Rolling Stone discovers Northern Gateway controversy, but gets lost on the way to Kitimat

Rolling Stone article on Canadian pipelines
A screen grab of the Rolling Stone article on the Canadian Northern Gateway and Keystone pipelines.

It’s every muscian’s dream to make it On the Cover of the Rolling Stone. (And when Rolling Stone does investigative journalism, every politician’s nightmare).

Now the venerable, storied music mag has discovered the Northern Gateway pipeline, running a story on August 2 on its website and slated to appear in the next dead tree issue on August 16.

The article by Jeff Goodell is a sort of a primer for hip but not yet clued in Americans on the controversies over Canadian pipelines. It features the usual nasty depiction of the bitumen sands with a file photo from the Washington Post via Getty.

But does Kitimat rate a mention in the magazine that has celebrated the Beatles, the Beach Boys, the (original and real) Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, the Police, Nirvana, Justin Bieber and The Sheepdogs?

Nope.  Imagine that, an entire article on the Northern Gateway Pipeline and not one mention of Kitimat. Instead Goddell says:

Canada is pushing for a new route called the Northern Gateway, which would cut through three major watersheds in western Canada and turn the fragile coast of British Columbia into a bustling tanker port.


In one way Kitimat is in good company, for when the band that originated the “Cover” song, Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show, did make Rolling Stone, the magazine cover had “What’s-Their-Names Make the Cover.”

It’s one thing not to get any respect for Kitimat from the Alberta media, but at least Albertans spell Kitimat right (most of the time–although sometimes they get Kitamaat Village wrong). Here in the northwest we’re used to being dissed by Albertans.

Of course, while the entire coast is endangered by increased traffic in supertankers, it’s Kitimat that is the perhaps maybe, perhaps sometime, perhaps inevitable, perhaps never “bustling tanker port.”

So what could Kitimat do  to make it up from being ignored on the back pages of Rolling Stone to make it to the famous and proverbial cover?

My first idea was a vision of the District of Kitimat Council forming themselves into a rock band.

Joanne and the……  you can come up with an idea for a name, but I am not sure that would work.

Or maybe if we had a Justin Bieber concert at Riverlodge? That might keep young people from leaving Kitimat at least for a while.

Seriously. We’ve been ignored by Rolling Stone up until now. Now we’re that close to being   equal to What’s-Their-Names.

Maybe Kitimat can change that.

So now the people of Kitimat have a new challenge, beyond dealing with Enbridge, the JRP, the province and the feds,  beyond spending those long months clearing snow and those brief summer days of fishing, and that challenge is: get Kitimat on the cover of the Rolling Stone.


Christy Clark’s Gateway conditions overturn west coast tanker moratorium, Dix tells reporters

Adrian Dix and Rob Goffinet
BC NDP leader Adrian Dix, right, speaks to Kitimat Councillor Rob Goffinet, left, after a breakfast meeting with District of Kitimat Council members on July 30, 2012. (Robin Rowland/Northwest Coast Energy News)

B.C. premier Christy Clark’s five conditions for the Northern Gateway Pipeline, in effect, overturn the west coast tanker moratorium, NDP and Opposition leader Adrian Dix told reporters in Kitimat, Monday, July 30, 2012.

Dix made the remarks after a breakfast meeting with members of District of Kitimat Council prior to embarking on a three day trip down Douglas Channel and the Inside Passage to see the proposed tanker route for himself.

The second of the five conditions for the pipeline, set out last Monday by Premier Clark calls for:

World-leading marine oil spill response, prevention and recovery systems for B.C.’s coastline and ocean to manage and mitigate the risks and costs of heavy oil pipelines and shipments

“It is an overturning of what’s been a government of BC policy for a long time, which is for a moratorium for super tankers on this part of the coast. That’s not a condition, that’s an overturning,” Dix said in a brief scrum with reporters after the breakfast and before heading to Kitamaat Village to start his boat trip.

“The frustration is that our premier’s position is that we should sell our coast got for money.  The premier has a report that says the projects bad for the province, it’s bad for the economy, it’s bad for the environment, that’s the concluson of her report and now she says ‘we’ll forget about that if you give us a few bucks.’

“I don’t think most people agree with that in British Columbia and so what we’ve tried to do is to take a more serious approach. In this case, the province gave up our jurisdiction. If people are concerned about spills and concerned about the environmental impact as the Liberal purport to be, they wouldn’t have handed over the right to decide on environmental assessment fully to the federal government, which, by the way supports, the project.”

The Clark had government had declined to take part in the Northern Gateway Joint Review process and so did not produce any evidence for the panel prior to the filing deadline.

Dix said the Liberal policy on the JRP was, “Like a student who misses a deadline for a term paper, they missed the deadline to produce evidence in the process and now after the debate has gone on, the Premier wants to get into the debate.”

He concluded by saying, “This isn’t about her, it isn’t about me, it’s about the economy and the environment of this province for decades to come. And that’s the approach we’ve  [the NDP Opposition] taken.”

The “informal” tanker “moratorium” has been in effect since 1972 and requires oil tankers transiting the west coast to remain fire out to sea and away from Dixon Entrance, Hecate Strait, and the Queen Charlotte Sound.

In 2009, Stephen Harper’s Conservative government said there was no moratorium on tanker traffic on the coast of British Columbia and have maintained that position ever since.

In December 2010, the House of Commons passed a non-binding motion to ban bulk oil tanker traffic in the Dixon Entrance, Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte Sound.

Dix said he was, “In Kitimat to meet with the community and of course in Kitimat village with the Haisla. Later today he will go  “for a trip down where the tankers will go if the Enbridge project succeeds, go down the Channel to Hartley Bay and then over the next couple of days to Bella Bella. Dix said hew as in the northwest to “take note of that in person. I always like to see things for myself, meet with people and hear what they have to say.”

