British Columbia is at immediate risk of becoming a petrochemical river from the Rockies to the coast.
The Northern Gateway pipeline, proposed to link Alberta’s oilsands to the B.C. coast, is touted as a means for Canada to increase and diversify energy exports by meeting rapidly growing energy demands of Asia. Enbridge promises that its construction of the proposed pipeline will be socially and environmentally responsible, yielding the most efficient way to transport fuel. But there are still significant concerns. Enbridge says that the chance of spills is minor, but with oil spills it’s not if, it’s when. Just as rivers flood, pipeline projects are riddled with spills. The Gateway pipeline is planned to be 1,170 kms long, with plenty of room for leaks and spills in boreal forest, Rocky Mountains, and streams.
Oil spills are already one of the most pressing threats to sea otters, listed on Canada’s Species at Risk Act. The pipeline would pass through the traditional territories of 50 First Nation communities, and many First Nations have officially opposed the pipeline. First Nation input into the proposed National Energy Review process has been nonexistent, despite having traditional territories that cover over a third of the pipeline’s route.
This petrochemical river would cement Canada’s role as global fossil-fuel provider. In international climate change negotiations, Canada is already the pusher of addictive substances countries are trying to break. Meanwhile, Canada is awash with renewable energy possibilities with microhydro, tidal power, geothermal heat, wind, solar, etc. Why fight to live in the (fossil) past when we could move confidently into the future?
Pipeline facts and figures
• Enbridge has a goal of zero spills and leaks but had 67 reportable spills in 2006 and 65 in 2007 (5,663 barrels and 13,777 barrels, respectively).
• The Wet’suwet’en, Nadleh Whut’en, Haisla, Gitga’at, Gitzaala, Haida, and Fort Chiewyan First Nations have signed a declaration to not allow the pipeline.
• Alberta’s oilsands extraction makes up 5 per cent of Canada’s GHG emissions per year, and is the largest contributor to GHG emissions growth in Canada.