Michigan environmentalist calls Enbridge Northern Gateway pipelines “nearly impossible”

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      Crews hired by Enbridge to clean up its oil spill in a wetland area of Michigan last July are still on site.

      Beth Wallace, the National Wildlife Federation’s global warming program assistant, grew up in a town called Battle Creek, close to the spill site.

      Next Thursday (January 20), she will speak at a panel discussion in Kitsilano, organized by environmental group ForestEthics.

      Part of her talk will touch on how the spill affected her family and friends and covered over 32 kilometres of the Kalamazoo River, which flows into Lake Michigan.

      The panel discussion will take place at St. James Community Hall (3214 West 10th Avenue), from 7 to 9 p.m.

      Joyce Murray, the Liberal MP for Vancouver Quadra, will welcome the panellists, two of whom hail from Louisiana and one, Kyle Clifton, from the Gitga’at Nation.

      In a phone interview with the Straight from her office in Ann Arbor, Wallace spoke about Enbridge’s proposed $5.5-billion twin pipelines, the Northern Gateway project, that will run 1,172 kilometres from Edmonton to Kitimat if approved.

      Oil would be transported westward while condensate would travel eastward through the pipes.

      Wallace said she believes what Enbridge is taking on is “nearly impossible”.

      “Our pipeline is one pipeline, and it is in an area that is very accessible and very flat,” she said. “It’s something that should be easy to maintain, and in my personal opinion, I feel like Enbridge has failed to maintain this very accessible and very easy pipeline. So, to understand what’s going on in the northern B.C. area, it’s a little challenging for me to say that would be possible based off of my experience here in Michigan.”

      Speaking by phone from Enbridge’s office in Marshall, Michigan, company spokesperson Gina Jordan told the Straight the goal “is always zero spills”.

      “We have 60 years of experience safely building and transporting pipelines,” she said. “We intend to continue to do that.”

      Jordan sought to reassure opponents by bringing up past projects.

      “We’ve built the Alberta Clipper and Southern Lights pipelines—built recently in Canada and into the U.S.—and we are continually adding to our system as market demands request that and as our customers would request that,” she said.

      The Northern Gateway pipelines are both under review by a joint review panel, according to Jordan.

      “Typically, a pipeline project would be under review by the National Energy Board, but this is also under review by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, and they have formed a joint review panel, which is currently reviewing an application that we filed this spring,” she said.

      Jordan claimed that, between 2005 and 2009, Enbridge safely transported four billion barrels of product, and spilled 40,000 barrels.

      She said she did not have a personal message to relay via the Straight to the panellists, saying “that would be irresponsible”.

      For her part, Wallace said she is not opposed to pipelines, given that, based on the reality of North American infrastructure, “they can’t just be done away with”.

      “I believe that we should be transitioning out of them,” Wallace added. “Building new [pipelines] is not necessarily the right way to go. I think we should be focusing our time and money on things of the future, not things of the past.”




      Jan 13, 2011 at 8:33pm

      And i guess Enbridge will remove them once we run out of oil ?

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      Claudia Edwards-Houser

      Jan 14, 2011 at 9:05am

      For this company - more like impossible. They need to clean up, fix and maintain the old leaking lines they have - and the spill sites they have created before they are given the privilege and trust to build more. They have a horrific industry safety record and a documented lack of respect for the life and lives affected by their lack of moral compass.

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      glen p robbins

      Jan 16, 2011 at 6:16pm

      Have any of the candidates in BC politics been asked their opinion of this?

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