Calgary-based company Enbridge Inc. announced new safety measures it would include in the designs of the controversial Northern Gateway pipeline project late last week.
While Enbridge says the new measures are because of concerns raised by Aboriginal and environmental groups, many believe that the announcement was made to head off criticism caused by the U.S. Transportation Safety Board’s report on the spill in Michigan in 2010 and the Albertan government’s announcement that they will be doing an independent review of pipeline safety.
“We recognize that there are concerns among Aboriginal groups and the public around pipeline safety and integrity. We had already planned to build a state-of-the-art project, using the most advanced technology, safety measures and procedures in the industry today,” said Janet Holder, Enbridge’s executive vice president of Western Access.
“With these enhanced measures, we will make what is already a very safe project even safer in order to provide further comfort to people who are concerned about the safety of sensitive habitats in remote areas.”
The extra safety measures Enbridge announced included increasing the pipeline’s overall wall thickness, and making it even thicker at water crossings such as major tributaries to the Fraser, Skeena and Kitimat Rivers, employing people at pump stations in remote locations 24 hours a day for on-site monitoring, better security, and to ensure rapid response to abnormal conditions, increasing the number of remotely operated isolation valves in British Columbia by 50 per cent, which would be placed on each side of sensitive waterways, installing dual leak detection systems, and increasing the amount of in-line inspection surveys across the entire pipeline system by a minimum 50% over current standards.
The company expects that the extra measures will cost approximately $400 million to $500 million to put in place on the $5.5 billion potential project.
Enbridge representative Todd Nogier says that these extra measures come after a large amount of concerns were raised during the National Energy Board’s Joint Review Panel process.
“We had gone above code and standard for the industry in our original application for the Northern Gateway. In our view it was already going above and beyond, but we’ve heard of the concerns particularly around the sensitive habitat and remote location, so we’ve decided to further enhance those measures,” explained Nogier in an exclusive interview with The Prince Rupert Northern View.
Nogier says that although the company cannot guarantee there won’t be a spill “with these initiatives we feel like we put the project that much closer than any other pipeline in the world to providing that guarantee”.
Still, many British Columbians are uncomfortable with the idea of the 1,177 km twin pipeline that on average would allow 525,000 barrels of petroleum and 193,000 barrels of condensate to travel in between Alberta and British Columbia every day. Especially considering there were three substantial spills in a month in Alberta earlier this year.
On the same day Enbridge announced to spend more on safety measures, the Albertan government announced an independent review of pipeline safety in that province.
A few weeks ago, the U.S. Transportation Safety Board announced their findings on the 2010 crude oil spill in Michigan that resulted in the release of 843,444 gallons of diluted bitumen crude into a river in Western Michigan, with Board Chairman Debbie Hersman criticizing Enbridge for their poor response time to the spill, and for the company failing to take action on a corroding area that ultimately caused the rupture, despite knowing about it for years.
Prince Rupert city councilor Jennifer Rice said that Friday’s announcement is no coincidence.
“Enbridge’s new promises are a desperate attempt to persuade British Columbians to accept their tar sands and oil tankers project by trying to overshadow the scathing report from the Transportation Safety Board,” she said.
“I find it ironic that Enbridge has been touting from the get-go that they have an incredibly safe pipeline project that goes above and beyond required safety measures and somehow now they are promising even better than the ‘already best’. From the Transportation Safety Board report, we know that Enbridge has more than just corroded pipes but a corroded culture of ineptitude and deceit.”
In February both the City of Prince Rupert and Skeena-Queen Charlotte Regional District decided to formally oppose the Northern Gateway Project.
Even British Columbian Premier Christy Clark toughened her stance on the pipeline late last week, stating there was too much of an environmental risk with not enough economic benefits.
However, the federal government still hasn’t officially said they’re supporting the pipeline.
During a visit International Trade Minister Ed Fast made to Prince Rupert last week, Fast said that the federal government is waiting until the Joint Review Panel process is over to decide whether or not they support the Northern Gateway project.
“It would be wrong to pre-judge the outcome of the review. There’s lots of evidence being given and considered… I’m confident that the process is fair and at the end of the day the right decision will be made.”
The Joint Review Panel will return to Prince Rupert on November 18 for a full month of hearings where panel members, experts and people registered as interveners will question evidence that was presented throughout the lengthy process.