An open letter to Canadians on the Enbridge pipeline

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      Kelowna resident James MacGregor sent us this open letter:

      Hello, I am a resident of Kelowna, B.C. I am not a member of any environmental organization (i.e. Greenpeace, David Suzuki Foundation, Sierra Club, et cetera). I’m not even an official member of the Green party, although I did vote for them in the last federal election. I’m just an average B.C. citizen who doesn’t want to see our coast along with First Nations and our wilderness become victims of the tar sands. Specifically, I’m referring to Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline.

      I’m not sure if the federal government suffers from a short memory, or maybe just a selective one, but let’s not forget about the Enbridge spill in Michigan’s Kalamazoo River in 2010, which still hasn’t been completely cleaned up. This is just one of over 800 spills that Enbridge has been responsible for in the last 14 years. Also, let’s not forget about other spills through the years, including the Exxon Valdez spill off Alaska and the BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

      The area under threat from Northern Gateway and the resulting oil tanker traffic includes the Douglas Channel and the Great Bear Rainforest—home to First Nations and fragile wildlife, including the rare white spirit bear, of which there are fewer than 400 left. It is vital that we keep this area of B.C. as pristine as possible. I am aware of proposed LNG projects for the area. Let’s just say that tar sands bitumen is a completely different animal from liquefied natural gas.

      I’m under no illusion that we can eliminate our usage of oil tomorrow. However, we must be wiser about how we use the oil we have. Instead of exporting raw bitumen, the federal government should seriously explore increased refining capacity at the site of the tar sands in Alberta. Such an undertaking would not only benefit Canada’s economy by creating more refining jobs, but the finished product would be far less environmentally risky to export. However, we must keep the Great Bear region free of oil!

      At the same time, while we need to consider how we use our oil, the federal government needs to get serious about increased renewable energy in Canada—something to this point, they seemingly are reluctant to explore on a large scale.

      So what am I doing to protest Northern Gateway? I have an online petition that I started over a year ago called “Save BC’s Great Bear Region from Enbridge’s Tar Sands Pipeline!” To date I have over 20,000 signers. I’m aware that Parliament doesn’t vote on online petitions, but I’m hoping they’ll recognize that many oppose this project. I have heard that at least 60 percent of British Columbians oppose this pipeline. Also, should the NDP win the B.C. election in May, it will be that much harder to move forward with this pipeline as the NDP is firmly opposed to it.

      I ask British Columbians and other Canadians to consider signing my petition. If you do so, then share it through social media and email with your friends and family.

      Let’s ask ourselves a very important question: Is roughly 200 long-term jobs really worth taking on such a huge risk for B.C.? I know my answer. What’s yours?

      James MacGregor
      Kelowna, B.C.


      We're now using Facebook for comments.


      Robert McFarland

      Mar 26, 2013 at 6:07pm

      I totally agree ith James MacGregor. Governments and big oil need to invest in new cleaner ways to extract the tar sands bitumen. Building nuclear reactors on site is not too intelligent either. Put peoples health, and the environment ahead of profit.

      Jacqueline Evans

      Mar 26, 2013 at 7:41pm

      I'm with you, James. Our government needs to diversify our energy future and respect the environment and the rights of First Nations. Their greed is overwhelming I hope Canadians sign your petition en masse, Thanks for all you do.

      Jeff Munroe, Langley BC

      Mar 26, 2013 at 8:22pm

      Considering that the Exxon Valdez spill is, believe it or not, 24 years later, still in courts trying to yet again, have its' fines and damages reduced to a mere 8th of what it was originally given as of 2008, it also had recouped most of those losses through insurance companies and other settlements. In other words, Exxon received virtually no punishment for its' part in destroying the Prince William Sound, the financial and enviromental impact has never yet been fully determined.

      Our government wants to put an even less effective and punitive 'fine and enviromental' act than that into force, punishing big oil companies with destroying what is already a suffering ecosystem.

      I agree whole-heartedly with this letter, and am doing what I can personally in my life in habits, and in spreading the word in my own way. We should not be going backward into the first part of the last century's tech as a 'way to produce', we should be looking ahead. Many species are disappearing everyday, but even more troubling, so are sources of fresh water.

      We know the oceans, the drivers of many economies as much as ecosystems that keep the very thing that is our lifeline in terms of cleaning the air of our planet as it is the source of life in general, are in trouble.

      But what's also in trouble is our supply of fresh, drinkable water. A recent spill admitted to by Suncor of waste water into the Athabasca is just one eg. The Kalamazoo is another. Since bitumen is known to sink directly to the bottom, and skimming only gathers perhaps 10 to 15% of most oil spills, much less this garbage which is essentially 'toxic peanut butter' thinned and heated with waste-water and chemicals (it's too expensive to pre-refine it because it adds 20 bucks a barrel to an already near-to-profit-loss level), and building refineries in Canada isn't much of an option due to how expensive it is to actually build one, which is why they ship raw product instead . . . suffice it to say, having any pipelines carrying this disaster that can't be cleaned up by human means to the satisfaction of any degree of safety over so many fresh-water streams and rivers in Canada's most treacherous mountain range is insane.

      You can make tires, computers and plastics with other products other than oil. You can power anything with other options.

      You can't drink oil.

      K young

      Mar 26, 2013 at 8:54pm

      The oil is currently going by rail to Vancouver. No one ever protests this mode of transportation. Presumably this is much safer than a pipeline.