New US report slams Enbridge for spill record, as scientific investigation opens into diluted bitumen

A new US report is slamming Enbridge for its record on oil spills, just as the BC government set out strict new conditions for building pipelines and tanker traffic in the province.

The United States National Wildlife Association issued a report today called Importing Disaster, The Anatomy of Once and Future Oil Spills. (pdf of report at the bottom of this page)

At the same time,  the US Academy of Sciences has opened a new investigation into diluted bitumen.




A letter critical of Enbridge, previously overlooked by the US media is getting new traction, as the anniversary of the Marshall, Michigan, Kalamazoo River spill approaches on July 25.

Enbridge, so far, has not responded to the National Wildlife Federation report.

The environmental group opens the report by saying:

As the biggest transporter of Canadian tarsands oil into the U.S., Enbridge has aresponsibility to the American public to manage their operations in a manner that protects our comm unities and natural resources. But tarsands oil is a very different beast than conventional crude oil, and it is difficult to transport the former safely through pipelines that were designed for the latter. That’s because tarsands oil is more corrosive(due to its chemical mixture)and abrasive(due to high-gritminerals), weakening the pipes to the point  that they are more susceptible t oleaks and ruptures. Remarkably, there are no standards in place to ensure that new pipelines are built, maintained and operated with this fact in mind.

The National Wildlife Association goes on to say:

 fossil fuel companies have a ‘stranglehold’ on our political establishment, preventing even modest initiatives that could make our energy safer and cleaner. That lobby strategy keeps in place a system that’s led to 804 spills by Enbridge alone in the last decade, and a total of 6,781,950 gallons of oil spilled in the U.S. and Canada.

“Rather than focus on safety and cleanup, Enbridge is recklessly moving ahead with plans to expand their pipeline network in the Great Lakes region and the Northeast, and to double down on high carbon fuel that is proving nearly impossible to clean from Michigan’s waters,” said Beth Wallace, NWF’s Great Lakes outreach advisor.

NWF’s report recommends comprehensive reforms to break the cycle of spills and pollution that continue to threaten communities and speed global warming.  Among them, the report calls for stronger safety standards that account for increased dangers associated with heavy tar sands oil, increasing investment in clean energy and efficiency, and campaign and lobbying reforms that would put impacted citizens on a level playing field with Big Oil in the halls of Congress.

The NWF report then says:

 The Kalamazoo spill may have been a poster child for corporate negligence but it is far from the company’s only black mark. According to Enbridge’s own reports, between 1999 and 2010, they have been responsible for at least 800 spills that have released close to seven million gallons of heavy crude oil into the environment — or approximately half the amount of oil that spilled from the Exxon Valdez in 1989.

Canada has seen its own share of Enbridge heartache, including a 61,000 gallon spill earlier this summer near Elk Point, Alberta.

The National Wildlife Federation report is calling for  stronger pipeline safety standards that account for the dangers of transporting bitumen sands oil from Canada amd wants more rigorous reviews of all pipeline projects. The report calls bitumen sands oil “the planet’s dirtiest oil.”

US media covering the National Wildlife release and looking to the anniversary of the Kalamazoo disaster, are now quoting an overlooked letter from the US advocacy group Public Citizen issued on June 25.  

Concerned about Keystone XL pipeline, the advocacy group sent a letter to the Texas House of Representatives, recommending that the state should not wait for US federal rules to prevent tar sands pipeline spills. Public Citizen called the industry’s track record “troubled” and asked the committee to take up legislation that would give Texas broader authority over pipelines.

The committee will examine state regulations governing oil and gas well construction and integrity, as well as pipeline safety and construction, to determine what changes should be made to ensure that the regulations adequately protect the public. Public Citizen will testify in support of stronger rules for the Seaway pipeline (an existing line repurposed to carry tar sands instead of crude oil), the Keystone pipeline (whose southern leg is not yet built) and proposed future tar sands pipelines.

“These companies keep calling it petroleum, but it’s not – these are pipelines of poison,” said Tom “Smitty” Smith, director of Public Citizen’s Texas office.

The media reports on the NWF release are pointing to a new investigation by the US National Academy of Sciences on the safety of diluted bitmenl safety in the United States, that will be part of a report to the US Congress

 An ad hoc committee will analyze whether transportation of diluted bitumen (dilbit) by transmission pipeline has an increased risk of release compared with pipeline transportation of other liquid petroleum products.  Should the committee determine that increased risk exists, it will complete a comprehensive review of federal hazardous liquid pipeline facility regulations to determine whether they are sufficient to mitigate the increased risk.

On June 25, the committee added three industry experts to the panel as there is growing scrutiny over dilbit in the US, which could become an issue in the presidential race.

NWF Enbridge Oil Spill (PDF)

BC’s desire for “world leading” marine standards collides with Harper’s C-38 chain saw massacre

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 Mail CNOOC’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?


Auditor General 2010 Report (pdf)

Auditor General 2007 report  (pdf)








Enbridge files thousands of pages in document dump reply evidence to Northern Gateway JRP

Enbridge Northern Gateway has filed thousands of pages of “reply evidence” to the Northern Gateway Joint Review panel, responding to questions from the panel, from government participants like DFO, and intervenors.

Enbridge also used the filing to issue a news release saying it is adding $500 million in new safety features for its pipeline plans.

Northern Gateway Pipelines Reply_Evidence_  (summary of filings PDF)

Link to 43 item  reply filing on JRP website.

In the introduction to the summary of the evidence the JRP asks

Should the fact that Northern Gateway does not respond to all points in a particular intervenor’s evidence or to all intervenor evidence be taken as acceptance by
Northern Gateway of any of the positions of intervenors?

