MLA Report: February 2012

We're fortunate here in Victoria and in our province to live in a place surrounded by natural beauty, with a coastline that remains largely unspoiled. As British Columbians, we do not take our province’s beauty for granted, and so it comes as no surprise that we would speak out against a project that could threaten the way of life that we cherish.

The joint review panel hearings on the Enbridge Northern Gateway oil pipeline are underway, and they’ve already heard from many British Columbians who are worried about the proposal for its serious environmental risks. It’s a message I frequently hear from my constituents in Victoria-Beacon Hill, and I agree with those concerns.

The Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline brings with it risk without reward. It holds the threat of crude oil supertankers on the coast, and in return offers a lack of lasting benefits for British Columbians.

Many of my constituents have told me that if the pipeline is allowed to proceed, they fear it will only be a matter of time before there is a catastrophic pipeline rupture or oil tanker disaster. Does the provincial government grasp the reality of supertanker traffic trying to navigate our inland coastal waters?

I fear it does not. We must safeguard the environment, aboriginal rights and the way of life for people along the coast.

The proposed pipeline would carry more than 500,000 barrels of diluted oil sands bitumen each day. It would traverse mountains, go across farmland, over the headwaters of the Fraser and Skeena rivers, and straight through the Great Bear Rainforest to the Pacific. The highly acidic and corrosive diluted bitumen would then be transferred into supertankers larger than the Exxon Valdez – more than 220 of them each year.

A recent report concludes that the transportation of oil sands bitumen poses an even larger risk than conventional oil. The report, co-written by the Pembina Institute, Natural Resources Defence Council and Living Oceans Society, says the pipeline is not worth the risk for communities, rivers and the Pacific coastline of British Columbia. Even Alberta’s energy minister has admitted B.C. gets the majority of the risk with little reward.

Experience around the world with transporting crude oil shows us that it’s only a matter of time before a disaster occurs. Only two years ago, another Enbridge oil pipeline ruptured, dumping three million litres of diluted bitumen into the Kalamazoo River. The area and surrounding wetlands are expected to be contaminated for many years.

Diluted bitumen is more likely to cause corrosion in the pipeline as well as in the tankers, is heavier than water and therefore harder to clean up, and can threaten human health as it contains a variety of nasty toxins.

While Alberta oil companies have a lot to gain from the proposed pipeline, the small benefits to British Columbia are far outweighed by the enormous risk to our northern industries, fisheries, communities and ecology. The proposal is opposed by First Nations and the Union of B.C. Municipalities, among many other groups.

It’s a subject that brings out strong passions, and understandably so. We have every right to be protective of our precious coastline and environment, and it’s great to see so many British Columbians getting involved to express their views on this crucial decision.

If you’d like to have your say, visit the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project Joint Review Panel website at Written submissions are being accepted until August 31, 2012.

Victorians are rightfully proud and protective of our environment. Let’s work together to ensure that pride continues for this and future generations.