      The CPR line that is used was put in place without the benefit of an environmental study and no consultation with First Nations. Diddo the Trans-Canada Highway. In my view these two ( the CPR line and the Trans-Canada) should be blockaded until satisfactory studies and consultation are completed

      devils advocate

      Mar 26, 2013 at 9:01pm

      I totally disagree with you....the longterm benefits of exporting oil are huge and far outweigh the risk involved

      stopping development is not the answer...ensuring it is done with proper safeguards and regulation is the way to go...

      there is no way Canada is going to leave 100 years supply of oil in the ground because of a little 'risk'

      true north strong and free

      Mar 27, 2013 at 1:25am

      Thank you, James for this letter and your initiative. I'd like to expand on your points, if I may. There's more here.

      Three giants: Northern Gateway pipeline, Keystone XL pipeline, and Kinder Morgan are the major players. They have billions invested. They own the world markets and everyone who is kowtowing and heiling them with their money while they're alive.

      Owning and driving your own combustion engine has been a convenience mind set society has accepted it to be completely self centered and selfish in all aspects of life. It is the most expensive on all counts: the air, water, earth, and sea. It is global knowledge and awareness there are other energy solutions that cost less on every count.

      The three giants like where they're at with their addiction to devil's excretement: oil. Oil is their master and they are the slaves entrenched in this expensive addiction. Canada is now the dealer. Why does it have to be this way?

      Why does every living being and element of life on Earth pay for this expensive addiction? Man knows the results of this pursuit is suicidal.

      Something simple like ride sharing is one solution. The time is now. No one needs to own and drive their own combustion engine metal coffin box on 4 wheels. It's an expensive myth. Lots of people going in the same direction. Are you so special and selfish that you need your own box on wheels, while it's the cause of the diseases?

      The expense of harvesting, extracting and refining oil and gas is too expensive and dangerous because of it's deadly composition. The general public are not educated about the real hard facts about oil and its byproducts.

      How many barrels of fresh water become toxic contaminated waste to produce 1 barrel of oil?

      How many sections of forests, lakes and streams, are turned into toxic contaminated waste land not only in extracting and refining oil and gas, but also the miles and miles of pipelines over land and the species suffering from loss of habitat and global warming, such as our caribou herds and polar bears? And now with the proposed increased expansions by tankers on the ocean? When is enough enough?

      Making decisions in the opposite direction of companies/corporations that support these three giants is the only viable solutions to the global energy crisis and economy.


      Mar 27, 2013 at 1:56am

      "the longterm benefits of exporting oil are huge and far outweigh the risk involved"

      Horseshit! Any supposed benefits go to the select few that are stockholders of the oil companies involved, while the risk is borne by ALL of us. Just like with the 2008 Wall St. collapse, this pipeline will be a case of privatizing the gains & socializing the losses.


      Mar 27, 2013 at 1:59am

      I applaud what James is saying here - however there's a lot of preaching to the choir involved. The challenge is the demographic represented by @devils advocate above, that say "a little environmental risk" vs. "huge benefits".

      It's wrong, and that is just as important to recognize. Fossil fuel projects have a terrible net economic benefit - 1 job created per $1 million invested, vs. 15 times that in renewable green energy investment. (check out Blue Green Canada's report.) That's just an example, the economic case put forth by Enbridge is all fabrication, Robyn Allan has dissected and explained that.

      And that, to say nothing of the huge (and ironic) debt burden WE the constituents would be saddled with in the event of a major spill. (Big Oil has very limited liability here in Canada.)

      Please @da, check your facts. The resistance to Tar Sands expansion is far from only about environmental risks. It's also very much about economic sustainability.

      Barb Murray

      Mar 27, 2013 at 7:18am

      The many hundreds of Tankers that would be coming in and out of Douglas Channel, of any size, would cause untold harm by acoustical disturbances alone...Noise pollution under water! How many ecotourists will come to the Great Bear Rainforest when Tankers are filling up the background? Sight Pollution. Opening up Kitimat or Prince Rupert as a major sea port for Petro Products is unacceptable knowing the science behind maintaining healthy water, land and air. British Columbians need a healthy environment to be healthy. That is a value we treasure most in B.C. and can not be bargained away with promises of future dollars in the bank. We need to take a stand now.

      is this really happening

      Mar 27, 2013 at 10:22am

      - Continued expansion of the tar sands will deplete our supply of natural gas within a few years and is contributing to the push for fracking and non-conventional sources (along with the mess that that causes).

      - Tailings ponds cover an area of 180 square miles. A catastrophic spill from just one of the tailings ponds would make the Exxon Valdez look like a spilling a tea cup. Many experts already believe that the continuous leakage and seepage is worse than the Valdez spill. Worldwide, tailings dykes fail at an average of more than 1 per year.

      - Fresh water use (and pollution) is already at wildly unsustainable levels. Water use can't grow to support either cooling of nuclear plants to power extraction or extraction itself (which uses at least 4 times more water than extracting conventional oil).

      - The economics don't work. We are beholden to export a huge portion of our oil to the U.S., we have one of the worst royalty rates in the world, we don't have any strategic reserves, we don't have a sovereign fund, we have a pittance to show for decades of resource extraction, and we haven't collected security for environmental cleanup so that the public is going to be stuck with bill (assuming clean up is even possible).

      - Increasing reliance on resource exports renders the economy vulnerable to global shifts, reduces diversity, and weakens resilience. Since we arent't collecting any rainy day funds from this activity it represents short term thinking at its worse.

      - The carbon release associated with burning just 1/5th of proven fossil fuel reserves (let alone the GHGs from refining and the releases associated to the related environmental destruction) would push us past the internationally accepted point of no return. This is a very conservative number as results keep showing that climate change is occuring faster than the models on which this number is based. Also, extremely serious problems occur well before the point of no return. Basically, increasing exploration, development, use of fossil fuels is suicidal.

      In other words, if we slam the brakes now we might end up teetering over the edge, but the lunatics who run things don't even want to slow down, and instead insist on flooring the peddle even more. Worse, when you try to tell them to look up ahead they throw mud on the windshield and crank up the stereo.