Disappointment, not surprise: islanders react to Enbridge recommendation

  • Dec. 20, 2013 7:00 p.m.

Local reaction to the Joint Review Panel’s positive recommendation on the Enbridge Northern Gateway project is one of disappointment, but not surprise. In a report released Thursday (Dec. 19), the JRP recommended that the pipeline project be approved with 209 conditions. “The decision doesn’t come as a surprise,” said Masset mayor Andrew Merilees. “There was a lot of cynicism around the project to begin with.” Mr. Merilees said he hadn’t read the full report yet, but could already predict that none of the panel’s recommendations would adequately address the severe impacts that an oil spill could have on the coast of BC. The recommendation does not mean the pipeline will be built. The project must also get the green light from the federal cabinet before it can go ahead, and Mr. Merilees predicted that there will be court cases and other impediments standing in the way. “There will be civil disobedience before we see a pipeline,” he said. In Queen Charlotte, mayor Carol Kulesha said the village will continue working with the Council of the Haida Nation and the other islands communities to oppose the construction of the pipeline. Ms Kulesha said she was not at all convinced by the panel’s finding that Enbridge had taken steps to minimize the likelihood of a large oil spill through its precautionary design approach and commitments to safety, and that the likelihood of adverse environmental effects is very low. “We remain committed to our UBCM resolutions and do not find this statement comforting in the least,” she said. The Union of BC Municipalities endorsed two resolutions from Queen Charlotte in 2010, opposing any increase in crude oil traffic on the north coast and opposing tar sands oil being shipped in pipelines across northern BC. The Haida Nation also restated its opposition to the pipeline project, saying that the people of Haida Gwaii had delivered a strong message to the Joint Review Panel during hearings on the islands. More than 10,000 people took part in the federal process, said CHN president Peter Lantin, and of those, at least 98 percent were against the pipeline. “There is overwhelming opposition to this proposal and the Haida Nation stands with those people,” he said. Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen also pointed to the overwhelmingly negative response to the project from the people of British Columbia, and predicted that the next step will be the courts. The people of northwestern BC are united in their opposition, he said. “I can count on one hand the number of people that have approached me saying they want this project to go ahead,” he said, pointing to the 71 First Nations groups and the BC municipalities who have all said no to the pipeline and its associated tanker traffic. Mr. Cullen said he spent hours in front of the panel earlier this year trying to get answers from Enbridge about how bitumen acts in water and exactly how a spill would be cleaned up, but never received complete information. He said he has serious concerns about this aspect of the project. Mr. Cullen said his next steps will involve more listening than talking. He’s planning to visit communities throughout the riding and find out what people are saying about the decision and what they think should happen now.