Northern Gateway Project Oral Submission Victoria BC January 7th 2013
Mike Fenger, President of Friends of Ecological Reserves made this submission to the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project Joint Review Panel in Victoria BC January 7th 2013 on behalf of the Friends of Ecological Reserves.
Thank you for this opportunity to provide input. I am Mike Fenger President of Friends of Ecological Reserves. We leave you a written copy of this presentation with web links and a map of BC’s Ecological Reserves. After examining available information we cannot support The Northern Gateway Project and will clarify how we came to that conclusion. We hope in the end this panel draws the same conclusion and recommends against this project.
FER is a non-profit three-decade old volunteer group that assists BC Parks staff to safeguard 150 Ecological Reserves. Ecological Reserves (ERs) protect highly productive, unique ecosystems and representative examples of BC’s nationally outstanding marine and terrestrial biological diversity. The purpose, existing research, size, location and intent of ERs can be found on the FER website (i) and on the map. Although FER has a focus on ERs (which are less than 1/10th (ii) of a percent of the BC protected areas system) FER has concerns about current and proposed development projects and how to sustain the productivity of all of BC ecosystems.
FER does not support two pipelines crossing seventeen hundred streams and 200 super tankers annually in BC waters. There is too big a risk to incur long-term damage to complex marine ecosystems with five species of salmon, millions of sea birds, mammals and bivalves. Healthy ecologically-intact marine ecosystems are part of BC’s legacy and keeping them ecologically intact is part of our culture, identity and heritage, especially for Heiltsuk, Haida, Salish, and other First Nations. These ecosystems are also part of the national Canadian identity and maintaining them is in the national and global interest. The guaranteed ecological disaster from these proposed pipelines is not a risk the Federal government should take; FER is completely opposed to this development project. We provide seven concerns to support why this project is not the public interest.
Our first concern is that less than 1% of BC’s coast is marine protected area. This is an unacceptable level of marine protection. Marine ecosystems are productive but fragile and only through greater protection is there any viable hope of sustaining these in the longer term for our mutual and collective benefits. Forty years ago the provincial government recognized the fragility of sea bird and marine mammal colonies and gave them special protection as ERs. We are talking about marine damage that goes far beyond the expected lifespan of this pipeline and beyond consecutive political terms; the long term affects generations not yet born and this project degrades our future.
Currently none of the marine feeding and migration routes have marine protection. There are 28 marine ERs set aside to help understand and protect some of BC’s most productive marine ecosystems; world class examples of pristine aquatic ecosystems, these ERs contain many coastal islands with BC’s highest densities of sea bird, sea mammal and sea otter colonies . ERs along the proposed southern tanker exit from Douglas Channel are(iii) Moore-McKenney-Whitmore Islands ER and Byers-Conroy- Harvey-Sinnett Islands ER (1v) . . Also threatened are three ERs in Scott Islands group off the north tip of Vancouver Island which protect BC’s largest sea bird colonies (over a million nesting seabirds) (v)as well as the Duke of Edinburgh and Robson Bight ERs (vi) and ERs now managed as part of the Gwaii Haanas National Park. A northern tanker exit route from Douglas Channel will negatively impact Rose Spit and Lepas Bay ERs.
The Federal government has acknowledged the need for expanded marine protection but this designation process has significantly lagged behind provincial conservation efforts. Over the last two decades the amount of publicly held in trust land on the Pacific Coast or “crown land” under provincial jurisdiction has grown from less than 6% to an area greater than 30% in the Great Bear Rainforest and
Gwaii Haanas areas, and a provincial average of just over 15%. A marine protected areas system is necessary to sustain seabirds, salmon and marine mammals and reduce risk. The Federal government has, after a decade, been unable to increase marine ecosystems protection to even 1%. In addition, the Federal government continues to withdraw support for natural ecosystem research in general and is decreasing environmental protection and removing existing legislated tools that help to safeguard Canada’s ecosystems. These federal tactics are changing the legal ability to even attempt to protect BC’s pristine coastline. Less Federal oversight increases the need for zoned protection.
