Supporters, critics face off on Northern Gateway pipeline
The Canadian Press
Published Wednesday, January 11, 2012 3:10PM EST
OTTAWA - Environmental hearings into the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline heard from the first supporter Wednesday, but Peter King says he almost stayed home.
King, a steam fitter who has lived in Kitimat, located about 1,500 kilometres northwest of Vancouver, for 53 years, said he realized he was a "lone voice" after passionate denunciations of the development voiced Tuesday by area aboriginal leaders.
The chiefs say the project points a double-barrelled environmental threat at their homes and lifestyles.
The opposition "gave me pause that perhaps I should stay home, but I committed to this, so I proceeded with it," said King,
His presentation to the National Energy Board panel, which is conducting environmental review hearings across B.C. and Alberta for at least the next 18 months and perhaps more, did not generate any public reaction even though most people in the audience do not support the project.
Enbridge Inc., (TSX:ENB) plans to build a twin pipeline from Alberta to northwest B.C. where it will send oil to a port at Kitimat where huge tanker ships will transport it to Asian markets.
The municipality of Kitimat is about 10 kilometres north of the Haisla village of Kitamaat.
Enbridge says the $5.5 billion pipeline project has the potential to generate $270 billion to the Canadian economy, but environmental groups and aboriginals say the risks of a pipeline and oil tanker spill are too great -- threatening fish-bearing rivers and the West Coast.
King said he has environmental concerns, but said he believes the oil can be transported across land and water safely. He said he supports the project because he doesn't believe Canada should withhold much-needed oil from the rest of the world.
"For us to sit back in Canada where we're blessed and say that other people in India and so on like that can't enjoy the benefits of what we have, I have a problem with that," he said.
"But do I think that we should just allow tankers to roam up and down the coast however they want? Of course not."
King's presentation was followed by a series of opposition presentations by members of the Kitimat-area Douglas Channel Watch, whose members say the risk of an oil spill in the fjord-like channel is too great.
Kitimat resident Dieter Wagner, a lifelong sailing enthusiast who knows the northcoast waters, said the proposed oil tanker route along Douglas Channel to and from Kitimat to the open ocean presents too many dangers to allow safe passage for oil tankers.
"You think you are in a wide open ocean, you are not," said Wagner, who said the area is subject to massive shifting tides, sustained wind storms and 30-metre-high waves. "It is dangerous to say the very least."
He said the route also includes three 90-degree turns and passes the area near Hartley Bay where the BC Ferry Queen of the North hit Gil Island and sank in March 2006.
"This should convince any reasonable person that this is an insane route to take," said Wagner.
Well-known Vancouver protester Garth Mullens is attending the Kitamaat hearings, but is not scheduled to speak. Mullens would not offering any comment about his presence in Kitamaat Village.