To which Enbridge replies:

No. Northern Gateway does not accept any of the intervenor positions that are contrary tothe Application or additional material filed by Northern Gateway. Some of those  positions will be dealt with by Northern Gateway in cross examination and argument rather than reply evidence, and others will simply be left to the JRP to determine on the basis of the filed evidence alone.

Related: Vancouver Sun: Christy Clark toughens pipeline stance as Enbridge announces safety upgrades


The reply covers a multitude of topics including

  • Economic Need and the Public Interest
  • Engineering
  • Avalanche Risk and Groundwater Concerns
  • Corrosivity of Diluted Bitumen
  • Improvements Since the Marshall Incident
  • Geotechnical Concerns
  • Geohazards Issues
  • Seismic Design Concerns
  • Recovery of Biophysical and Human Environment from Oil Spills
  • Corrosion, Inspection and Maintenance of Oil Tankers
  • Design and Construction of Oil Tankers
  • Pilotage

In response to numerous questions about the Marshall, Michigan, oil spill, Enbridge repeats what it said in an e-mail to “community leaders” earlier this week and in this morning’s news release, saying: “Enbridge has made a number of improvements since the Marshall incident.”

As part of the filing Enbridge has also filed an update on its aboriginal engagement program.

There are also detailed and updated reports on the company’s plans for the Kitimat valley region.

US National Transportation Safety Board summary report on Marshall, MI, Enbridge oil spill incident blames deficient management and training

The United States National Transportation Safety Board has issued a summary report on the rupture of the the Enbridge pipeline and subsequent oil spill at Marshall, Michigan, in 2010.

The report says that the probable cause of the oil spill  included deficient integrity management at Enbridge, which allowed previously known crack defects in corroded areas to spread until the pipeline failed; inadequate training of control center personnel by Enbridge, which allowed the rupture to remain undetected for 17 hours and insufficient public awareness and education, which allowed the release to continue for nearly 14 hours after the first notification of an odor to local emergency response agencies.

The full NTSB report will be issued in the coming weeks.

Enbridge responded in a news release that quoted outgoing Enbridge CEO Pat Daniel, who was in Washington for the release of the report:

“We very much appreciate the patience of residents in the communities who were affected by the Line 6B release,” said Patrick D. Daniel, Chief Executive Officer, Enbridge Inc. “Under the direction of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and local health authorities, the Kalamazoo River was re-opened last month for recreational use. We are also pleased to note that wildlife has returned to the area.”

“We believe that the experienced personnel involved in the decisions made at the time of the release were trying to do the right thing. As with most such incidents, a series of unfortunate events and circumstances resulted in an outcome no one wanted,” said Mr. Daniel.

Skeena Bulkley Valley Member of Parliament and NDP House Leader, Nathan Cullen, issued his own news release, saying, “Today’s report by the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) into the deadly July 2010 Enbridge spill in Michigan identifies ‘a complete breakdown of safety at Enbridge’ and notes the company knowingly ‘failed to accurately assess the structural integrity of the pipeline.'”

“The findings are actually worse than we feared,” Cullen said. “They are a body blow of breathtaking proportions to Enbridge and yet another wake-up call to the Northwest of the dangers of allowing big oil to run a pipeline through our Northwest watersheds.”

Cullen commended NTSB chair Deborah Hersman for her frankness in terming Enbridge’s Michigan spill “”an accident that is a wake-up call to the industry, the regulator, and the public.”

Here is the complete summary as posted on the NTSB website

Enbridge, Inc. Hazardous Liquid Pipeline Rupture

July 25, 2010
Marshall, MI

Public Meeting of July 10, 2012
(Information subject to editing)

This is a synopsis from the National Transportation Safety Board’s report and does not include the NTSB’s rationale for the conclusions, probable cause, and safety recommendations. Safety Board staff is currently making final revisions to the report from which the attached conclusions and safety recommendations have been extracted. The final report and pertinent safety recommendation letters will be distributed to recommendation recipients as soon as possible. The attached information is subject to further review and editing.

Executive Summary

On Sunday, July 25, 2010, at 5:58 p.m., eastern daylight time, a segment of a 30-inch-diameter pipeline (Line 6B), owned and operated by Enbridge Incorporated (Enbridge) ruptured in a wetland in Marshall, Michigan. The rupture occurred during the last stages of a planned shutdown and was not discovered or addressed for over 17 hours. During the time lapse, Enbridge twice pumped additional oil (81 percent of the total release) into Line 6B during two startups; the total release was estimated to be 843,444 gallons of crude oil. The oil saturated the surrounding wetlands and flowed into the Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River. Local residents self-evacuated from their houses, and the environment was negatively affected. Cleanup efforts continue as of the adoption date of this report, with continuing costs exceeding $767 million. About 320 people reported symptoms consistent with crude oil exposure. No fatalities were reported.


1. The following were not factors in this accident: cathodic protection, microbial corrosion, internal corrosion, transportation-induced metal fatigue, third-party damage, and pipe manufacturing defects.

2. Insufficient information was available from the postaccident alcohol testing; however, the postaccident drug testing showed that use of illegal drugs was not a factor in the accident.

3. Had the firefighters discovered the ruptured segment of Line 6B and called Enbridge, the two startups of the pipeline might not have occurred and the additional volume might not have been pumped.

4. The Line 6B segment ruptured under normal operating pressure due to corrosion fatigue cracks that grew and coalesced from multiple stress corrosion cracks, which had initiated in areas of external of corrosion beneath the disbonded polyethylene tape coating.

5. Title 49 Code of Federal Regulations 195.452(h) does not provide clear requirements regarding when to repair and when to remediate pipeline defects and inadequately defines the requirements for assessing the effect on pipeline integrity when either crack defects or cracks and corrosion are simultaneously present in the pipeline.

6. The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) failed to pursue findings from previous inspections and did not require Enbridge Incorporated (Enbridge) to excavate pipe segments with injurious crack defects.