We ask that you recommend a moratorium on projects in BC that propose diluted bitumen (“dilbit”) transport. It is urgently needed in order to increase marine protection as well as provide the time to increase monitoring, research, establish clear legislated protection and build experienced enforcement teams. Because the marine and terrestrial ecosystems are interconnected, the currently protected provincial areas remain at extremely high risk without greater complementary marine protection. Although marine conservation planning processes such as the Pacific North Coast Integrated Planning Area and Scott Islands National Wildlife Area are in place, they appear stalled in part due to the Federal government’s lack of commitment to them. FER believes that not less than 30% marine protected area is needed to match the crown land protection that now exists on the coast and this is required in advance of increased industrial developments, such as the Northern Gateway Project.
Our second concern is this project is based on the untested hypothesis that dilbit can be removed from ecosystems and ecosystems can and do recover. This hypothesis is false and misleading; dilbit recovery remains completely unstudied. What are the hazards to species and humans and how long would this persist? Spills into marine systems such as the 2010 British Petroleum Gulf spill and the 1989 Exxon Valdez in Alaska, demonstrate that restoration or recovery are unrealistic and overstated by proponents and likely increase harm and degradation.
A moratorium is necessary because of the absence of knowledge about the impacts that a spill of dilbit would have on marine life, terrestrial organisms and human health. Dilbit sinks and has a different chemical makeup than oil and the current marine spill response are not suited to marine and fresh water dilbit spillsvii. This project, if approved gives permission to conduct an industrial scale experiment without prior knowledge about and disclosure of environmental, economic and human health impacts to the environment. There is an absence of practical peer-reviewed research and operational trials.
If approved, there would be over 200 super tankers much larger than anything operating in BC today. The 1989 Exxon Valdez spill, (viii) was estimated between 11 to 32 million litres (ix) so these new super tankers set the stage for equal or bigger sized dilbit spills x into west coast waters. The fragility of coastal ecosystems cannot withstand even one dilbit spill, which is inevitable with 200 annual super tankers. Construction of this mega-project is estimated at 6 billion dollars. The cost of attempted clean- up from a single super tanker spill is estimated at more than the construction costs and reduces our current economic base from fishing, eco- tourism, and as well the underpinning of First Nations communities. We believe the real impacts and costs of this project far exceed the optimistic ‘benefits’ being promoted by orders of magnitude. (xi)
The impacts in the case of Exxon Valdez are long lasting and essentially permanent. Herring spawn survival in the spill area in Alaska has recovered to only 20% of pre-spill levels after 24 years despite significant clean-up efforts. Today Exxon is no longer willing to pay to compensate individuals impacted or to continue to spend funds compensating residents despite their profitability. There is no ability or willingness to force them to compensate in lieu of failed restoration. Exxon has limited its liability through legal means and left Alaskans a degraded un-restorable marine ecosystem. Like the Enbridge proposed mega project, there was no knowledge beforehand of how or whether spilled oil could be removed and productivity restored in a reasonable time frame. The chemicals used in the BP Gulf spill
were toxic to key species. (xii) Spill clean-up is left to member supported Western Canada Marine Response whose equipment appears inappropriate and inadequate (xiii) for dilbit.
At this time there is not sufficient experience and credible scientific understanding of how to clean up dilbit. It is a reasonable public expectation to know this outcome before taking the risk; and not disclosing knowledge of dilbit clean-up would be willful ignorance. The current regulatory approach is to prevent spills. When spills occur, then industry and government must be seen to react at that time even if it is ineffectual and make promises on world class standards and safeguards followed by inaction. The Exxon Valdez was an industrial scale experiment from which Prince William Sound has not recovered. Although tar sands oil is chemically different from the Exxon Valdez oil, we argue that it will be more difficult to remove dilbit. The cost of restoration and unwillingness of Exxon to continue to take responsibility after initial statements of responsibility are clearly an insight into their corporate priorities, which do not include environmental protection and ecological restoration. We expect similar behaviour from Enbridge and tar sands advocates. After dealing with more than 8,000 pipeline spills “experts” stated they had never before dealt with a dilbit spill once it entered the Kalamazoo Riverxiv. It will only take one dilbit spill to irreversibly damage BCs marine and fresh water aquatic ecosystems. A moratorium on this and other dilbit development proposals is needed to answer some of these very basic questions.
