Oilsands pipeline: First Nations say Enbridge lacked due diligence

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Arnold Nagy, a member of the Haida Nation who now lives in Prince Rupert told me, “Enbridge tried to say that they were engaged with the Haida. There’s no way. The groups that they were talking about have no ties to the Haida First Nation. They’re just groups that are on Haida Gwaii. I don’t believe any of it. If [Stanway] did have agreements, he’d be putting them out on the table.” 

Cecil Paul, an 82-year-elder of the Haisla First Nation and residential school survivor, said he felt compassion for those exploited by Enbridge’s tactics.

“I believe [Paul Stanway] talked with 20 people, but who did he talk to? Was it a residential school victim that the government brainwashed  to think like a non native, someone who was born in and lived in urban society all his life? Never walked the banks of the peaceful river or along the quiet ocean? [Stanway] asks this person what he thinks of Enbridge and gives him money? He’d go for it. I feel compassion if that’s the case. I don’t condemn my people. But I will talk softly to them so they can understand about our garden that Enbridge is taking.”

An oil company's “Benefit to Canada” claims

"Singlehandedly, [Northern Gateway] would add about $270 billion to the Canadian gross domestic product," claimed Stanway, prior to the initial JRP hearing at Kitimat. "You can buy a lot of hospitals and schools with that kind of money." It’s hard to say what the figure means.

First, over how many years would this amount accrue? The pipeline's life is probably 30 years. According to the IEA report, that infrastructure must be abandoned well before the full claimed benefit could accrue to prevent temperatures from sky rocketing up six degrees.

Second, how much economic damage needs to be subtracted from this amount for fair accounting? That damage should include the increased risk of costly weather related disasters – estimates of global damage from the 8.5 billion tons of tar sands oil that the pipeline would carry range from $28 billion to over $400 billion depending on a range of economists’ estimates of social damage per ton of carbon (from $6 to $95 per ton, with a mean of $42 per ton). Damages should also include the permanent loss of coastal fisheries, a source of livelihood for thousands of years in the past and, with reasonable care, thousands of years into the future.

Third, how would the GDP increase be distributed? The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers states 90 per cent of the economic benefit of the tar sands remain in Alberta. That means the tar sands contribute 0.2% to the GDP of the rest of Canada -- too small to even see on a pie chart. The benefit of the pipeline outside of Alberta is an order of magnitude smaller, and yet British Columbia would bear the most severe risks.

Finally, the $270 billion appears to include an increase in output from the tar sands that the Northern Gateway Pipeline would enable. If so, this means that the increased CO2 impacts of the pipeline must be attributed directly to Enbridge.

Enbridge cannot claim credit for the economic benefit of the pipeline while avoiding responsibility for the increase in emissions of unlocking those fossil fuels. Those emissions will easily erase the efforts of the rest of Canada to reduce emissions.

Back to the grandchildren, it’s a nice idea that economic benefits from Enbridge might build schools for them to attend. But will it also deprive them of the environmental and economic stability necessary to take advantage of such opportunities?


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