Pipeline company may visit the islands

  • Jul. 15, 2009 2:00 p.m.

Enbridge officials haven’t set a date, but they are hoping to come to Haida Gwaii in the near future to discuss the Northern Gateway pipeline. Several weeks ago, Council of the Haida Nation president Guujaaw invited Enbridge to come to the islands to “explain to us the need for such a project and why we should risk . . . our life ways and our culture for the sake of this project.” Guujaaw was responding to an invitation from Enbridge to attend a “design” meeting in Kitimat, the pipeline’s proposed endpoint. Guujaaw said the more important question is whether the project, which would see an 1,100-km twin pipeline crossing northern Alberta and BC carrying oil from the tar sands and condensate to the oil fields, should even be allowed. Steve Greenaway, vice-president of public and government affairs of the Northern Gateway project, said details of the meeting are not yet finalized, but it should be happening soon. He said he’s looking forward to discussing the project with people on Haida Gwaii. He understands there are concerns about the impact of increased tanker traffic resulting from the pipeline (480 trips total in and out of Kitimat per year) and his company is hoping to address them. The ships would all pass either north or south of Haida Gwaii. “We’ve been scouring the world looking at best practices in other places,” he said. In the past decade tremendous advances have been made in how ports around the world plan for tankers, he said. For example, he expects super-tugs will escort ships through the Douglas Channel and coastal pilots will be brought aboard at a point on the coast to be decided. Another example is in Norway, where ports have restrictions on the age and condition of vessels allowed in the port. The $4.5 billion Gateway Project is still in the proposal stage, so nothing is a done deal, he said. That’s why it’s so important to engage with communities. He said the project will bring 4,000 construction jobs to the region over two years and 150 permanent jobs to the north coast. “I recognize it’s an emotional and controversial subject, but significant benefits could accrue to the coast,” he said, including increases in environmental monitoring, safety measures and response time. Meanwhile the CHN has joined a steering committee that will establish a First Nations review process for the project. “There is growing opposition all along the pipeline route,” said Guujaaw. At a recent gathering in Moricetown, First Nations leaders presented a resolution signed by over 500 residents calling for a moratorium on the transport of tar sands oil and a full public inquiry into the proposed pipeline.