A third concern is the number of ship wrecks in West coast waters suggests that it is a matter of time before there are human errors and we have a tanker aground and a spill. Environment Canada marine weather reports indicate the winter weather in Hecate Strait regularly produce 8 to 10 metre waves and the depth of the Strait make short steep waves and create the fourth most dangerous waterway in the world for small boats. Floundering or grounded tankers need small boats readily available to provide assistance. This typical tanker rescue process is not possible in Hecate Strait; the dangers and risks are too extreme.
A fourth concern is the transfer of corporate liability from Enbridge and super tanker owners to British Columbians. It is our understanding that Enbridge created a separate pipeline entity to limit their overall corporate liability – in effect transferring liability to British Columbians. Currently spills, clean up and fines are operating costs. Enbridge has continually demonstrated a lack of sincerity when indicating to the public it will take full responsibility while it has limited its liability through the creation of a separate pipeline entity. Providing an escrow account containing billions of dollars may be a means to more fully shift liability away from the public. An escrow account or bond may not be effective when governments are sympathetic to private business interests over public liability. A credible third party sufficiently arms-length from political and corporate interests would be needed to administer the private monies held in escrow or in bond.
The size of an escrow account sufficient for baseline monitoring, enforcement, spill response and restoration and compensation might render this project uneconomical. Using a parallel from engineering safety design a private investors would need to put in escrow twice the worst case scenario. The only means to make this project profitable is to successfully transfer liability to non-shareholders, meaning to British Columbians. A spill would permanently cripple the fishing, eco- tourism, education and research, and First Nation economies. We do not believe an escrow approach will work in the short or long term because it is susceptible to oil lobby interests.
There is also concern with new federally supported investment treaties that transfer financial liability to Canadians and safeguard investor’s profitability as highlighted in the conditions of the Canada’s Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement with China (FIPAs). (xv) Canadians may yet be liable to foreign investors’ expectations. Should China invest in this pipeline and Canadians change the
regulatory requirements as contained in the FIPA with China, would Canadians be liable for Chinese investors’ expected returns over the next three decades or prior to 2043?
Fifth is our concern that this panel will approve this project in principle, trust Enbridge with design details and allow costs to become a negotiated item left to the implementation stage. We are concerned with this approach as it comes at a time when Federal and Provincial governments are severely reducing legislated requirements safeguarding the environment (changes to the Environmental Assessment Act) and removing government oversight (achieved by removal of section 35 of the Fisheries Act). Enbridge has a dubious record on spills and has a poor performance record as demonstrated by the US Environmental Protection Agency report on their Kalamazoo spill. (xvi)
A Sixth concern is the role tar sands oil will play in accelerating the rate of global warming. What are the climate change effects of speedy extraction of tar sands oil and opening up a raw product Asian market and building refineries in a nation with the lowest environmental standards? We see no short, medium and long term benefit for the Canadian public. The Northern Gateway Project will not result in any benefits to Canadians. This will place a thirty-year delay in alternate non carbon energy solutions.
Finally we do not believe in the economic arguments presented in support of the tar sands expansion and this pipeline. Hopefully there will be a collective global common sense approach to carbon management and energy policy, and Canada will be subject to some larger global carbon management solutions that would render this project uneconomical.
