Northern Gateway Pipeline not worth the risk

Paul
Paul Smith
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It is entirely understandable that with seven billion individual humans living on planet Earth, there will be a negative impact on the environment.

We must feed ourselves. For many centuries we have been converting wild places into farms and cities. There is no other way to sustain exponential population growth.  Even moose or caribou will decimate their surroundings when they overpopulate their habitat. Maybe that’s where we are in our cycle of existence. There are so many of us that we are destroying the land, water and air that nurture us.

These are the big questions that we will no doubt have to wrestle with at some point during our ride on this planet. We have to figure out what impact to our environment is acceptable.

For most of our time on Earth, the vast majority of people lived simple lives. They were happy and lucky to have enough to eat and shelter from the elements. Each individual left a small footprint. There were no cars, disposable pop bottles or electronic devices that we throw in the landfill when a simple component fails.

Nowadays, we North Americans leave a very big footprint. Europe is close behind and the rest of the world is catching up. In China, people are driving cars instead of pedal bikes. There’s more and more demand for oil. We can’t extract petroleum and minerals out of the ground fast enough.

Some of this runaway demand on resources is necessary for human survival, but much is not. We might be forced into living greener lives or we will destroy our home, left with nothing but a desolate, dead rock revolving around the sun.

Wild places are being threatened at an accelerated and alarming rate. Greed and profit is no doubt a motive for some of the destruction.  How much will we stand for?

Those of us who love the outdoors must band together when nature is threatened. Even if the threat isn’t local, we must do all we can to help.

There is an impending and menacing threat to a magnificent river and ecosystem on the opposite side of Canada, one that I had the pleasure to fish for the first time just last summer. The Skeena River meets the Pacific Ocean about 1,000 kilometres north of Vancouver, and is the second-biggest river in British Columbia. Only the Fraser is larger.

The Skeena is actually one of the longest undammed rivers on the entire planet. Draining 21,000 square miles of northern Canada, the Skeena is 560 kilometres long and has an annual average runoff of about 2,800 cubic metres per second.  That is certainly a lot of water.

It originates high in the Coastal Mountains, at the southern end of Spatsizi Plateau, and flows seaward through some of the most beautiful and magnificently rugged country imaginable. It is a wild place.

There are five species of Pacific salmon and they all swim in the Skeena. There are coho, pink, sockeye, chum and chinook. More than two million salmon arrive home from the sea each season. In addition, it just might be the world’s finest steelhead trout fishery.

 

Not only is the Skeena prolific, it produces some of the biggest fish in the world. The Skeena is one of the last wild steelhead strongholds on Earth.

Enbridge Inc. is a Canadian company that builds pipelines. It is proposing one of its biggest projects ever, the Northern Gateway Pipeline. Twin petroleum product pipelines will be constructed, spanning 1,170 kilometres between Brudenheim, just north of Edmonton, and Kitimat, B.C.

Alberta tarsands crude will flow westward through some of the wildest, roughest and most pristine terrain in all of Canada.

If a break never occurs, everything will be rosy and Canadian oil will be sold in the lucrative and growing Asian market.

But if an accident or rupture happens, lethal oil will leak into the environment, polluting some of the most productive salmon and steelhead waters on the planet.

The Skeena is one of them and so is the Fraser, the two largest rivers in British Columbia and home to millions of fish. Whether or not this sort of risk is acceptable depends on your perspective.

From my point of view, I don’t want oil pipelines crossing salmon rivers. Folks with corporate interests and stock in oil companies might dance to a different drum. I think we should be weaning off oil, not transporting the stuff though the last bit of wilderness we have left on the planet. But that’s just me; you will have to make up your own mind on these issues.

The oil companies will tell us that their pipelines are built to the highest standards and are absolutely safe. That’s what they all say — the architects of the Titanic, BP before the Gulf of Mexico fiasco and the list goes on.

In fact, Enbridge experienced a spill of its very own. In July 2010, Enbridge’s Lakehead pipeline ruptured near Battle Creek, Michigan, spilling millions of litres of crude into the Kalamazoo River. It was the largest oil spill in Midwest U.S. history. There is always a risk associated with moving petroleum from one place to another.

In addition to the risk of the pipeline itself rupturing, its termination in Kitimat will require 225 super tankers per year to transport the crude to market.

