What people said at the Northern Gateway Joint Review Panel hearings in Vancouver
"This year, I funded a private expedition to travel along the land route from Kitimat to Prince George. We crossed visibly active fault lines and accessed every major river system that the pipeline crosses. The Nechako, the Bulkley...these rivers are the headwaters of the Fraser and Skeena basins, vast regions that support economies that are utterly dependent on verdant ecosystems to function. Logging, farming, international sport rivers in the rivers drive multi-million dollar economies.
"The coast alone has a billion-dollar economy and that has been evidenced by a recent UBC report. Again, economies dependent on healthy ecosystems. These rivers are fast flowing and extremely difficult to access. I can't tell you how many cuts and bruises I have from forcing my way into some of these places. If a spill were to occur in some of these places, cleanup in my mind is impossible, for the're not the slow, meandering Kalamazoo that Enbridge failed to restore. They're very fast, high-volume rivers.
"And being the headwaters of two major basins, the Fraser and the Skeena and the Fraser, a spill would kill the entire river system. If an ecosystem collapses, so too does the economy of the region. If it were your livelihood, would you put that on the line for a simple billion dollar share over a 30-year period?"
Philippe Le Billon: "We could very easily see shippers and investors suing the Canadian government..."
"I come from a region that has been very deeply affected by oil spills, I come from Brittany, France," Geographer Philippe Le Billon said when introducing himself to the panel. Brittany, facing the Atlantic Ocean, has been the site of numerous famous spills including the 1978 Amoco Cadiz spill, which was the largest oil spill in the world at the time.
"We often make a comparison, or you hear a comparison from Enbridge with Norway," he said.
"If you looked at maps of the terminals in Norway, what you will notice is that it's very different -- very few turns. Basically, it's pretty easy to get there. To compare those types of terminals...I'm a sailor myself, I know about the types of conditions there, and I've lived here for 10 years. And I'm frightened when I look."
Le Billon also criticized the project from an economic viewpoint.
"When the spills happen, they cost a lot. I'll give you just the statistics on the Prestige. The Prestige broke in two. It's not supposed to happen, it did. It cost about 2 billion euros, 5.2 billion dollars. We're now more than 10 years after, and the court case is just opening in Spain. Only three people are facing the court in the moment. Looking at the details will tell you who bears the consequences. Of course, international funds does not cover for this. The delays are devastating for the communities and bad for the taxpayers -- they don't get reimbursed, and for the people who need to be compensated, it takes a long time."
"If a spill happens, what is likely to happen is a closing of the pipeline, because the public will say, 'no more tankers, because we want to know what's going on here.'
"Well, what does that do to the pipeline infrastructure? When you are closing a pipeline, what do your say to the investors, to the shippers? When we're working in an international agreement framework, like an international foreign investment protection agreement (FIPA), who ends up paying? We could very easily see shippers and investors suing the Canadian government for stopping the operations of the infrastructure. And remember, we're talking about half a million barrels a day, these are huge sums, every day! Fifty million dollars, every day of delay is a huge amount that the Canadian taxpayer will have to compensate."
In closing, Le Billon pointed to the negative political impact Northern Gateway is having on Canadians.
"This is a highly politicized project. Just last year I finished a 360-page book on conflicts around resources with Columbia University Press and I can tell you there are few economic factors that crystallize the kind of tensions as this -- people put their histories, their identities, they put a lot of emotion into natural resource projects. Why? Because it's tied to the land, it's tied to the huge environmental consequences, you're talking often about large sums of money, big corporations, tensions are high.
"What I'm afraid for Canada is that this is going to be a very divisive project for Canadian society. You can already see the tensions between BC and Alberta, between First Nations and the federal government -- I don't need to remind you what is happening with Idle No More -- so my sense is that this project will hurt society in general, just by bringing tensions that we should hope to avoid in building a Canadian society that is inclusive, with the provinces and First Nations working together."