7. Enbridge’s delayed reporting of the “discovery of condition” by more than 460 days indicates that Enbridge’s interpretation of the current regulation delayed the repair of the pipeline.

8. Enbridge’s integrity management program was inadequate because it did not consider the following: a sufficient margin of safety, appropriate wall thickness, tool tolerances, use of a continuous reassessment approach to incorporate lessons learned, the effects of corrosion on crack depth sizing, and accelerated crack growth rates due to corrosion fatigue on corroded pipe with a failed coating.

9. To improve pipeline safety, a uniform and systematic approach in evaluating data for various types of in-line inspection tools is necessary to determine the effect of the interaction of various threats to a pipeline.

10. Pipeline operators should not wait until PHMSA promulgates revisions to 49 Code of Federal Regulations 195.452 before taking action to improve pipeline safety.

11. PII Pipeline Solutions’ analysis of the 2005 in-line inspection data for the Line 6B segment that ruptured mischaracterized crack defects, which resulted in Enbridge not evaluating them as crack-field defects.

12. The ineffective performance of control center staff led them to misinterpret the rupture as a column separation, which led them to attempt two subsequent startups of the line.

13. Enbridge failed to train control center staff in team performance, thereby inadequately preparing the control center staff to perform effectively as a team when effective team performance was most needed.

14. Enbridge failed to ensure that all control center staff had adequate knowledge, skills, and abilities to recognize and address pipeline leaks, and their limited exposure to meaningful leak recognition training diminished their ability to correctly identify the cause of the Material Balance System (MBS) alarms.

15. The Enbridge control center and MBS procedures for leak detection alarms and identification did not fully address the potential for leaks during shutdown and startup, and Enbridge management did not prohibit control center staff from using unapproved procedures.

16. Enbridge’s control center staff placed a greater emphasis on the MBS analyst’s flawed interpretation of the leak detection system’s alarms than it did on reliable indications of a leak, such as zero pressure, despite known limitations of the leak detection system.

17. Enbridge control center staff misinterpreted the absence of external notifications as evidence that Line 6B had not ruptured.

18. Although Enbridge had procedures that required a pipeline shutdown after 10 minutes of uncertain operational status, Enbridge control center staff had developed a culture that accepted not adhering to the procedures.

19. Enbridge’s review of its public awareness program was ineffective in identifying and correcting deficiencies.

20. Had Enbridge operated an effective public awareness program, local emergency response agencies would have been better prepared to respond to early indications of the rupture and may have been able to locate the crude oil and notify Enbridge before control center staff tried to start the line.

21. Although Enbridge quickly isolated the ruptured segment of Line 6B after receiving a telephone call about the release, Enbridge’s emergency response actions during the initial hours following the release were not sufficiently focused on source control and demonstrated a lack of awareness and training in the use of effective containment methods.

22. Had Enbridge implemented effective oil containment measures for fast-flowing waters, the amount of oil that reached Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River could have been reduced.

23. PHMSA’s regulatory requirements for response capability planning do not ensure a high level of preparedness equivalent to the more stringent requirements of the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

24. Without specific Federal spill response preparedness standards, pipeline operators do not have response planning guidance for a worst-case discharge.

25. The Enbridge facility response plan did not identify and ensure sufficient resources were available for the response to the pipeline release in this accident.

26. If PHMSA had dedicated the resources necessary and conducted a thorough review of the Enbridge facility response plan, it would have disapproved the plan because it did not adequately provide for response to a worst-case discharge.

27. Enbridge’s failure to exercise effective oversight of pipeline integrity and control center operations, implement an effective public awareness program, and implement an adequate postaccident response were organizational failures that resulted in the accident and increased its severity.

28. Pipeline safety would be enhanced if pipeline companies implemented safety management systems.

Probable Cause

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) determines that the probable cause of the pipeline rupture was corrosion fatigue cracks that grew and coalesced from crack and corrosion defects under disbonded polyethylene tape coating, producing a substantial crude oil release that went undetected by the control center for over 17 hours. The rupture and prolonged release were made possible by pervasive organizational failures at Enbridge Incorporated (Enbridge) that included the following:

  • Deficient integrity management procedures, which allowed well-documented crack defects in corroded areas to propagate until the pipeline failed.
  • Inadequate training of control center personnel, which allowed the rupture to remain undetected for 17 hours and through two startups of the pipeline.
  • Insufficient public awareness and education, which allowed the release to continue for nearly 14 hours after the first notification of an odor to local emergency response agencies.


Contributing to the accident was the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration’s (PHMSA) weak regulation for assessing and repairing crack indications, as well as PHMSA’s ineffective oversight of pipeline integrity management programs, control center procedures, and public awareness.

Contributing to the severity of the environmental consequences were (1) Enbridge’s failure to identify and ensure the availability of well-trained emergency responders with sufficient response resources, (2) PHMSA’s lack of regulatory guidance for pipeline facility response planning, and (3) PHMSA’s limited oversight of pipeline emergency preparedness that led to the approval of a deficient facility response plan.


To the U.S. Secretary of Transportation:

1. Audit the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration’s onshore pipeline facility response plan program’s business practices, including reviews of response plans and drill programs, and take appropriate action to correct deficiencies.

2. Allocate sufficient resources as necessary to ensure that the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration’s onshore pipeline facility response plan program meets all of the requirements of the Oil Pollution Act of 1990.

To the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration:

3. Revise Title 49 Code of Federal Regulations 195.452 to clearly state (1) when an engineering assessment of crack defects, including environmentally assisted cracks, must be performed; (2) the acceptable methods for performing these engineering assessments, including the assessment of cracks coinciding with corrosion with a safety factor that considers the uncertainties associated with sizing of crack defects; (3) criteria for determining when a probable crack defect in a pipeline segment must be excavated and time limits for completing those excavations; (4) pressure restriction limits for crack defects that are not excavated by the required date; and (5) acceptable methods for determining crack growth for any cracks allowed to remain in the pipe, including growth caused by fatigue, corrosion fatigue, or stress corrosion cracking as applicable.

