Kalamazoo River, the location of the spill in Michigan, flows at much slower rate than the Kitimat River. At Kalamazoo, he said, four million litre oil spill moved 39 miles downstream contaminating everything in its path and it was contained two days later.
“It took Enbridge two days to deal with a meandering Kalamazoo River spill. Enbridge has stated in their risk assessment and management of spills they can contain a spill in the Kitimat River within two to four hours. This is irresponsible and inaccurate statement with no associated details.
It rains a lot in Kitimat
“To be fair, the Marshall spill happened at the worst possible time when the Kalamazoo River flows were at flood stage, causing oil to be deposited high on marshes and banks. This caused widespread contamination in the area. The Kitimat area also has high periods of flows and flood stages. It’s called, May, June, September, October and November. I’m not sure if you’re aware, but it rains here, a lot.
“In a worst-case scenario for the Kitimat River, Aruda said, based on events of September 2011, “heavy rain caused a dramatic increase in river levels within 24 hours. This is a normal occurrence. And the river widens by 75 yards in some locations. I have personally witnessed tree after tree, including 100 foot trees with full root balls 20-feet in diameter barrelling down this river. The Kitimat River flow at that time, 72,000 cubic feet a second, [was] some 18 times more than the Kalamazoo River. There’s not one qualified incident commander that would even consider sending out emergency responders into that raging river.”
He said that even during a moderate rise of the river, booms are not effective because of all the debris floating down the river.
Aruda said, “I invite anyone who thinks this oil spill can be cleaned up effectively to drift down the river with me to see for themselves how impossible a task that would be.” He noted that Enbridge has spent $765 million in clean-up costs, and while some parts of the Kalamazoo River have recently been opend for recreational use, other parts remain closed for clean-up.
He repeated his belief that Enbridge’s response plans are insufficient and concluded by saying, “Other pipelines and transmission lines have succumbed to the forces of nature in this area without any long-term environmental impacts. Sadly, this will not be the case if oil spills here.”
A later witness was Terry Brown, a former project engineer at Eurocan. Brown began by describing his love for sailing the Douglas Channel for the past 28 years. In one instance, Brown said, “ One extra-special night was when the ocean waters were disturbed and the phosphorescence was a glow like fireworks. We were seldom alone on the water as we often saw, heard and smelled seals, sea lions, orcas, and humpback whales, just like a huge aquarium but all to our own and so secluded.
“We not only stayed on the surface but some of our family engaged in scuba diving. What a joy to see so much life, crabs, fish, and shrimp, sea anemones, sea lions and much more. What a gorgeous dive it was as our daughter Stacy and I went down deep on the wall at Coste Rocks to see many different life forms hanging in our view. Later, we circumnavigated the rock and were amazed to see the pure white forms of a large sea anemone.”
Like Aruda, he then turned to how things can go wrong. “No matter how hard we tried to do our best, things failed or as they often said, ‘shit happens’. Pipes, gaskets would fail; tanks would collapse; equipment would break. We even had SRBs in our stainless tanks. Many items would fail with such power that it would resemble an explosion.
“Lately, I have heard comments on how new gaskets are much better than old. Our experience was the opposite, as old gaskets contained asbestos they had a much better life span than the new synthetic ones.
“My largest project at Eurocan, a 300-tonne per day CMP pulp mill, actually had 10 — that’s it, 10 major failures within the first one to two years after start-up. During my working time, I was also involved in some of the projects to reduce the tainting of the local oohlican fish. This involves a highly cultural activity that the Haisla engaged in up until Eurocan start up in 1970.
“Over the 10 to 15 years spent looking for a solution, some $100 million was spent on related activities. If this much was spent with no success on a minor issue, if you call it that, how can anyone expect to clean up the beaches of a real nasty oil like dilbit?”
There was a third, highly technical presentation from Kelly Marsh, a millwright with the District of Kitimat (as well as Kitimat Search and Rescue volunteer) who presented his mathematical evidence, based on what he said we standard and accepted models that he said showed that Enbridge has vastly underestimated the chances of spill.
For the first time in public, some voiced in public what many in Kitimat have been saying in private, that if Stephen Harper pushes the project, there will be resistance from the residents of Northwestern British Columbia.
Katherina Ouwehand testified, “I am not a bully and I don’t lose my temper easily, but if this project is given the go-ahead by our Prime Minister, they had better be prepared for a huge fight. My thousands of like-minded friends and I will unite in force and do more than
speak up peacefully. There will be many blockades on the pathways of the pipeline and marine blockades in the channel.”
Murray Minchin, a member of Douglas Channel Watch (although everyone at the public comment hearings are testifying on their own behalf) said, “The original organizers of the Clayoquot Sound clear-cut logging blockades hoped that 500 to 600 people would turn out and help them protest. Over 10,000 showed up and almost 1,000 were arrested. Those numbers will be shattered if this project gets steamrolled through the regulatory process.”
Many of the witnesses voiced their concerns about the Conservative omnibus Bill C-38 which they said would destroy many of the environmental safeguards in the Fisheries and Environmental Assessment Acts.