Remember the Exxon Valdez, an oil tanker bound for Long Beach, Calif.? In 1989, it struck Prince William Sound’s Bligh Reef and spilled 260,000 to 750,000 barrels of crude oil. It is considered one of the most devastating human-caused environmental disasters to have occurred since the dawn of civilization.

 In 1972, the Trudeau government established that crude oil tankers should not travel through northern B.C.’s inside coastal waters. I think that was a very good thing. Pierre Trudeau was an avid outdoorsman and advocate for wild places. He paddled many miles in a canoe. Stephen Harper has not.

Our present federal government is onside with Enbridge and is planning to ignore the ban on tanker traffic through B.C.’s north coast. These are some of the most difficult waters on Earth. There will be spills if this project goes ahead. The very same waters claimed a ferry in 2006. On March 22, with 101 people aboard, the Queen of the North sailed off course, ran into Gil Island near the entrance to Douglas Channel and sank.

Is selling Canadian oil in Asia worth sacrificing our coastline?

If you want more information on this issue or would like to help, check out www.pipeupagainstenbridge.ca or www.friendsofwildsalmon.ca.

 

Paul Smith, a native of Spaniard’s Bay, fishes and wanders the outdoors at every

opportunity. He can be contacted at

flyfishtherock@hotmail.com.

Organizations: Northern Gateway Pipeline, Enbridge, Earth.Enbridge BP Exxon Valdez

Geographic location: Skeena, Pacific Ocean, British Columbia Europe China Kitimat Canada Skeena River Vancouver Northern Canada Coastal Mountains Edmonton Gulf of Mexico Battle Creek, Michigan Kalamazoo River Midwest U.S. Long Beach, Calif Prince William Sound Northern B.C. Gil Island Asia

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Recent comments

  • jeroen
    September 22, 2012 - 14:56

    Enbridge has a horrible track record of oil spills! Just read the report of the US ministry of transportation!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I live in Terrace!!!! And these mountains are so remote and far away that when we have a spill it takes days even weeks to get there and clean it up. The damage has been done! Do we need a other deep horizon!!! People should learn from there mistakes! Not keep making the same mistakes. So there are people that claim that if you are agains a pipe line you are stupid. I think you have to be stupid to run a pipeline in the worlds most precious nature we have and diverse eco system!!!! I know for most of you, it as a far from your bed show. Maybe you should talk different if they run the pipeline in your home town! I bet you would be against it to! Just that we live up north in the most beautiful part of Canada doesn't mean you can destroy it because most people don't care what happens here. Citizen of Terrace BC!

  • Chere
    September 21, 2012 - 22:31

    It's probably easier to ship to the west coast by rail. The immediate cost is saved in construction, no need to hire workers to put it in. It's not as efficient over long term and, well there is still the risk of spill, statistically much more (by volume moved versus volume spilled). Enbridge loses the business and CN/CP gain. Faster rail to sea transfer is engineered and no one complains. It's not going to move as fast and this will dull the growth of developing nations who's thirst for petroleum wont skyrocket like it has in the US.

  • Rick
    September 16, 2012 - 14:21

    First off, check your pipeline routing for N Gate. Does not cross the Skeena. Pipelines are the safest mode to transport anything. 99.994 % gets to where it's supposed to go without incident. Tankers are pretty darn safe too, especially when the cargo is inside rather than strapped on deck. Never mid bitumen is way more solid (or heavy) than the Bunker C grade oil involved in Valdez. Given BC is pondering 4 LNG plants in Kitimat, how do you think the BC government is going to get nat gas from Montney to the coast?

    • Paul Smith
      September 18, 2012 - 08:48

      It was stated in a comment that the Pipeline does not cross the Skeena. It crosses the Skeena Watershed which means it crosses the tributaries flowing into the Skeena. It crosses the Frazer watershed as well.

  • Rex Randall Shoop
    September 16, 2012 - 13:18

    Harper says that the, Northern Gateway Pipeline, will be based on science and not political views when it comes to whether it gets approved or not. Harper defended Asbestos with every ounce of his being when all the science and every rational thinking person was against it, he has now switched sides because of political pressure. Can Harper be believed when he makes pronouncements about the pipeline, at this time my answer is, no.