4. Revise Title 49 Code of Federal Regulations 195.452(h)(2), the “discovery of condition,” to require, in cases where a determination about pipeline threats has not been obtained within 180 days following the date of inspection, that pipeline operators notify the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration and provide an expected date when adequate information will become available.

5. Conduct a comprehensive inspection of Enbridge Incorporated’s integrity management program after it is revised in accordance with Safety Recommendation (11).

6. Issue an advisory to all hazardous liquid and natural gas pipeline operators describing the circumstances of the accident in Marshall, Michigan—including the deficiencies observed in Enbridge Incorporated’s integrity management program—and ask them to take appropriate action to eliminate similar deficiencies.

7. Develop requirements for team training of control center staff involved in pipeline operations similar to those used in other transportation modes.

8. Extend operator qualification requirements in Title 49 Code of Federal Regulations 195 Subpart G to all hazardous liquid and gas transmission control center staff involved in pipeline operational decisions.

9. Amend Title 49 Code of Federal Regulations Part 194 to harmonize onshore oil pipeline response planning requirements with those of the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for facilities that handle and transport oil and petroleum products to ensure that pipeline operators have adequate resources available to respond to worst-case discharges.

10. Issue an advisory bulletin to notify pipeline operators (1) of the circumstances of the Marshall, Michigan, pipeline accident, and (2) of the need to identify deficiencies in facility response plans and to update these plans as necessary to conform with the nonmandatory guidance for determining and evaluating required response resources as provided in Appendix A of Title 49 Code of Federal Regulations 194, “Guidelines for the Preparation of Response Plans.”

To Enbridge Incorporated:

11. Revise your integrity management program to ensure the integrity of your hazardous liquid pipelines as follows: (1) implement, as part of the excavation selection process, a safety margin that conservatively takes into account the uncertainties associated with the sizing of crack defects from in-line inspections; (2) implement procedures that apply a continuous reassessment approach to immediately incorporate any new relevant information as it becomes available and reevaluate the integrity of all pipelines within the program; (3) develop and implement a methodology that includes local corrosion wall loss in addition to the crack depth when performing engineering assessments of crack defects coincident with areas of corrosion; and (4) develop and implement a corrosion fatigue model for pipelines under cyclic loading that estimates growth rates for cracks that coincide with areas of corrosion when determining reinspection intervals.

12. Establish a program to train control center staff as teams, semiannually, in the recognition of and response to emergency and unexpected conditions that includes supervisory control and data acquisition system indications and Material Balance System software.

13. Incorporate changes to your leak detection processes to ensure that accurate leak detection coverage is maintained during transient operations, including pipeline shutdown, pipeline startup, and column separation.

14. Provide additional training to first responders to ensure that they (1) are aware of the best response practices and the potential consequences of oil releases and (2) receive practical training in the use of appropriate oil-containment and -recovery methods for all potential environmental conditions in the response zones.

15. Review and update your oil pipeline emergency response procedures and equipment resources to ensure that appropriate containment equipment and methods are available to respond to all environments and at all locations along the pipeline to minimize the spread of oil from a pipeline rupture.

16. Update your facility response plan to identify adequate resources to respond to and mitigate a worst-case discharge for all weather conditions and for all your pipeline locations before the required resubmittal in 2015.

To the American Petroleum Institute:

17. Facilitate the development of a safety management system standard specific to the pipeline industry that is similar in scope to your Recommended Practice 750, Management of Process Hazards. The development should follow established American National Standards Institute requirements for standard development.

To the Pipeline Research Council International, Inc.:

18. Conduct a review of various in-line inspection tools and technologies—including, but not limited to: tool tolerance, the probability of detection, and the probability of identification—and provide a model with detailed step-by-step procedures to pipeline operators for evaluating the effect of interacting corrosion and crack threats on the integrity of pipelines.

To the International Association of Fire Chiefs and the National Emergency Number Association:

19. Inform your members about the circumstances of the Marshall, Michigan, pipeline accident and urge your members to aggressively and diligently gather from pipeline operators system-specific information about the pipeline systems in their communities and jurisdictions.

Previous Recommendation Reiterated in this Report

To the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration:

Require operators of natural gas transmission and distribution pipelines and hazardous liquid pipelines to provide system-specific information about their pipeline systems to the emergency response agencies of the communities and jurisdictions in which those pipelines are located. This information should include pipe diameter, operating pressure, product transported, and potential impact radius. (P-11-8)

A live and archived webcast of the proceedings will be available at To report any difficulties viewing the webcast, please call 703-993-3100 and ask for webcast technical support.

The complete report will appear on in several weeks.

In its response, Enbridge went on to say:

“Safety has always been core to our operations. Our intent from the beginning of this incident has been to learn from it so we can prevent it from happening again, and to also share what we have learned with other pipeline operators,” said Stephen J. Wuori, President, Liquids Pipelines, Enbridge Inc. “Enbridge and EEP conducted a detailed internal investigation of this incident in the months following the release and have made numerous enhancements to their processes, procedures and training as a result of the findings of the investigation, including in the control center. Incident prevention, detection and response have also been enhanced. We will carefully examine the findings in the NTSB report to determine whether any further adjustments are appropriate.”

Enbridge  says it has e worked closely and cooperatively with the NTSB throughout its investigation.  The company isnow reviewing the summary report and  will not comment specifically on the contents of the Final Report until it is released by the NTSB Board and analysis of the report has been completed.