Margaret Ouwehand said. “I have a great fear. I am afraid of Enbridge because it represents much more than a pipeline; Enbridge is an enabler of all the things that make us ashamed to be Canadian. Do we want a Canada that endangers the whole world by contributing to global warming?
Do we want a Canada that muzzles scientists who don’t say what the oil companies want them to say? Do we feel proud when Canada puts up roadblocks to treaties with other countries so that oil companies can continue to pollute? Do we really want a Canada that prefers temporary foreign workers to be used and, in many cases, abused, just to provide oil companies with cheap labour? Wouldn’t it be more ethical to encourage immigrants to come to Canada to make permanent homes and actually contribute to the country?
“Once we were proud of Canada’s leadership in protecting the environment, both in Canada and world-wide. Now we have sold out to the highest bidders and by so doing we are jeopardizing our very sovereignty. We cannot enter into agreements to limit pollution because the big oil companies who own our resources won’t allow it.
“Once we were the world’s good guys, the peacekeepers, the ones who were caretakers of the environment and of endangered species. Now it’s all about money. Now we are at the bottom of the heap, along with other money-grubbers of the world.”
Mike Langegger, who has testified at previous National Energy Board and JRP hearings on behalf of the Kitimat Rod and Gun, testified, “Today I wish to speak to the implications of the Northern Gateway Project will have on my and many coastal families who call British Columbia home and the threat it poses to a generations of culture, lifestyle, relying on healthy and productive environment and ecosystems we currently have.
“My family, along with many resident British Columbians have a strong connection to our natural environment and is as much part of us as we are of it. By nature we are hunters and gatherers who have sustainable harvest from our natural environment over the generations providing for our families. Abundant and healthy fish and wildlife populations in environment that sustained their existence is critical and must be guaranteed.
“Unfortunately, over my lifetime I’ve witnessed commercial and industrial exploitation come and go, each diminishing our areas natural environment and its ability to support wildlife and the many associated values. It is critical that not only negative implications of the Northern Gateway Project be considered but also the cumulative effects of current, proposed, and past exploitation that has or is likely to occur in our area. Often a single negative impact can be mitigated. However, when a series of impacts are allowed to compile, the end result has proven to be devastating.
“Today the Dungeness crab and our local estuary area are deemed as contaminated and not recommended for consumption. The oohlican populations have been wiped out on most of our local area streams. The Kitimat River has been negatively impacted by resource extractions rendering it reliant on hatchery augmentation. Trees on the west side of the valley have died off suspect to pollution; wildlife populations have been impacted and the list goes on.
“We have seen industries come and exploit our area and its resources, profit substantially and leave, only to pass on a legacy of toxic sites and compromised environment. What they have not left behind is any established fund for impacted First Nation’s area residents and stakeholders to manage and reinvest back into our environment for the benefit of habitat, fish, wildlife that has been impacted.
“Ultimately, industry in general has been allowed to exploit, profit, and leave without being held accountable for our forest to correct damage. That’s the history we currently witness here.
“For those of us that call coastal British Columbia home, the existing environment, fish, wildlife, and associated values are the foundation of who we are. It is those values that foster and nurture many family bonds and are the result of cherished memories with loved ones and friends. It is those values that provide a healthy lifestyle and food source. It is those values that support numerous traditions and are the base of revered culture. It is those values that the Northern Gateway Project ultimately threatens to extinguish.” Transcript Vol.58-Mon June 25, 2012 (pdf)
The closed Eurocan plant in Kitimat, the day it was sold, July 14, 2011. (Robin Rowland/Northwest Coast Energy News)
KM LNG Operating General Partnership
(Kitimat LNG) has announced that it has entered into an agreement to
purchase the former Eurocan linerboard mill site in Kitimat from West
Fraser Timber Co Ltd.
KM LNG said in a news release that the sale is subject to obtaining government approvals for the
transfer of related permits and licenses. Financial details of the
transaction have not been disclosed:
“The Kitimat LNG partners are very pleased we have reached this
agreement with West Fraser,” said KM LNG President Janine McArdle. “The
purchase of the site marks another significant local investment in
Kitimat and is a great step forward for the Kitimat LNG project.”
The site provides the Kitimat LNG project with a suitable area for a
work camp, lay-down and storage area as the project continues to move
forward with clearing and grading at the LNG export facility site.
The Kitimat LNG export facility is planned to be built on First Nations
land under a unique partnership with the Haisla First Nation.
Kitimat LNG partners Apache Canada Ltd., EOG Resources Canada Inc. and
Encana Corporation are currently in marketing discussions with
potential Asia-Pacific LNG customers.
The partners expect to have firm sales commitments in place by the time
a final investment decision is made. Initial shipments of LNG are
expected to begin by the end of 2015.
West Fraser closed the Eurocan mill at the end of January 2010, throwing about 500 people in Kitimat out of work. Most of the machinery in the plant has been sold and dismantling of equipment and demolition of some parts of the mill are wrapping up.
KM LNG plans to use the site as a work camp and storage area for the construction of the LNG terminal at Bish Cove on Douglas Channel south of the shuttered mill.