Enbridge pipeline brings big risks and few rewards
There’s been another pipeline leak in Alberta [“ Oil spill hits Enbridge pipeline in Alberta”, web-only]. About 230,000 litres of black gold have spilled all over farmland near Elk Point, northeast of Edmonton.
It’s the third dystopian gusher in a month. Crews are still working to clean up an 800,000-litre spill from a well owned by Pace Oil & Gas Ltd. close to the Northwest Territories border, and a spill of up to 480,000 litres from a Plains Midstream Canada pipeline into the Red Deer River.
The pipeline involved in the most recent spill belongs to Enbridge. That company is undergoing community hearings in anticipation of building the Northern Gateway pipeline from Bruderheim, Alberta, to Kitimat, B.C. that’s set to traverse rugged mountains, pristine wilderness, and areas of high geotechnical risk of events including avalanches, slides, and seismic activity.
The bitumen will be loaded onto supertankers bound for Asia that must navigate the notoriously treacherous waters of the Inside Passage.
In April, NDP Leader Adrian Dix said that “under the Enbridge proposal, British Columbia would assume almost all the project’s risk, yet would see only a fraction of the benefits. By any measure, such a high-risk, low-return approach simply isn’t in B.C.’s interests.”
In May, Premier Christy Clark described the Northern Gateway Project as “a balance of risk and benefit”. She admitted that the project would create almost no jobs in B.C. Like Dix, she concluded that it’s a high-risk, low-return game.
The risk-benefit ratio could improve, of course, if Alberta offers B.C. access fees or a share of royalties. But it’s still a no-win proposition when one calculates the profound costs of the inevitable spills and the loss of coastline, fisheries, and ancestral grounds of First Nations livelihood and culture.
Just last week the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives released a report, A Green Industrial Revolution, showing that carbon-intensive industrial policies can be overcome and a transition made to a sustainable economy and a zero-carbon Canada.
There’s actually no reason for Canadians to be brow-beaten into embracing fossil-fuel development as a divine order and oil spills as the status quo by politicians who are acting on behalf of their corporate sponsors—the oil-and-gas industry—rather than their constituents.
> Dianne Varga / Kelowna