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BC Enbridge oil spill risk frighteningly high, engineering group claims

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A group of engineers and engineering professors who have studied the Enbridge Northern Gateway proposal over the last few years have launched a campaign raising public awareness over the devastating risks of an oil spill along the northern BC coast. 

"According to Northern Gateway’s own numbers, there is a nine per cent chance (approximately 1 in 11) of an at least 30,000 barrel spill of tar sands oil along the BC coast (over 50 years)," the group said on its website. 

The engineers -- who say they have a combined hundred years in experience working on projects including Arctic drilling structures, offshore supply vessels and oil spill cleanup -- say the company is actually understating the risks, and say the National Energy Board didn't address their concerns when giving the go-ahead for federal government to approve the project. 

“We’re concerned that it’s the wrong place and the wrong environment and the risks are far too high,” Gunn said in a Desmog Canada report last December. “Is a nine per cent chance of a major spill something that society should accept?”

Gunn said at the time that the actual risk of a major oil spill during a 50-year time frame was actually closer to 23 per cent, thought that figure does not currently appear on the Concerned Professional Engineers website. 

The group also said in the event of a major spill, Enbridge may not end up having to pay the full cleanup amount, leaving taxpayers on the hook. Currently, available cleanup funds for marine spills (which include cover only a maximum of $1.35 billion). After being criticized for creating Northern Gateway as a 'limited liability' company, Enbridge proposed that it would set aside an oil spill fund to cover cleanup costs, but it would fall short in the event of a spill like the Exxon Valdez spill, in which Exxon spent $2 billion for cleanup (over $6 billion if adjusted for inflation), yet only recovered 7 per cent of the oil. 

"As a taxpayer, you will be responsible for cleanup and damage costs exceeding $1.35 billion, " the Concerned Engineers website warns. 

In addition to engineers, Master Mariners have also expressed concerns about the proposed tanker routes in the Enbridge Northern Gateway application, saying there are too few safeguards to prevent oil spills along the storm-prone routes. 

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