  • C. Brown
    September 15, 2012 - 21:32

    "Paranoia is one of the most unpleasant “side effects” of marijuana. It’s also a key experience shared by marijuana smokers and people with schizophrenia. But exactly how does smoking a joint cause the feeling that dark forces are conspiring to do you wrong? The findings, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, suggest that activity in the basolateral amygdala is involved in marijuana-induced paranoia (the state of becoming afraid of things that wouldn’t normally trigger fear). That means marijuana is actually enhancing a type of learning about fear, leading the brain to jump to conclusions about mild experiences involving particular places or things, and to perceive them as scarier and more strongly connected than they are. This increased fear-based learning helps explain why stoners tend to see patterns in events that aren’t real, such as conspiracies. "

  • David
    September 15, 2012 - 18:19

    Pipelines arw the best, cheapest, and st way to transport oil. Not liking oil is one thing....as ridiculously unrealistic and completely hypocritical on everybody's part as that postion is ......but being "against pipelines" is an intellectually incompetent level of stupid.

  • WILLY
    September 15, 2012 - 17:37

    If you guys are not going to post my comments i will cancel my subscription.

  • Andrew Allan
    September 15, 2012 - 16:17

    I wish more people from other regions of Canada could visit British Columbia's extremely rugged North Coast so they could understand exactly what kind of global treasure is being put at stake by this Northern Gateway proposal. Super tanker navigating the worlds fourth most dangerous coastline and this continents most pristine marine and terrestrial ecosystem. The tanker ban that was recently lifted on the BC North Coast has for the first time is a looming disaster for the whales both from ship strike and underwater noise, not including what will happen when the first big spill occurs. We don't need this pipeline to Asia, especially not one that will destroy the worlds last largest wild salmon spawning habit. None credibly believe that Stephen Harper cares one iota for the environment or science, so this has to be where the line is drawn to say that at least SOME terrestrial and marine ecosystems are too important to play Russian roulette with.

  • David G McRae
    September 15, 2012 - 14:30

    Thank you for opposing the northern gateway proposal Paul. This twin pipeline is frat with far too many down sides and very little upside. The narrow views of the Oil Patch seems to hold the lines to federal and provincial governments . It would appear that the more subsidies Alberta and the feds. give to the oil company's, the more desperate they become to thrust this unsound Enbridge proposal on us. They have all put the cart before the TEAM!! We on the west coast of Canada WILL stand and protect our waters, seeing as how the governments wont!!

  • C. Brown
    September 15, 2012 - 12:11

      "BC should regulate, produce and distribute marijuana to gain tax revenues" - Green Party of BC urges other political parties to legalize mYarijuana.  With legalization politicians will increase lung cancer, and psychotic paranoia amongst citizens while collecting cash as a dope dealer. Why is it that the province with the highest number of marijuana users also has the highest number of people living in a psychotic state of fear about naturally occurring hydrocarbons existing on Earth since the beginning of time, and will continue to exist until the end of time? If the pipelines were full of a different THC than what is transported now would there be stoners trying to shut them down? What has caused pipeline opponents to be paranoid? "Paranoia is one of the most unpleasant “side effects” of marijuana. It’s also a key experience shared by marijuana smokers and people with schizophrenia. But exactly how does smoking a joint cause the feeling that dark forces are conspiring to do you wrong? The findings, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, suggest that activity in the basolateral amygdala is involved in marijuana-induced paranoia (the state of becoming afraid of things that wouldn’t normally trigger fear). That means marijuana is actually enhancing a type of learning about fear, leading the brain to jump to conclusions about mild experiences involving particular places or things, and to perceive them as scarier and more strongly connected than they are. This increased fear-based learning helps explain why stoners tend to see patterns in events that aren’t real, such as conspiracies. " Other examples of drug induced paranoia; Fear of drowning from annual millimeters increases of sea level, or scared to touch gooey organic oil or people would have to work for a living. Over 7 billion humans use organic hydrocarbons in one form or another daily; from babies chewing on soothers to elders wearing a hearing aid.    In case BC politicians were busy getting stoned and they missed it, the hydrocarbon industry is making remarkable progress with combustion pollution control systems.

  • WILLY
    September 15, 2012 - 09:51

    Dear Mr. Harris As a constituent in the St.John's east riding I would like to inform you that I do not support selling petroleum products to Asia and especially do not support the Northern Gateway Pipeline. As I have supported you on your political endeavors, I would appreciate your support on this issue in Parliament. Thank you, Willy