New Year, New Obstabcles: Proposed Shell Expansion and the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline

Coming out of the holiday season and right back into the eye of the storm….2012 is Shell’s expansion and pipelines.

The hot topic for the start of 2012 has been the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline.  The proposed pipeline would carry approximately 525,000 barrels/day of oil, predominately tar sands oil, from Alberta to a port in Kitimat and ship 193,000 barrels/day of toxic condensate back along the same route to Alberta.

It’s pretty easy to draw the lines of connection between the Pipeline and the planned tar sands expansion projects of corporations like Shell.  Shell is planning on more then doubling production to total of 500,000 barrels/day and they are going to need a way to ship their tar sands somewhere…

The Northern Gateway pipeline would cross over 1,000 streams and rivers, including sensitive salmon spawning habitat in the upper Fraser, Skeena, and Kitimat watersheds.  Salmon rivers in the Stuart River, Morice River, Copper River, Kitimat River and Salmon River could be drastically impacted by the pipeline.  In addition, the Pipeline is set to chis-cross the territories of more than 50 First Nations.  In BC very few of these Nations have signed treaties with the Crown lending to a sticky mess of  rights and title to wade through.  Currently, the rights and title of BC First Nation to their traditional territories has been affirmed by the Supreme Court of Canada and yet, the current Joint Review Panel does little to address this issue.

This past fall 4,300 individuals signed up to present oral testimony at the Enbridge hearings scheduled across BC and Alberta. Here in Alberta we have 14 Aboriginal communities registered to be an Intervenor. In BC, the list of First Nation and non-first Nation opposition is growing at an exponential rate.  The Yinka Dene Alliance has garnered the support of over 130 First Nation groups signing onto  the Save the Fraser Declaration opposing the pipeline.

What’s all the fuss, you ask?  Well, let’s take a look at how often pipeline’s rupture.  Enbridge alone recorded 610 ruptures and spills between 1999 and 2010. And of course we all know how bad an oil spill can be and how devastating it can be to eco-systems.  We all need to just take a good look at the BP oil spill for a reminder, or perhaps Exxon Valdez.  For a more details overview of Enbridge Spills Click HERE.

Today, the Conservative government released a statement damning “radical” environmentalists opposed to Canadian resource development. Oliver is quick to makes statements such as “These groups threaten to hijack our regulatory system to achieve their radical ideological agenda.” And, “They seek to exploit any loophole they can find, stacking public hearings with bodies to ensure that delays kill good projects. They use funding from foreign special-interest groups to undermine Canada’s national economic interest.”  All the while, Oliver has shown his true colors by pushing for measures to speed up Canada’s regulatory process for major natural resource initiatives.  We all know these means allowing faster approval for tar sands projects and pipelines.

What bothers me the most about these statements is the Conservative government fails to recognize that it’s not just environmental groups that oppose the pipeline. It’s private citizens from municipalities and communities in the path of the pipeline. It’s First Nations across turtle island supporting opposition to expansion of tar sands projects, which in my opinion, is an extension of the tar sands projects carrying the dirty legacy to the west coast of the country. Secondly, it bothers me that he criticizes these group for utilizing funds from foreign special-interest groups, when he is doing much worse, he is utilizing public funds to uphold an agenda that is not fully supported by the general public.

When 4,300 regular citizen step up to the plate to raise their voice and concern over the Northern Gateway it’s obvious there is something wrong.  Let’s hope the NEB listens to the criticism and evidence being brought forward and doesn’t rubber stamp another project without weighing all of the pro, cons, and rights of the public and those most impacted.

As a member of a community being impacted by rapid tar sands development in the Athabasca it’s hard for me to ignore the Northern Gateway pipeline issue and draw the obvious lines of connection.  Rapid expansion in the tar sands has left developers struggling for inexpensive ways to ship, refine and sell their oil.  As of late, Canadian leaders have been utilizing the angle of moral high ground when it comes to the tar sands.  However, recently this illusion of “ethical oil” is being shattered by new tar sands partnerships being built with countries like China. China, a country with a long list of human rights abuses. Oliver used the argument “It’s in the national interest to diversify our markets. And that is a strategic objective.” Again, logic has been brought back to the dollar and overlooks the environment and First Nation rights.

It is my personal sentiment that we stand in solidarity with the groups opposing the projects.  That we stand with those looking out for future generations, and looking out for mother earth.  I for one, will no longer let run away expansion and development occur in my territory and urge you all to take a stand and say enough is enough.

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