Opinion: Five reasons why the Northern Gateway Pipeline should not be built

Dec 19 2017, 6:53 am

The following is an oral statement made by Karl Jensen, a concerned Vancouverite, delivered to the Enbridge Joint Review Panel.

Hello, my name is Karl Jensen. I would like to express my gratitude to the panel for allowing me to speak today. Making an oral statement is a commitment that I made in the fall of 2011 when I first heard about the Enbridge Hearings through a friend of mine, Alex Batko. Since then I have learned more about the project than I ever expected I would.

In my initial investigation into the Northern Gateway proposal I found that there were two categories of information. The first was the information that Enbridge wanted us to have through their marketing. As expected they focused on the positive economic benefit to Canadians. The second category of information focused on the environmental risk that the project would carry. The majority of information on the environmental risk came from groups that would essentially be labelled as ‘terrorists’ by our Government.

If we can improve the lives of all Canadians through the development of our country then it is important to me that we evaluate projects such as this to determine if the risk is worth the reward. My concern back then was that I did not have the information that I needed to contribute an opinion of my own in public. I needed access to an un-biased economic assessment of the project.

Enbridge provided the public with it’s numerous research documents prepared by consultants, but there was no way I was going to be able to read and comprehend their findings. I am not an economist, I program video games for a living. When I approached my friends and co-workers about the project their typical response was one of familiarity with the project in name only as a result of their access to mainstream media. I realized that most people, myself included, do not have the time and energy that is required to fairly engage in the evaluation of projects like Northern Gateway.

I approached my mother who is a retired economist. I felt like there was no one more qualified to read, understand, and explain the subject matter than her. Initially she was also not well informed about the project, but she did have the time and expertise required to read and understand the submitted Enbridge materials.

Within a week she had identified a few major issues with the project based on the information that Enbridge provided. Over the following year she would uncover a series of issues that had gone largely unnoticed by other experts in her field and the media. As she began to explain the issues over dinners I started to gain confidence in my own ability to understand the situation and move towards forming my own opinion.

Since signing up to deliver an oral statement, I made it a priority to visit the region of British Columbia that is being put at risk. In July of last year I was able to take a two week trip to Haida Gwaii with eight of my friends. We crossed the Hecate Straight by ferry, and spent a week kayaking around the islands of Gwaii Haanas National Park. This trip further reinforced my belief that we must protect the delicate ecosystem in that area.

Due to my limited time today I won’t be able to describe all of the points that lead me to believe that the economic and environmental case that Enbridge has put forward is faulty. I believe that the following five points that I have chosen are enough to justify my decision to recommend that The Northern Gateway Pipeline should not be built.

  1. According to Enbridge, the economic case for Northern Gateway is based on a restriction of oil supply from Canada and the US to service Asian markets. When this supply is redirected it will immediately force the price of oil up for every barrel produced in Western Canada. This means that consumers and businesses in Canada will pay more for petroleum products because of Northern Gateway.
  2. Northern Gateway represents a net loss of jobs in Canada because of the proposed increase in bitumen exports. Upgrading of this non-renewable resource will be undertaken outside of Canada. Meaningful longterm jobs are created domestically when you upgrade bitumen before shipping it down a pipeline. This represents a significant cost to the Canadian economy that is not addressed by the Enbridge case.
  3. Eastern Canada imports the majority of its oil from foreign markets at higher prices. With our substantial resources there is no reason why any region of Canada should be so dependent on volatile and uncertain markets. Here we are rushing to build pipelines to feed the energy needs of foreign countries that have no problem subsidizing their refineries and protecting their consumers through price controls. With the budgetary demands that most Canadians face today we should make it a priority to protect ourselves from paying higher prices.
  4. Enbridge advertises that they have ‘world-class safety standards’ including a control room that is monitored around the clock. Based on the evidence uncovered through the investigation into the Kalamazoo spill by the US National Transportation Safety Board, it has become clear that their ability to respond to a catastrophic spill event is not consistent with their claims. “Enbridge had procedures that required a pipeline shutdown after 10 minutes of uncertain operational status, Enbridge control center staff had developed a culture that accepted not adhering to the procedures.” These are not my words, they are directly quoted from the NTSB report that has been filed as evidence with this panel. What good are these advertised ‘world-class safety standards’ if the ‘Keystone Cops’ responsible for adhering to them have developed a ‘culture of deviance’?
  5. Enbridge has structured Northern Gateway as a limited liability partnership in a deliberate attempt to limit shareholder responsibility. Enbridge has not provided sufficient assurances that the financial resources available to Northern Gateway will be sufficient to cover the cost of cleanup and remediation in the event of a catastrophic or even just a major oil spill. Enbridge seems to be incapable of admitting to the fact that bitumen is different from conventional oil, particularly when it hits water and sinks. Enbridge has never operated a marine facility, but it is their plan to build one in a location that would require oil tankers to navigate one of the most dangerous bodies of water in the world. It fails to recognize this difference in the development of it’s mitigation strategy or in it’s estimates of the costs associated with cleanup.

These five major issues are dangerous to Canada because they contribute to a project plan that provides no real economic benefit to our country. However they are exceptionally dangerous to Canada because over the long-term it is likely that we will face a net economic loss.

I can’t possibly support a project that does not participate in creating a better economic future in Canada for my family. I can’t possibly support a project that represents an un-mitigatable risk to the environment in British Columbia.

I would like to conclude with a public message to Enbridge.

It would be in all of our best interest if you focused on the following:

  • Come up with a plan that reduces the cost of products and services for Canadians.
  • Come up with a plan that creates real long term jobs for Canadians.
  • Come up with a plan that puts the energy security of Canada before that of other nations.
  • Come up with a plan that gives me confidence that you actually have the ability to deliver on your promise of ‘world-class safety standards’.
  • Come up with a plan that shows that there is no chance that Canadians will be abandoned in the case of an environmental catastrophe.

Once I have seen that plan we can have a conversation, because at this point in my life I have no time for your misleading & insulting ad campaigns.

Thank you.

DH Vancouver StaffDH Vancouver Staff

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