Christy Clark says BC still open to Northern Gateway
Premier Christy Clark said she's still waiting for Premier Alison Redford to call about giving BC a "fair share" of the environmental risks and revenues from the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway oil pipeline project, as the province cross-examines Enbridge at the Northern Gateway Joint Review Panel hearings for the first time this afternoon in Edmonton.
"Today is about making sure that we're protecting the environment no matter what fair share we finally ultimately negotitate for BC in terms of jobs and economic benefit, there is no fair share we can make up for catastrophic damage to the environment," Clark said, adding that Alberta premier Alison Redford should call her to negotiate "fair share."
Clark made the comments in a surprise appearence with Environment Minister Terry Lake and former BC Attorney General Geoff Plant at the Vancouver International Airport this morning before Lake and Plant boarded their flight for Edmonton.
However, critics disagreed with Clark's suggestion that BC could reach a deal with Alberta insuring the province against a potential oil spill.
Well-known environmentalist and author Tzeporah Berman said that Clark is "grasping at straws."
"No matter what she negotiates today she cannot assure BC that there will not be oil spills and leaks," Berman said. "She needs to stop trying to put a price on this unacceptable risk and just stand up for our coast."
The Wilderness Committee's Ben West called Clark's comments about fair sharing "political theatre".
"It's hard to imagine someone saying so much without committing to anything. She is clearly getting the message that people didn't like her emphasis of financial compensation but she still is far from actually saying that she would stop the pipelines let alone how she would do it," West said.
Questions in Edmonton focused on whether Enbridge can pay for an oil spill
Plant said that the province will focus mainly on Enbridge's ability to respond to and pay for "disasterous spill or accidents" at the hearings in Edmonton, while the hearings in Prince George and Prince Rupert will focus on "technical issues" related to the five minimum requirements the province released in July, which include First Nations accommodation, benefit-sharing, improved marine and land spill response.
The proposed Northern Gateway pipeline involves constructing two pipelines approximately 1,170 km long carrying up to 525,000 barrels per day of diluted bitumen (dilbit) from Bruderheim, AB to Kitimat, BC. The other pipeline would carry 193,000 barrels of condensate per day east to Bruderheim.
Enbridge Inc. has come under close scrutiny and criticism for its poor record on pipeline safety and oil spill response. Across all of Enbridge’s operations there were 610 spills that released close to 132,000 barrels (21 million litres) of hydrocarbons into the environment between 1999 and 2008, according to the Polaris Institute.
The most high profile spill to date was a 2010 spill in Michigan which was the largest on land oil spill in U.S. history, leaking 843,444 gallons of diluted bitumen and costing more than $800 million US in damage.
"The government will focus on technical issues of what it would mean to have as British Columbia requires a world class world leading response capacity for either land based or marine based accidents and spills," Plant said, emphasizing that this is an important opportunity for the government to ask questions on behalf of British Columbians.
Enbridge to be "in the hotseat" during cross-examinations
"Enbridge is rightly going to be in the hotseat now at these hearings, and boy do they have a lot of explaining to do," said Josh Paterson of West Coast Environmental Law. "We’ve seen just how much we can trust them and their information whether it's misleading the public by deleting islands in their ads to make the tanker route appear safe, or their unspeakably bad safety practices that led to the US’s worst ever inland oil spill in Kalamazoo that have been slammed by the US."
"After their atrocious record, there is no way that this corporation can restore public confidence and trust, no matter how much questioning we put them through," Paterson said.
The BC government is one among many other interveners participating in the cross examinations. Ecojustice (representing ForestEthics Advocacy, Living Oceans Society and Raincoast Conservation Foundation) and various First Nations communities are also scheduled to question Enbridge about the proposed pipeline project.
The cross examination, which is the second phase of the Joint Review Panel hearings, began on September 4 and will run until December 2012. Final hearings are scheduled for December 10-18 in Prince Rupert.
The first day of cross-examinations began on Tuesday with the Alberta Federation of Labour questioning figures in economic reports about the economic impact of the proposed twin pipeline project by expert witnesses.
The proceedings are being webcast live on Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 9:30 AM to 4:30 PM Mountain (MT), 8:30 AM to 3:30 PM Pacific Standard (PST). Full transcripts are also available after the hearing at the official Joint Review Panel site hearings page.
Final arguments to the Joint Review Panel are scheduled for March and April 2013.