The project benefits are grossly overstated and the accounting of costs at the local, provincial, federal and global levels understated. There are many flaws with the logic, but principally the market and economic calculations used do not include any dollar value to ecosystems as these do not trade in the market. FER believe they have real value and ecosystems need to be valued in terms of dollars; if this is done then the longer-term benefits keeping ecosystem productivity outweighs and the current sustainable coastal economics outweighs short-term market-driven returns to carbon investors and tar sands taxes collected by government.
Conventional economics and its inability to adequately value (clean water and clean air and functioning ecosystems) are central to the continuation of unsustainable development being experienced on a global scale. The failure of the current systems can be seen in the collapse across North America of the large predator prey species in step with our western industrial approachxvii. BC has most of the last remaining intact carnivore – large mammal predator-prey systems. Why should we agree to high risk development and projects that accelerates degradation of the last piece of North America’s former biological legacy? This legacy is our future. There are many other possible futures for BC and for Alberta and for Canada that do not include pipelines to the west coast moving dilbit. Raising royalties and building a legacy fund to eliminate carbon use is one. A moratorium on dilbit in BC is needed now. Again, FER as well as most of BC’s public and First Nations stand in total opposition to this proposed project. Thank you for your time.
(i) Ecological Reserves location, size, purpose and existing research. http://ecoreserves.bc.ca/ecoreserves/map-of- ecological-reserves/
(ii) List of marine based ERs visit http://www.ecoreserves.bc.ca/newsletters/LOG0912.pdf
(iii) Species in Moore Kenney and Whitmore ER 23. http://ecoreserves.bc.ca/2000/02/03/iba-moore-and-byers- islands/
(iv) Byers-Conroy-Harvey-Sinnet ER http://ecoreserves.bc.ca/portfolio_item/103-byersconroyharveysinnett-islands/
(v ) Sartine, Beresford, and Triangle Island ERs protect BC’s largest Seabird colonies. http://ecoreserves.bc.ca/portfolio_item/011-sartine-island/ : http://ecoreserves.bc.ca/portfolio_item/012- beresford-island/ and http://ecoreserves.bc.ca/portfolio_item/013-anne-vallee-triangle-island/
(vi) Duke of Edinburgh and Robson Bight ERs and ERs now within Gwaii Haanas National Park off the south tip of Haida Gwaii
(vii) A Dilbit Primer: How It’s Different from Conventional Oil
(viii) Ott, Dr. Riki. 2005. Sound Truth and Corporate Myth$. Dragonfly sisters Press. Cordova Alaska. http://www.chelseagreen.com/bookstore/item/sound_truth_and_corporate_myth/
ix Size of the oil spill from the Exxon Valdez http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exxon_Valdez
(x) Permafrost feedback loop. http://www.smh.com.au/environment/climate-change/where-even-the-earth-is-melting-20121127-2a5tp.html Amplifies human carbon input. UNEP Report Nov 2012. Policy implications of warming permafrost.
(xi )Economics of oil spills and losses to non-oil economics. http://thecanadian.org/item/1479-cost-of-oil-spill- burrard-inlet-$40-billion-kinder-morgan-rex-weyler
(xii) Clean toxic to key species in Gulf clean-up http://article.wn.com/view/2012/11/30/BP_oil_spill_cleanup_toxic_to_key_species/
(xiii) Western Canada Marine Response Corporation http://www.wcmrc.com/?page_id=79
(xiv) http://insideclimatenews.org/news/20120626/dilbit-primer-diluted-bitumen-conventional-oil-tar-sands-Alberta- Kalamazoo-Keystone-XL-Enbridge?page=2
(xv) Canada-China investment: Big risk in the fine print http://www2.macleans.ca/2012/09/27/canada-china- investment-big-risk-in-the-fine-print/
(xv) Laliberte and Ripple 2004 . Range contraction of carnivores and large mammals in North America. Bioscience Vol 54 No 2. http://www.cof.orst.edu/leopold/papers/bioscience_rangecontraction_highres.pdf
(xvi) US Environmental Protection Agency Response to Kalamazoo spill. http://www.epa.gov/enbridgespill/