Enbridge Northern Gateway community and municipal relations manager Michele Perret was a guest at Wednesday’s Chamber of Commerce luncheon, providing information on the project and fielding questions from those in attendance.
Before the question period Perret outlined the reasons the company was pursuing the project, including a need to find new markets for Canadian energy aside from the United States, and plans for the pipeline, which would run from Alberta to Kitimat and would largely be underground along the route. She also touched on the Joint Review Panel process that is underway and will return to Prince Rupert in November, stating that final arguments will take place next April and that the company expects a decision to be handed down by the end of 2013.
While the schedule marine safety specialist who was to present for Enbridge was delayed and missed the presentation, Perret touched on some aspects of the marine operation as well noting that all tankers would have two tugs running along the vessel on the way out to the open ocean and the speed would be capped at 10 to 12 knots for the ships.
In terms of benefits, Perret said that the company was targeting 15 per cent Aboriginal employment during the construction of the line and operation of the terminal, that approximately $318 million of the $800 million in procurement opportunities would be in northwestern BC and that 58 new jobs would be created at the Kitimat terminal.
When it came time to take questions, some of those addressing Perret voiced their concerns about a potential pipeline in the region.
“I am in support of a boom in the northwest, but I am not in favour of the oil spills that are being predicted,” said business owner Marc Page, who brought along quotes from Enbridge representatives saying they couldn’t guarantee a spill.
“We are business people and understand the economics and risk associated with having just one customer, but when you look at it this is about food and survival and that is why I don’t know how you could advocate a project like this…Conceptually I agree with your project, but in reality it is ludicrous,” said Justine Crawford of Cassiar Cannery.
In response to concerns about spills on the land and in the water, Perret said the company was putting world class safety measures in place and was committed to addressing any spills faster that required by Canadian standards.
“I’m not proud of [the spill] in Michigan, and there are a lot of differences in this pipeline and that one.What I am proud of is the clean-up job that we did…We did a complete overhaul of the company as a result of that spill,” said Perret, noting that the pipeline width has been increased and remote pump stations would be manned 24/7 in response to feedback from the public.
“We have designed a response plans and have established places where emergency response equipment could be stashed away…Having tugs the size we are proposing with response capabilities we are proposing in the area would benefit the whole coast, including Prince Rupert.”
Other questions focused on heavy First Nations opposition, with Perret noting that 60 per cent of First Nations consulted with have agreed to an equity offer from the company but that the names of those groups are being kept confidential by request, the number of local jobs, with Perret noting locals would be hired as often as possible, and the impact of exporting on fuel prices, with Perret saying it could be a few cents per litre.