First Nations, environmentalists and ‘rednecks’ stand together opposing Gateway, witness tells Kitimat JRP hearings


Members of the Joint Review panel make notes at Kitamaat Village (Robin Rowland)
Members of the Northern Gateway Joint Review Panel, left to right, Kenneth Bateman, chair Sheila Leggett and Hans Matthews make notes at the June 25, 2012 hearings at the Haisla Recreation Centre, Kitamaat Village. A map of Douglas Channel can be seen behind the panel. (Robin Rowland/Northwest Coast Energy News)

“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

Manny Aruda
Manny Aruda takes some water after testifying before the Northern Gateway Joint Review Panel at Kitamaat Village, June 25, 2012. (Robin Rowland/Northwest Coast Energy News)

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.”

Katherina Ouwehand   Murray Minchin  at JRP hearings
Katherina Ouwehand testifies at the Northern Gateway Joint Review hearings as Murray Minchin, the next witness listens, at the Haisla Recreation Centre, Kitamaat Village, June 25, 2012 (Robin Rowland/Northwest Coast Energy News)


Things failed

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.”

Bill C-38

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)

Enbridge pipeline controversy now on both coasts, Maine residents object to plan to send bitumen to Portland

It didn’t take long for the plans to send bitumen eastbound, perhaps as an alternative to Kitimat, to start controversy. The bitumen would go through the Montreal-Portland pipeline, thus the terminal could be at Portland, Maine.

The Maine coast is likely even more delicate than the British Columbia coast, and environmental groups are already gearing up to fight the pipeline as reported in the Kennebec (Maine) Journal, in tomorrow’s edition, June 21, 2012.

Tar sands oil transit meets objections

As speculation grows about the possibility of tar sands oil flowing from Canada through Maine, environmental advocates are banding together to oppose what they see as a risky proposition.

On Tuesday at Portland City Hall, [fisher Brooke] Hidell joined representatives from the Natural Resources Council of Maine, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the local chapter of the Sierra Club to protest what they say is a growing threat to Maine’s quality of life.

Enbridge Corp., a major petroleum company in Canada, has applied for a permit to reverse the flow of oil between Ontario and Montreal. Dylan Voorhees of the Natural Resources Council of Maine and others predict a similar reversal of the Portland-Montreal Pipe Line, so Canadian oil could be loaded onto tankers in Casco Bay, then shipped to refineries.

Voorhees said that would provide no real benefits to Maine but would threaten the environment while increasing profits for oil companies.

If Enbridge thinks the fight in British Columbia was a headache, it is likely that any plan to use Maine as a conduit for bitumen, will be as equal, if not more controversial.

The area is often home to prominent members of the American establishment.  The Bush family compound, summer retreat for presidents George W and George H. W. Bush, is in nearby Kennebunkport.

The state is also home to a large, vibrant and vocal artistic community.

Editor’s note:  Thirty years ago, in 1983, I took an Outward Bound course on the coast of Maine at the Hurricane Island School (it has since closed).  Unlike the rugged islands of the coast of British Columbia, the offshore islands where I sailed in Maine, are considered environmentally delicate and there are restrictions on the number of visitors and use of the island.



Editorial: Harper wants to cut off funding for JRP intervenors. Conservatives allow hate speech, while curbing green speech.

The Conservative Party of Canada are sickening hypocrites on free speech.

Hate speech is OK. Green speech is not.

Hate speech is permitted, for it is “free speech.”  “Green speech,” on the other hand, is under constant attack from the Conservatives and their followers. While not subject to legal curbs (for now), we are seeing increasing pressure on those who advocate for the environment to shut up.

The Conservatives  today repealed sections of the human rights act concerning “hate speech” delivered by telephone and the Internet.  There was a free vote,  the Conservative MPs supported the repeal by 153 to 136.  It was a private members bill from Alberta Conservative MP Brian Storseth that repealed Section 13 of the human rights code, which covered with complaints regarding “the communication of hate messages by telephone or on the Internet.”

On the same day, in SunMedia, that Prime Minister Stephen Harper says his government will no longer fund any organization that comes before the Northern Gateway Joint Review opposing the pipeline.

According to Sunmedia story Taxpayer Funding Oil-Sands Activitists

The taxpayer tap pouring cash into the coffers of oilsands opponents could be turned off.

“If it’s the case that we’re spending on organizations that are doing things contrary to government policy, I think that is an inappropriate use of taxpayer money and we will look to eliminate it,” said Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Paris on Thursday.

Harper was responding to reports by Sun News Network that the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency has showered more than $435,000 on groups participating in the review of the Northern Gateway pipeline proposal, that would connect Alberta’s oilsands to a tanker port in northern B.C.

So there we have it, a prime minister who heads a government elected by just 30 per cent of the Canadian electorate, who now decides who can afford to come before a public quasi-judicial body, the Northern Gateway Joint Review Panel. Support the government and the bitumen sands, fine, we’ll give you taxpayers’ dollars, even if you don’t need it. Oppose the government, and you do  it on your own dime.

Transnational energy companies have millions to spend to support their views on the oils sands, whether before the JRP or in a multi-million PR campaign. A poor community that could be devastated by an oil spill off the BC Coast doesn’t count.

In the age of the web, Facebook, Twitter and other social media, all speech is hard to control, as despotic governments around the world are finding.   Hate speech on the Internet is impossible to control.  All someone has to do is  have a server in a country like the United States, where the First Amendment permits it. Green speech will continue to be free on the Internet. The difference is that Conservatives are making every effort to make green speech ineffective in the political and public spheres in Canada.

The change in the Canadian hate law means little in a practical sense. So why did the Conservatives change the law?  Like their efforts to crush “green speech,”  repealing those hate speech clauses has absolutely nothing to do with free speech. The repeal is all about ideological control, the very opposite of free speech.

