Ecojustice Blog – Climate change Posted on March 21, 2013 (updated: February 17, 2015)

Northern Gateway pipeline hearings – update

Kimberly ShearonStaff

Review hearings for Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline resumed yesterday in Prince George, B.C., where discussion around pipeline integrity and the project’s environmental impacts have taken centre stage.

The project’s risks are apparent. The 1,176-km proposed pipeline would transport tar-like bitumen from Alberta’s oilsands to British Columbia’s fragile coastline, disturbing delicate ecosystems and crossing vital waterways along the way. A rupture or leak along this 1,176-km stretch could cause irreparable harm.

Case and point: the Kalamazoo River disaster caused by the rupture of another Enbridge pipeline. Even now, two years later, the spill is still being cleaned up. The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board criticized Enbridge’s response to the spill as a “complete breakdown” of the company’s safety procedures.

But infrastructure hiccups and human error aren’t the only variables pipeline operators need to factor into their safety procedures.

At the end of October a 7.7-magnitude earthquake shook up B.C.’s north coast. It was a jarring reminder of the unpredictability of the natural world. Although Enbridge says its proposal takes the risks of natural disasters like earthquakes into the account, the company has also told the review panel it will “never get the probability of a hazard down to zero.”

This uncertainty is the kind of grey area Ecojustice lawyers hope to shed light on through our participation in these hearings. We’ve already pressed Enbridge witnesses on the company’s lobbying efforts, poor safety record and emergency response plans. And we’re not done yet.

Ecojustice’s Barry Robinson and Tim Leadem are already back at the hearings, where they are helping two client groups, Raincoast Conservation and ForestEthics Advocacy, present scientific and fact-based evidence about the heavy environmental risks the Northern Gateway project carries. They will also question the federal government’s witnesses about weaknesses in the pipeline’s environment assessment procedure and other infrastructure integrity issues.

The bottom line? This project is unsafe, unsustainable and unnecessary. The threats it poses to our air, water and land must be known and considered as the review panel decides whether to approve the project.

Help us make a difference by make a $5 donation in support of our work at the Northern Gateway hearings today.

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