Enbridge Inc. filed a route revision for their proposed Northern Gateway pipeline in late December, 2012, when they thought no one was watching.
But local environmentalist Josette Wier was watching and didn’t like what she saw.
“Who releases documents on Dec. 28,” Wier asked with a tone of incredulousness.
“There is, in my opinion, a desire to confuse, hide [the changes].”
Doug Donaldson, NDP MLA Stikine, also questioned the timing of the submission and the contents of the revisions.
“People have to have confidence in the integrity of the process,” Donaldson said.
“This erodes public confidence.”
Nathan Cullen, MP Skeena-Bulkley Valley, was blunt in his characterization of the move by Enbridge.
“It’s dishonest to the process,” Cullen said.
Although the revision put forth by Enbridge is titled Pipeline Route Revision V, there are additional changes to the proposed project buried in the document, changes unrelated to the route revision, much like the federal Conservative’s omnibus budget bill, Wier explained.
“I feel Enbridge is using the system to their advantage,” she said.
Among the changes tucked into the route revision application, but having nothing to do with the pipeline route, is an increase in the number of oil tanks in Kitimat, an increase in the capacity of the condensate tanks and the addition of a drag reducing agent to the condensate cocktail.
In their original proposal, Enbridge filed application for 11 oil tanks in Kitimat to store bitumen for shipping.
In the the route-revision document, Enbridge increased the number of tanks to 16 and increased the size of all the tanks such that their working capacity is increased by nearly 88 per cent, Wier said.
“What does that mean?” Wier asked.
“The Enbridge people who answered the questions on the tanks in November, must have known that the proposal that was being presented was no longer valid,” Wier said.
Documents submitted by Enbridge to the JRP on Dec. 28 also seek to increase the storage capacity of condensate tanks by 28 per cent, with no explanation as to why.
As for the drag reducing agent, Wier said, it doesn’t even appear in the text of the documents filed Dec. 28, the only hint of the change is its mention in a flow chart.
Without clear information on which chemicals will be in the pipe, Wier said, it is difficult to formulate questions regarding the potential environmental and health risks associated with a bitumen spill or a condensate spill.
“We don’t know what it is, or how much they are putting in the pipe,” Wier said.
To seek clarification around the proposed changes, Wier filed a Notice of Motion with the National Energy Board’s joint review panel tasked with the assessment of the proposed pipeline.
In the motion, Wier asks the JRP to direct Enbridge Inc. to resubmit their documents such that the revisions dealing with the pipeline route are distinguished clearly from changes not related to changes in the pipeline route.
Wier sees the whole process as a David versus Goliath, explaining Enbridge has spent $400 million to cover the cost of expert witnesses and lawyers, whereas Wier and other intervenors tasked with questioning Enbridge experts have a mere half-million dollars.
The funding issue, she explained, makes it difficult to ensure the proper experts can be on hand if the JRP reopens engineering and design hearings to discuss the most recent changes to the Northern Gateway pipeline proposal.
“Engineering and design aspects of the project were covered during the JRP hearings in Prince George last summer,” she said.
“How many times can we ask lawyers, intervenors, experts to come back?”
Although the JRP already addressed the engineering aspects of the proposed pipeline, Cullen feels the proposed changes merit another round of hearings.
“The have to at least consider reopening the testimony on engineering because all of the parameters have changed,” he said.
The changes contained in the documents submitted by Enbridge, Cullen said, leave several important questions unanswered.
For example, Cullen said, with more tanks in Kitimat does that mean there will be more tankers coming to Kitimat, does it mean there will be more bitumen going through the pipe?
“It just doesn’t feel like an honest conversation,” Cullen said.
“What’s to say this won’t change again?”
To make matters worse, Wier said, Enbridge did not use the referencing style used for all JRP documents, which makes referencing the proposed changes more difficult.
“I’m sure they did this purposefully because they have the manpower to do it the proper way.
“So why did they [Enbridge] use that system?”
To that end, in her motion, Wier also asked the JRP to compel Enbridge to refile the documents using the proper referencing format.
Donaldson applauded Wier’s efforts to keep on top of the JRP proceedings and to ensure the integrity of the process, but wondered why the changes were not addressed by the JRP.
“It shouldn’t be up to volunteers to make sure the process has integrity,” he said.
Despite the roadblocks, Wier, a retired pediatrician, vowed to maintain her dedication and vigilance at the JRP hearings.
In fact, her involvement and dedication to the JRP process stems from her dedication to children’s health.
“I care very much for the environment,” Wier said.
“I care for the future of our children.
“I’ve transformed that [pediatrics] into caring about the environment the children will live in.”
In fact, Wier’s attention to the environment also includes the potential damage caused by pesticides and other substances.
When asked if she views herself as a modern day Rachel Carson, she laughs.
“That would be an honour,” she said.
“You could say I aspire to be like her.”