Behind this vote is the fact that conservatives have made it clear over the years that they despise human rights codes. Today’s act of repeal is nothing more than part the Conservatives  wide-ranging plan to incrementally, millimetre by millimetre, (probably through other private member’s bills) to dismantle all the progress that has been made in this country over the past 70 years.

The right wing media loves to promote the far out wacko cases of people who use the human rights law process, stories the right-wing repeats again and again. There have been wackos who use other legal procedures, including the civil courts and other judicial and quasi-judicial bodies. But the conservatives and their media allies only emphasize the wacko cases before a human rights tribunal.

Of course, the majority of comfortable (and most of whom are, as far as we know, white, male and straight) conservatives are never going to have to use a human rights tribunal to redress a grievance.  They were never beaten up on the school yard, never denied a job or housing.  Most of the people who go before human rights tribunals are on the margins of society.

At the same time, we see the ongoing campaign by conservatives to demonize “green speech,” speaking out for the environment. Conservatives, in politics and the media, are trying to curb the funding of foundations that support the environment, the government routinely calls environmentalists “radicals” and even “terrorists.” Now we have Harper saying, yet again, don’t you dare oppose government policy on the bitumen sands.

The right-wing media routinely heaps their scorn and yes, even hatred, for those who believe that life on this planet is threatened. Those right wing columnists will, of course, fight to death to protect their own free speech but most won’t even put in a single sentence of objection in their columns or reports about the conservative campaign against “green speech.”

Which brings us to the man, who while claiming to be a free speech advocate, is actually now the self-appointed head of Canada’s thought police, Ezra Levant of Ethical Oil. (Ethical Oil today triumphantly tweeted Harper’s statement  @EthicalOil Taxpayers funding anti-oilsands activists #EthicalOil #Cdnpoli… )

Writing in the National Post, Jonathan Kay is full of praise for Levant:

a vigorous network of right-wing bloggers, led by Ezra Levant, began publicizing the worst abuses of human-rights mandarins…. In absolute numbers, the readership of their blogs was small at first. But their existence had the critical function of building up a sense of civil society among anti-speech-code activists, who gradually pulled the mainstream media along with them. In this sense, Mr. Levant deserves to be recognized as one of the most influential activists in modern Canadian history.

Influential activist, yes.  Free speech advocate? No. It is time the media stopped calling Levant a champion of free speech. He is not. Levant is a champion of causes he himself approves of,  especially the bitumen sands.  Free speech for anyone who opposes his agenda is subject at very least to attack and ridicule.

In his columns,  Levant advocated the curbing of the free speech of the thousands of  people of British Columbia who are defending their back yard from the energy industry. Levant is, of course, free to disagree with them, but don’t you dare oppose Ezra Levant or the bitumen sands,

Levant, rather than calling for more free speech in his columns, as his personal PR spin maintains,  advocated cutting off the people who live here in northwestern  British Columbia from the hearings of the Northern Gateway Joint Review panel, by saying too many people had signed up to testify.

Writing in SunMedia on December 10, 2011, Levant let off a broadside at the thousands of ordinary Canadians living and working along the route of the Northern Gateway pipeline who signed up to comment on the project, calling on Stephen Harper to fire chair Sheila Leggett for permitting too many people to speak at the hearings

[A]s of Friday, 4,453 people had typed in their names into Leggett’s website, signing up for the right to make a presentation.

[The JRP] allows anyone in the world — literally any person, any child, any foreign citizen — to simply type their name and address and get the right to testify before her panel.

It’s as trivial as clicking “like” on a Facebook page. That’s why Leggett needs another year. If another 40,000 people click on her website, will she delay things 10 years?

Skimming through the names is like reading petitions where wiseacres sign up as “I. P. Freely” or “John A. Macdonald.” Much of it is just junk, to jam up the system.

The website allows people to write a comment. Many of them are word-for-word replicas of each other. It’s a form letter campaign, arranged by professional environmental lobbyists. And it’s working. The only question is whether Leggett is naive, incompetent or biased against the pipeline.

Some of the forms have been faxed in. They helpfully have the fax signature stamp at the top of the page, showing which foreign-funded lobby group is working to gin up names. Like the Sierra Club, which received a $909,000 contract from the U.S. Tides Foundation and their Canadian affiliate to gin up opposition to the “tar sands.”

Those foreign billionaires are getting their money’s worth — they’ve managed to delay the hearings by a year before they’ve even started.

Levant was giving a completely inaccurate account of the Joint Review process. His column which echoes the ideological blindness of most his conservative columnist colleagues, speaks of foreign influence, repeating the big lie being propagated by the Conservative party,  started largely by blogger Vivian Krause, that there is an International California Conspiracy to undermine the Canadian energy industry.

Dealing with a pipeline coming through some of the most geologically unstable country on the planet is not “trivial.”  The threat of a major oil spill on the British Columbia coast is not “trivial.”

I’ve attended, listened to the remote webcast or read the transcripts of much of the hearings. None–none– of the testimony can remotely be considered: “Much of it is just junk, to jam up the system.”

A fair estimate would say that 95 per cent of people who registered to comment live along the pipeline route or the BC coast. At least a dozen or more letters of comment are posted on the JRP site every day, which means thousands since Levant wrote the diatribe,  and it is clear that they are written by individuals with valid concerns, and none in recent months are form letters. (I check them, I doubt if Levant does)

In that column, Levant goes on about JRP chair Sheila Leggett:

She’s Stephen Harper’s bureaucrat, but she’s taking direction from foreign meddlers. For “whatever time it takes.”

What a fool. No court would permit such a gong show. And Leggett has court-like powers.

Last month, when Barack Obama delayed the Keystone XL pipeline from the oilsands to the U.S., Harper was appalled.

