Oil executive son's testimony at Prince Rupert Northern Gateway pipeline joint review panel
On our way there, we drove past many different villages. Each one looking extremely impoverished. I learned later that this was not always the case. There was a time in this region where fishing, farming and the local economy truly flourished. But once the refinery project was approved, among other projects in the region, they built a pipeline directly through nine different villages. Over a period of time, there was pipeline breakage which contaminated an underground aquifer, and spoiled the wells and water supply of the majority of the surrounding villages. As industry expanded, and land bought and sold, men were forced into cheap labour at the refineries, after lifetimes of sustainable farming and fishing -- now dependent on one or two companies for employment. Women, children and elders went starving after losing access to fresh water, with no accountability for cleanup -- just left to fend for themselves. I ask, what would be the case here in our region? Do you see any potential similarities?
Converging onto a thin strip of man-made road spanning about two miles in length, we arrived at the Jetty, greeted by military personnel. After a lengthy process of clearing me for entry, we walked onto couple massive docking stations. To my right, men were conducting repairs on a rather standard sized vessel, no larger than the ones you would see here in our Harbour. In the distance, a ULCC fresh from the Middle East was rolling in from the horizon. The size of the vessel stopped me in my tracks. After 10 minutes, the ship stopped and made a slow bank horizontally out at sea.
I asked one of the managers -- Jitesh was his name -- why the ship stopped so far out. He told me that because of the size of the ship, they had a floating unloading station, and through another piping system they unload and load way out there, and that connects to the main routing station at the Jetty, to be piped a few miles back to the refinery.
I asked him why, and he said, "Even though we have docking stations here, it is for the smaller vessels that are used for domestic purposes. But these larger vessels that come from the Middle East can run aground easily."
This, in open seas, I thought.
So we all stood there, suspended in what felt like an eternal moment -the heat waves rising above the calmed Arabian Sea, and the ship danced in the horizon as I stood dumbfounded by its sheer mass. One man comments: “I always forget just how large those vessels are.”
A few moments pass as we all stood, just watching.
Out of the silence, Jitesh says to me “Do you see what we are doing here Mr. Lee?”
I asked “What’s that, Jitesh?”
He replied, with an unexpected, sobering tone: “We are destroying future generations for now, and forever.”
And in this kind of slow motion life moment, I felt this kind of tingling feeling on the top of my head– and with sweat dripping down from the inside of my hard hat onto my face, the sun beaming into my eyes -- I squint over at six men slowing nodding their heads in silent agreement.
It was such a profound statement, and in that moment, there was silence.
On the way back, I had a lengthy discussion with Jitesh about the ‘whys’ of it all -- about life, the human condition, and the challenges we face in the 21st century. Although I will not cover that conversation due to procedural constraints, I will say that I learned some extremely valuable lessons that day.
I learned that it is not because every man and woman who participate in industry are all evil, bad people -- being in India, on this refinery, there was this certain kind of ‘rush’ I felt. I felt a kind of new power within myself --being in a productive, hard working, problem solving environment Where there is grit, and dirt, and sweat, and mud and building and pumping and drilling and hammering and huge turbines at massive pressures doing crazy stuff. There is this feeling you get when you’re working with other professionals in a high-stake environment -- and on some very obscure and messed up level, I can understand how those who work in industry can get excited about growth and yet subsequently, can turn their eyes off towards any adverse impacts they are creating as a result.
Like I said, on a very obscure and messed up level.
And I just have to be fully honest and mention this, the feeling is addictive -- you can literally feel it in your veins. And this coming from just one month of experience, with a totally different ideological perspective.