Enbridge’s multi-million dollar ad campaign collides on the web with Alberta oil spill and fears about the water supply

As the people near Sundre, Alberta deal with an oil spill of up to 175,000 litres into the Red Deer River, there have been reports on Twitter all day of Enbridge’s pro-pipeline ads appearing alongside stories on the oil spill on news sites across Canada. For most of Saturday,  I didn’t see any Enbridge ads on the news pages I checked. Ad viewing is usually tied by algorithms to the specific viewer’s interests.

Tonight, an Enbridge ad did show up on my computer screen.  An unfortunate pairing of a CP story on Ipolitics.ca  that  drinking water will be trucked into the affected communities. Alongside it the animated Enbridge ad promoting the Northern Gateway.

Enbridge ad accompanies a story on the Alberta oil spill

Water supply is a critical issue in the Enbridge debate, especially in Kitimat, BC, where the pipeline will cross the Kitimat River watershed and then follow the route of the Kitimat River to the planned terminal at the town’s waterfront. The environmental group Douglas Channel Watch says its studies show that a major rockfall or landslide could cut Kitimat’s water supply for up to four years, meaning the town would have to survive on bottled water for years.  Enbridge has said its studies and engineering will ensure the water supply is safe.

But it get’s worse.   I had written this story and went back to the original Ipolitics.ca story to double check the facts and the URL   The page had automatically refreshed and a new Enbridge ad appeared as a banner ad. In the right-hand box where the previous Enbridge had been a few moments before, there is now an advertisement  promoting the safety of fracking.

Enbridge banner ad on Alberta oil spill story

Advertisers want interested eyeballs and various cookies and tracking mechanisms mean that these days that ads appear either in a story that is tied to the industry, in this case, oil and gas, or  tied to the viewers’ web history.

In all the years I worked in television news, there were always protocols for pulling suddenly and unexpectedly inappropriate ads from a local, network or cable newscast  when there was “breaking news.”

It’s a lot harder to do that for a web ad, but it can be done. It may that with Enbridge spending millions of dollars on ads, management was reluctant to stop the campaign cold.  But ads can e pulled. The fact the ads are running on the second day of the spill raises again the question of Enbridge’s managerial competence. After all, the American Petroleum Institute, the lobby group for the American energy industry, immediately stopped all pro-drilling ads within hours of realizing that the BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico was a major incident.

(Note this site has no control over the Google ads which appear, which are even more than most ads, are tied to Google’s tracking of an individual’s viewing habits as well as the content of the story.  Major banner ads, like Enbridge’s, however, are usually booked through web ad agencies and can be pulled by clicking a mouse.)

And yes, when I checked the facts on the ad campaign, finding a story from May 30, in the Calgary Herald, the Enbridge ad was there as well.

In the story, picked up from the Vancouver Sun,  Enbridge spokesman Paul Stanway was quoted:

“You are going to see a much higher visibility for Enbridge over the next few days. In newspapers, in television and online,” said Paul Stanway, manager of Northern Gateway communications for Enbridge. “It’s become quite apparent that the debate has become a province wide issue.”

Calgary Herald web page with Enbridge ad

Note, due to those algorithms, if you click on the original pages, you may or may not see the Enbridge ads, just I didn’t see the ones earlier today that were linked to from Twitter.

Enbridge claims support from 60 % of First Nations on pipeline route; company also sticks to repudiated Gitxsan deal.

Enbridge Northern Gateway says that 60 per cent of the aboriginal communities on the route of the $5.5 billion Northern Gateway oil pipeline have agreed to accept an equity stake in the project.

In releases to the media today, June 5, 2012, Enbridge says that half of the communities that signed up for a piece of the 10 per cent equity stake on offer are in British Columbia and the other half in Alberta.

There was immediate controversy because Enbridge is refusing to release the names of the communities that have signed up for the deal for “privacy reasons.”

The controversy was heightened late Tuesday when Enbridge spokesman Paul Stanway told The Terrace Standard  the company’s deal with the Gitxsan First Nation still stands, despite the fact both a majority of the heriditary leadership of the Gitxsan and the elected council have rejected the agreement signed by one chief Elmer Derrick.

A blockade of the Gitxsan treaty office is continuing despite a court injunction ordering an end to the blockade.

“We feel we certainly have an agreement,” said Enbridge official Paul Stanway told the Standard in describing discussions it has subsequently had with Gitxsan officials. Stanway said the deal followed a protocol arrangement signed with Gitxsan chiefs several years ago.

“We are confident we were negotiating with the right people,” he said of discussions with treaty society chief land claims negotiator Elmer Derrick and other society officials.

In addition, Art Sterritt, executive director of the Coastal First Nations issued a news release   that called Enbridge’s claims about aboriginal equity partners a “complete sham”.

“We’ve checked with all First Nations on the pipeline route west of Prince George and only two First Nations have signed equity agreements,” Sterritt says in the release.  “Enbridge expanded its pipeline corridor by 80 kilometres  to increase its numbers. Many of those communities that have signed on are located outside of the areas that will be impacted by a spill.”

Sterritt also challenged Enbridge’s contentions on the Gitxsan deal, saying that the Gitxsan people have made it clear they don’t support the project. “They have strongly rejected the agreement.”

Sterritt concluded. “We intend to stop this project.”