But Leggett was appointed by Harper. And she just pulled an Obama on our own country.

Leggett must be fired. Her job is not to listen to everyone in the world with an Internet connection. It’s to make the best decision in Canada’s interest.

Her Oprah-style hearings are unacceptable, and Harper should make that clear by sacking her.

Leggett was not fired. In fact, over the past six months, she has had a difficult time confining testimony to the narrow rules of evidence that do not permit someone to actually say they oppose the pipeline.  An intervenor had to testify “from personal knowledge” or if First Nations “from traditional knowledge.” So no hearings came close to being “a gong show.”

There hasn’t been a single “foreign meddler” testify in the past six months (although some intervenors, including the energy companies themselves, use experts from outside Canada).

In a later column, on January 7, 2012, the weekend before the hearings began here in Kitimat, Levant again toed the conservative party line in Pipeline review hearings allowing foreign input is ridiculous — we don’t need another country’s permission. It’s all Canada, Levant again repeated his big lie.

Those who testified at the Kitamaat Village hearings in the following days were from the Haisla Nation as well as Douglas Channel Watch and the Kitimat Valley Naturalists (both groups consist of mainly retired Kitimat residents).  There wasn’t a foreign billionaire in sight. Same with the hearings in the days and weeks that followed, First Nations, fishers, hunters, guides, birders, and yes environmental groups. (How dare those BC NIMBYs get in the way of an Alberta pipeline and its manifest destiny?)

In today’s SunMedia article, Environment Canada cautioned:

A spokesman for Environment Minister Peter Kent tells QMI Agency while that funding is often legally required, Kent wants to make sure “common sense prevails” in how it’s awarded.

With its majority, it is likely the Conservatives will change the rules, just as they are by abolishing DFO fisheries protection for salmon spawning streams. Again bottom line, if you support the government and you are rich, you can testify.  If you are poor, even if you are “directly affected,” tough luck.

The sad fact is that Levant has won, for now, his fight against free speech in BC, probably without knowing it.

More and more people are dropping out of the Joint Review Panel process, hearings scheduled for days now last just a day or an afternoon. That’s because given the position of Stephen Harper, Joe Oliver and Peter Kent, that the pipeline is going ahead no matter what, many of these people  who signed up to comment now see no reason to testify for 10 minutes on a subject that is a foregone conclusion. Here in the northwest, where long distance travel is concerned, it takes time and money to make the effort of participate. Why testify, if the government is going to ignore the concerns of the people who live here?

No wonder Ethical Oil sent out the celebratory tweet this afternoon.

The Conservatives have won a major in battle in their war on free speech in this country by making it not worth their while for many ordinary citizens, those who don’t have deep pockets for research and lawyers, to speak on the Northern Gateway Pipeline, at least before the Joint Review Panel. Now Harper government wants to cut off funds for the poorer intervenors.  If that happens, more opponents will drop out of the proceedings.

Kay, in his attack on the hate law calls it a  “system of administrative law that potentially made de facto criminals out of anyone with politically incorrect views about women, gays, or racial and religious minority groups.”

The National Post’s conservative friends (in its own newsroom and both in and out of Parliament)  are now looking for ways to make “defacto criminals out of anyone with the politically incorrect” view that the Northern Gateway Pipeline is not a new version of the “national dream.” After all,  Stephen Harper’s statement today means “that doing things contrary to government policy” is now politically incorrect.

Of course, if the pipeline breaches along the Kitimat River and the town is without a drinking water system for up to four years (in the worst case scenario), it will be Kitimat’s nightmare, not Canada’s. (In Don Mills, columnists will still be able to drink Toronto’s water or, perhaps, run to the corner store for a Perrier.)  If a bitumen tanker hits the rocky coast and sinks in the deep  cold-water fjords, it will largely be BC’s nightmare, and the BC taxpayers’ nightmare, not Edmonton’s or Toronto’s. If a pipeline buried under nine metres of west coast snow in a remote valley has a small–undetectable by computer– breach  in the darkest days of January and  the ongoing oil leak isn’t discovered for weeks or months, by that time it might also be “politically incorrect” for anyone Canada to object. (Of course, people in the region will object and strongly).

The fact is that these small c and large C conservative campaigns  against hate laws in terms of “free speech” are nothing more than the rankest hypocrisy. What most (not all) conservatives want is free speech for their ideas and only those ideas, especially if they want to shout their own hatred of certain groups from the rooftops or on the world wide web, while at the same time, many conservatives have been trying to shut down anyone with opposing views.

To a conservative, the freedom of speech and the freedom of religion that still drives too many numbers of gay teenagers to suicide, is always protected free speech, no matter the body count.

On the hand, to the same conservatives, free speech in Canada doesn’t include protecting the environment of the only planet we live on, especially if a small portion of the funding that speech comes from California. In conservative Canada, free speech belongs to American (that is foreign) oil billionaires like the Koch brothers. To conservatives, free speech does not apply to local BC groups, coalitions of often left-wing environmentalists and  often conservative anglers and hunters, trying to protect wild salmon.

Where’s George Orwell when we need him? In the Canada of Stephen Harper, the National Post and Sunmedia,  homophobic hatred is protected, preserving the planet is not protected.  In Canada in 2012 (or I should I say 1984+), the only acceptable political speech is support for the bitumen sands and the pipeline projects.

And you wonder why the public has such contempt for majority of politicians and most of the media?

Related links:

Editorial: Just asking: why didn’t anyone object to the Americans at the NEB LNG hearings in Kitimat?

Joint Review media analysis Part one: Calgary Herald columnist advocates curbing free speech on the Northern Gateway Pipeline hearings

(Deborah Yedlin of the Calgary Herald was another columnist who advocated limiting the number of people appearing before the Joint Review Panel. Perhaps this is another case of free speech for Albertans, but not people in BC?)