Pipeline nod a missed opportunity

An open letter to Prime Minister Harper and his cabinet on a missed opportunity.

Dear editor,

An open letter to Prime Minister Harper and his cabinet, Re: Squandering an opportunity:

Thanks for endorsing the decision of the National Energy Board (NEB) granting permission to Enbridge for the Northern Gateway (NG) pipeline to proceed, thus squandering the opportunity to develop a route for export of Canadian bitumen (Dilbit) in the least-risky manner.

You have chosen to risk Canada and the environment. Your ill-informed decision ignored the evidence. Your decision creates extreme risk because:

• NG has chosen the riskiest port (Kitimat) to ship their Dilbit, with tankers exposed to the high-risk channels of the Northern B.C. coast, navigating for 16 hours before reaching the open ocean, compared to Prince Rupert (which would demand only two hours) or Port Simpson (one-half to one hour). The Kitimat decision was clearly made to save an extra $2 billion required to extend the pipeline to Prince Rupert or Port Simpson from Terrace. This extra cost saving comes at a much higher risk of likely and much more costly bitumen spills;

• The product Dilbit is not proven to float in salt water and it is likely to sink. This uncertain behaviour is still the subject of investigations by scientists here and in the U.S. Is this a case of  “out of site and out of mind”?  These uncertainties mean that the consequences of a potential spill cannot be estimated and, therefore, a “world-class” disaster response strategy cannot be put in place;

• A tanker spill cleanup fund of $1.3 billion is totally inadequate to clean up a spill of any consequence (five million litres or more). Compare this fund to the Exxon Valdez spill cleanup costs of $7 billion (and counting) to clean up less than 10% of the product spilled in 1989.

• According to NG’s own estimates at least one marine spill of five million litres of bitumen has a nine per cent chance of occurring in the 50-year operating life of the pipeline. It would take only one spill to produce a catastrophe along the B.C. coastline. Concerned Professional Engineers’ estimates, which includes the influence of the projected LNG traffic and does not double count the use of tugs, are closer to a 23 per cent chance for the same spill volume and the same operating life of 50 years.

Mr. Harper, these are some of the reasons we are convinced that the analysis and risk assessment of this project is flawed and that the NEB report you received does not reflect any of these concerns.

Mr. Harper, you have made a totally bad decision for the environment, the resource industry and, most of all, Canada and the First Nations of this country.

We urge you to change your mind.

Brian Gunn

Campbell River

Concerned Professional Engineers