After months of public hearings into their proposed Northern Gateway pipeline project, Enbridge Inc.submitted reply evidence to the National Energy Board’s joint review panel highlighting additional safety measures they will implement if the Gateway project be approved.
Enbridge’s reply evidence to the JRP comes just weeks after the U.S. National Transport Safety Board slammed the inadequacy of Enbridge’s response to a spill in Kalamazoo, Michigan in 2010 and months into consultations with communities along the proposed route for the Northern Gateway pipeline.
The Kalamazoo spill went unchecked for 17 hours, resulting in about 1 million US gallons of oil spoiling the Kalamazoo River.
“Their assertion they can move oil safely took a big blow to their credibility with the Kalamzoo spill,” Doug Donaldson, MLA Stikine, said.
The timing of the submission is tinged the measures with irony which did not gone unnoticed by Donaldson.
“Why weren’t these measures in the original proposal,” Donaldson asked.
“The timing makes people skeptical about their concern for safety.”
Enbridge identified six additional safety measures they would incorporate into the Northern Gateway pipeline to minimize the risk of a potential spill and to improve spill detection.
“We recognize there are concerns among Aboriginal groups and the public around pipeline safety and integrity,” Executive Vice President, Western Access, Enbridge Inc, Janet Holder said in a press release.
“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.
“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 measures Enbridge outlined include increasing wall thickness of the oil pipeline with additional pipeline wall thickness for water crossings of major river tributaries.
Enbridge also committed to increase by 50 per cent the number of remotely-operated isolation valves, increase the frequency of in-line inspection surveys by 50 per cent over and above current standards across entire pipeline system, installing dual leak detection systems, staffing pump stations in remote locations on a 24/7 basis for on-site monitoring, heightened security, and rapid response to abnormal conditions.
The new measures, announced by Enbridge, have not had their desired effect.
“It really begs the question, when they told us their original plan used the safest technology available were they telling the truth,” Smithers Mayor Taylor Bachrach asked.
“This certainly doesn’t change my impression of the project. I think it’s ill advised and not in the best interest of northwest British Columbia.”
John Olson, spokesperson for the Gitxsan Unity Movement, was also not comforted by the announcement.
“I’m not comforted at all, they’ve had 7,000 spills in the last 10 years,” he said.
“I don’t feel safer, it’s not worth the salmon, it’s not worth the children, it’s not work the risk.”
The Enbridge expects these extra measures will carry an additional cost of approximately $400 million – $500 million.
In 2011, Enbridge reported a net profit of $464 million, up from $422 million in 2010.
“After consultation with stakeholders and after personally attending many regulatory hearings for Northern Gateway, it has become clear we have to do everything we can to ensure confidence in the project,” Holder said.
“We’ve listened. We’ve often been asked if we could guarantee that we would never have a significant pipeline failure over the years on Northern Gateway.
“These initiatives will put the project closer than any pipeline system in the world to providing that guarantee.”
The guarantee didn’t impress Mayor Bachrach.
“Enbridge’s corporate culture was not a culture of safety,” Bachrach said.
“Those are things I find extremely concerning.
“Enbridge can make all the promises it want’s but at the end of the day this is all about trust and their past behavior as a company does not give me the comfort I would need for any level of support for this project.”
The Northern Gateway Project involves tranporting bitumen oil 1,176-km to a marine terminal in Kitimat from the Alberta tarsands in a twin pipeline system, with the second pipeline carrying condensate.
The proposed project would see the pipeline carry 525,000 barrels per day (bpd) of bitumen oil for export to Kitimat and import 193,000 bpd of condensate to Alberta from Kitimat.