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Northern Gateway Pipeline spill risk at 93%': SFU Study

The threat of oil spills along Northern Gateway: Former Deputy Envorinment Minister challenges Enbridge's risk prediction.

That's... a big difference
That's, uh, kind of a big difference.

Better odds than Vegas

Enbridge is understating the risk of a Keystone pipeline spill by quite a bit, according to Dr. Tom Gunton, director of Simon Fraser University's School of Resource and Environmental Management and former Deputy Minister of Environment.

The Canadian government has not carried out its own risk assessment of the Northern Gateway pipeline project, instead relying on Enbridge itself to paint the picture of the oil-spill risk.

While Enbridge said that the risk of a spill stood at 18%, Gunton asserts that the real number is between 93% and 99%, and that's using Enbridge's own data.

If you had a 93% chance of winning the lottery, you'd be nuts not to buy a ticket.

The report predicts a spill along the BC coast every ten years.

Unsurprisingly, Enbridge dismisses Gunton's findings, but of course it has billions of reasons to do so. (Then again, Enbridge's own estimate is still pretty high. 18% is nearly one in five; still better odds than you'll find in Vegas.)

Gunton's study was published too late for perusal by the Joint Review Panel. However, Gunton testified before the JPL in the past, representing Coastal First Nations in opposition of the Northern Gateway Pipeline.

What happens after the oil spills?

Even if we take Enbridge at its word (which is by no means a given), this rebuttal does not address the other major factor in a pipeline oil-spill scenario: what the oil company is going to do about it when it happens.

Enbridge's response to the Kalamazoo River spill was weak, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency: the spill has become the costliest onshore oil leak in history, as Enbridge dragged its feet through the cleanup process. The diluted bitumen also proved very difficult to clean up: efforts are still underway.

Said David Black, whose Kitimat refinery project relies on increased pipeline activity, ""I don't know where Mr. Gunton gets that stuff from, but it's purely academic stuff. It's not rooted in the reality of what a modern pipeline is like."

What about the Kalamazoo River spill? Is that rooted in the reality of what a modern pipeline is like? Because simply kicking side of your pipeline or the hull of your ship and saying, "Yup, solid" doesn't really address the larger issues of process control, human error, corporate responsibility, and long-term damage to the environment.

Common sense intervention

BC votes in the Provincial election on May 14. Oil traffic through Vancouver's ports is a major issue. If you're less informed than a 15-year-old, that lack of knowledge will be used against you.

Meanwhile, try to work out why Canada didn't do its own risk assessment on Northern Gateway. The current fox-in-the-hen house approach only raises the spectre of bias: it's not sensible to leave the assessment solely in the hands of the entity that stands to gain the most from the project.

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