A packed house attended the Village of Telkwa council chambers last week to welcome Enbridge delegates for a presentation on the Northern Gateway pipeline.
“We think the pipeline is something that the citizens of Telkwa and all of western Canada can be proud of,” Enbridge’s Donny Van Dyk said, during his initial address to council.
The meeting was requested by the Village of Telkwa two years ago, after they raised six major concerns about an oil spill’s effect on their water supply.
“During a meeting at council in June of 2012, we decided that our main responsibility was to ensure that this is in the best interests of our community and the biggest threat to our community concerns our water supply, because our intake comes from the Bulkey River.
“So all of our questions were surrounding that,” councillor Rimas Zitkauskas said.
Enbridge’s current route would see the pipeline cross the Morice river, which runs into the Bulkley.
A study conducted by Enbridge found that it would take roughly 11 hours for a spill to reach the Telkwa water supply.
Council’s issues centered on the cleanup time in the event of a spill, who would cover the costs and how clean water would be delivered to citizens, should the currently supply become contaminated.
Without going into detail, delegates told council that, as part of the 209 conditions, Enbridge would be responsible for all cleanup costs and for ensuring delivery of clean drinking water.
“The Joint Review Panel found that the pipeline was in the best interests of Canadians and these conditions are an absolute requirement to operate, if the federal government approves the project,” Van Dyk said.
However, the delegates failed to get into specifics and to address concerns over their past track record.
“I have read the Kalamazoo report,” one citizen said, referring to an Enbridge spill in Michigan that leaked four million litres into the Kalamazoo River.
“And I was really alarmed and frightened.
“I assume you had a lot of conditions for that pipeline as well. Did you follow those conditions? Because obviously something went wrong there. Your track record is awful and I don’t think you should be allowed to operate a pipeline after that.”
The lack of detail provided by the delegation and their canned responses, drew the ire of many in attendance.
“I’m not saying if I am for it or against it,” another resident said.
“But you aren’t showing how it’s going to be safe. You aren’t showing the technology that you’re using to make it safe.”
The delegation wasn’t expecting to answer specific questions from citizens, as their purpose in attending the meeting was to address Telkwa council’s original concerns.
Council said it would welcome a town-hall style meeting and a presentation by Enbridge, but considering it took two years for a delegation to come to Telkwa, they did not sound optimistic about the possibility.
“I think the questions were answered in a general way,” Zitkauskas said. “But I personally didn’t feel any more assurance after the meeting.”
During the presentation, the possibility of a plebiscite or a referendum on the pipeline was brought up.
A plebiscite would have to be requested by Telkwa citizens and voted on at council, whereas a referendum would be led by council.
“It might be good timing to have a plebiscite,” Zitkuaskas said.
“If the community feels they want one, it would be a good opportunity to schedule one around the fall elections, to save costs, organizational time and trips to the voting booth.”
The Village of Telkwa has decided to refrain from taking an official position on the pipeline at this time.