Sterrit says his coastal alliance is “absolutely mystified” about the inclusion of the Metis — who don’t have aboriginal rights and title within the corridor — in Enbridge’s 60 per cent. (Representatives of the Metis have taken part in the Joint Review hearings from the opening days of hearings in Kitimat last January).

Enbridge has announced before that First Nations support the pipeline project but, with the exception of Derrick, has never publicly discussed which nations support the project.

The near simultaneous announcement by Enbridge of First Nation’s support for the pipeline and the statement that the company is sticking with its agreement with Elmer Derrick could raise more controversy by causing more splits within First Nations if a few individuals sign and then the agreement is repudiated by other leaders, as happened with the Gitxsan Nation.

The pipeline which would run more than 1770 kilometres from the Alberta bitumen sands to Kitimat, carrying 525,000 barrels of diluted bitumen in the first train and as much as 825,000 barrels in the second train. If everything is approved, Enbridge hopes to ship the bitumen by 2017.

“It’s a good place for us to start in demonstrating that there is aboriginal support for Northern Gateway,” Stanway said. “It’s not 100 per cent, but neither is it the wall of opposition that our opponents sometimes claim.”

The 10 per cent equity ownership for the First Nations who signed the deal will give them about $280 million over 30 years. They would see cash flow starting in the first year of the pipeline’s operation.

There are 45 First Nations along the pipeline, but Stanway wouldn’t give a final figure on how many signed on.

“Some of those are willing to partner with us. That’s not to say they still don’t have some concerns. They want to make sure that we build and operate the pipeline as safety as possible.”

Wilf Adam of the Lake Babine First Nation in Burns Lake, B.C., the Canadian Press (as reported on the  Global BC  site)  he refused to sign the equity agreement because Enbridge was unwilling to release more details in the contract.

“I’d been asking for the financial figures and I’d been asking about the employment. They said there would be a lot of employment.”

Adam told CP it appeared to him that there would be few jobs available for his people. Hesaid there was a flurry of emails and phone calls from Enbridge officials after the company moved the deadline for signing the equity agreement up to May 31.
Related links

Reuters: Enbridge Northern Gateway wins some native support

Globe and Mail: Some first nations want equity in Northern Gateway, but opposition remains

Common Sense Canadian Tough Questions for Enbridge on its Alleged Support from First Nations

CBC Majority of aboriginal communities sign on to Northern Gateway

Prince Rupert council votes unanimously to oppose Northern Gateway project

Prince Rupert council has joined Terrace and the Skeena Queen Charlotte Regional District in voting to oppose the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline project and associated tanker traffic on the west coast.

The Prince Rupert Council vote was unanimous.

The council has adopted the same resolution that the Skeena Queen Charlotte Regional District (SQCRD) did over a week ago:

Therefore, be it resolved that the City of Prince Rupert be opposed to any expansion of  bulk crude oil tanker traffic as well as bitumen export in Dixon Entrance, Hecate Strait  and Queen Charlotte Sound in British Columbia.

And be it further resolved that the City of Prince Rupert petition the federal government  to establish a legislated ban on bulk crude oil tanker traffic and bitumen export through  the Dixon Entrance, Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte Sound in British Columbia.”

The council debate took place before a packed audience. Council decided to consider the matter after the Prince Rupert Environmental Society that asked the city council to adopt the resolution.

Like some other northern councils, including Kitimat, Prince Rupert had remained neutral on the controversial pipeline.

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

Councillor Jennifer Rice said it was time for the city to make its position clear. She said the Enbridge Northern Gateway Joint Review panel was asking northern municipalities for their opinion (although actually the opinion and argument phase of the JRP hearings won’t take place until the “final arguments” currently scheduled for sometime around April 2013).

Rice said Prince Rupert’s silence could have been taken as acceptance of the $5.5-billion proposal to pipe Alberta oil across B.C. to Kitimat, where supertankers would carry it to overseas customers.

Other members of council agreed with Rice, expressing concerns about damage that could be caused if a Very Large Crude Carrier (a supertanker) could get into trouble.

The mayor, Jack Mussallem, argued, as have others across the northwest, that council should wait until the Joint Review Panel concludes its hearings, when all appropriate information was available. He did not vote. (After the vote in Terrace, B.C. Energy Minister Rich Coleman said local representatives to follow the provincial government’s lead and remain neutral until a federal environmental review is complete.)

In response to the vote at Prince Rupert, Enbridge Northern Gateway spokesman, Paul Stanway issued a statement to the Northern View which reads.

Prince Rupert city council has expressed a position on the Northern Gateway project and that is their right. Surely the best time to make a decision in the public interest is when all the facts are known?

Northern Gateway is in the midst of an extensive federal review which will examine the project in detail and in public – as it should. We would hope that people will wait until they have an opportunity to hear the facts before making up their minds.

Most of the communities along the corridor have taken a neutral position until this regulatory review has been completed. This is fair to everyone, and it allows elected officials to get a full view of the project with all the facts having been aired through the review process – which then allows them to make an informed decision.

Numerous communities – in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba who have a history of working with Enbridge – have written letters of support for the project and filed them with the Joint Review Panel.

It is our view that the more people learn about the project, the more they tend to support Northern Gateway. A recent Ipsos Reid poll found that, among British Columbians, those in the North are the most familiar with the project, and they are also the most supportive.

(As Northwest Coast Energy News pointed out at the time, that poll had a large margin of error when it came to northern residents and it was unclear if the poll was weighted in favour of one northern region or another)