Opposing Enbridge pipeline outside cocktail reception hosted by Enbridge
In the shadow of Whistler Mountain, a small group of activists gathered to protest against the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline project Tuesday night. Members from the Council of Canadians, Greenpeace and Whistler Watch demonstrated in front of the Pan Pacific Whistler Mountainside where the pipeline developers were hosting a cocktail reception during the Union of BC Municipalities Annual General Meeting (UBCM).
Holding a large sign that read, "No tankers, no pipeline, no problem," the Greenpeace protesters, who were clad in white jump-suits and face masks, stood in front of the window of the hotel's Dubh Linn Gate Old Irish Pub. “We don’t need your Enbridge pipeline/We don’t need no dirty oil!” they sang. UBCM delegates clustered in front of the windows; some of them smiled and waved.
"The provincial government's position is that we want to make sure that anything, that’s done, is done as safely as possible," said Provincial Environment Minister Barry Penner, who was in Whistler to attend the UBCM conference. "Everybody is looking again at what the appropriate standards need to be."
The federal government has jurisdiction over shipping off the coast of British Columbia. In 1972, the Pierre Trudeau government instituted a moratorium on north coast tanker traffic. Recently, politicians and environmental groups have sparred over the current status of that decision.
"I'd have to defer to what the federal government has indicated in terms of clarifying the moratorium. There is a federal policy in terms of tanker traffic up and down the coat and how far they need to stay away when those ships are coming from Alaska to refineries in Northwestern Washington State. For example they don’t ply the waters between Vancouver Island and the Mainland," Penner said.
But the project just doesn't make any sense to Pina Belperio, founder of Whistler Watch, a local watchdog group.
The proposed 5.5 billion dollar Gateway Pipeline would funnel 520, 000 barrels of oil from Edmonton to Kitimat, B.C., where they would be loaded onto supertankers bound for Asia. Oil sands production is expected to almost double to nearly three million barrels per day by 2020. The majority of this will be shipped to the U.S.
"It is a BC wide issue. It is probably one of the biggest issues that will face us in the coming years," said Belperio.
“Enbridge has an atrocious record in the US. We would be piping crude oil, which is destructive to begin with. It just doesn’t make sense. Economically, environmentally. I don’t want tankers in our waters or crude,” Belperio, who represents BC and the Yukon at the national level of the Council of Canadians, said.
Earlier this month, the Canadian pipeline company was forced to close a major crude transportation link after a leak was discovered in Romeoville, Illinois.
"For many years we’ve fought for a legislated ban on tankers," Gary Coons, NDP M.L.A. for the North Coast, said. "There has been one for forty years through seven prime ministers, there’s been a policy on no tankers on the North Coast and we continue to fight for that."
"First Nations came together in the legislature on the anniversary of the Exxon Valdez. Gordon Campbell stood up and basically said that they support Enbridge and they support the Joint Review Panel and the process to go forward," said Coons.
The Joint Review Panel is an indepedent body mandated by the Minister of the Environment and the National Energy Board. It "has a broad mandate to assess the potential environmental effects of the [Gateway] project and to determine if it is in the public interest." Three public meetings were scheduled for Whitecourt on August 10th, Kitimat on August 31st and Prince George on September 8th.
A moratorium on tanker traffic in the Port of Kitimat "would severely limit new jobs and investment that are so needed in B.C.'s northern communities," Alan Roth, spokesman for Enbridge Northern Gateway, told the Vancouver Sun June 22nd.
The Enbridge pipeline would be a violation of First Nations sovereignty rights, said Harjap Grewal, regional organizer for the Council of Canadians, one of the protest groups on Tuesday.
“Indigenous communities have clearly said that they don’t want these projects. It’s their sovereign right to say that. Particularly in the case of communities that aren’t treatied, that haven’t ceded their land to the Province, it’s a major issue."
Grewal said that the project would have a serious impact on the indigenous way of life.
"When we look at this particular situation we think, how can this be good for the people that live in those indigenous territories, where the proposed pipeline is going to go?" said Gary John, former chief of the Stl’atl’imc nation who sang a traditional piece at the protest.
"Once we raise more awareness about this, people won’t take it lightly."
Many of the municipal officials attending the conference were opposed to the pipeline.
The province would have a huge amount of power if they spoke out against this, said Victoria City Councillor Phillipe Lucas.
"I think that there’s a lot of public support for this ban. I think that there’s a policy window right now to make this ban a more permanent thing. I’d like to see the provincial government get more involved in those discussions."
Victoria recently passed a resolution to oppose tanker traffic and drilling off their shores.
The financial gain is not worth the potential for an economic disaster, Andrew Britton, Councillor for the Town of View Royal, said.
"In the event of a disaster, there’s close to 53,000 jobs that are affected and the economic impact that this would have on our environment and our economy would destroy more than what the 1% royalty that would be offered from this proposal."
In Kitimat, opinions are mixed bag, said Kitimat City Councillor Randy Halyk.
"Our Kitimat Council, which is First Nations, are opposed. And in Kitimat City we voted to stay neutral until we get all of the information. That’s where we stand."
At the end of August, hundreds gathered in Kitimat to protest outside the Riverlodge where a hearing hosted by the Joint Review Panel was taking place.
In Vancouver, city council has not yet talked about the pipeline, said Councillor Tim Stevenson. But it will be discussed in council, he said.
The village of Queen Charlotte has brought a resolution to the UBCM conference opposing "tar sands oil being shipped in pipelines across northern BC for loading onto crude oil tankers."
We would like Enbridge to come to the Queen Charlottes to talk about their plans, said Bill Beamish, the village's Chief Administrative Officer who wrote the resolution.
"We’d like to have a hearing on the Queen Charlottes."
A second resolution from Queen Charlotte calls UBCM to oppose "any expansion of bulk crude oil tanker traffic on the North Coast of British Colombia."
"We want to legislate a ban on off-shore oil drilling as well as stop an increase in tanker traffic. We do need tanker traffic because we need to supply our smaller communities, our coastal communities with oil," said View Royal Councillor Britton.
"I don’t know what Vancouver city councillors are saying about this but everybody I’ve spoken to supports it 100%," he said.
The resolutions will be brought forward Wednesday or Thursday, said Victoria City Councillor John Luton.