An Open Letter to the President of Northern Gateway Pipeline From a Resident of Kitimat

This letter was originally published in the Kitimat Daily Online.  Click here to see it on their website.

CONTRIBUTION · 16th November 2011
An Open Letter to the President of Northern Gateway Pipeline
M. Arruda
November 16, 2011

Open Letter to John Caruthers, President Northern Gateway Pipeline,

My name is Manny Arruda and this is the first time I have written an Open Letter. I am not affiliated with any organization, which is opposed to the Northern Gateway Pipeline. I use fuel in my vehicle, electricity in my home, natural gas in my furnace, and used to work in a petrochemical plant. I am not opposed to pipelines in general, however I am opposed to this pipeline project. Your proposed pipeline runs parallel to the upper Kitimat River and crosses over 219 rivers, creeks and drainages, in our valley, which lead into the Kitimat River and Estuary. I have the privilege of living, working, and playing in the Kitimat Valley, and have for the majority of my life.

Should a spill enter the Kitimat River Watershed, it is the people of the Kitimat Valley who take the unnecessary risk, with regards to our drinking water, employment, recreation, and livelihood, being adversely affected. The trade off for this risk? Fifty-two (52) full-time Enbridge jobs, minus the current Cenovus (Methanex) jobs, so approximately 25 net full-time Enbridge jobs in Kitimat.

On September 20th, 2011, I attended the Educational Forum on the Northern Gateway Project in Kitimat where you spoke of Enbridge needing to build trust within our community. Trust can only begin once truthful, accurate facts are shared, that respect the concerns that citizens have. At the forum Mr. Caruthers, you stated the Northern Gateway Pipeline would have remotely operated valves installed on each of the water crossings along the entire pipeline route. I was surprised that Enbridge would commit to putting isolation valves on each water crossing, as I had read there are 773 of them. After the forum Mr. Caruthers, when challenged, you clarified the isolation valves would not be on each water crossing, they would be on each major water crossing. I had the benefit of getting the truth after questioning your statement, the remaining people attending the forum did not. The inaccurate statement has been reported twice in the media since the forum. To date Enbridge has failed to set the record straight. Please clarify how many major water crossings there are in the Kitimat watershed.

This is not how you build trust. What else is Enbridge not sharing, or being truthful about? People are basing support or opposition to the project based on a lot of the information presented by Enbridge. If the information is not accurate, then the whole process is flawed. Shortly after your presentation I registered to present an oral presentation to the Joint Review Panel. I thank you for inspiring me to get off the couch, to get engaged, and to start researching the enormous amounts of documentation, to share with the community.

Since the forum, I have found out the following, from the Northern Gateway Website. There are in fact a total of 1564 watercourse crossings, not 773 along the pipeline right of way. Two hundred and nineteen (219) of these are in the Kitimat River Watershed. These include rivers, creeks and drainages.

If a pipeline spill were to occur Enbridge states that we could expect the following (from the Risk Assessment and Management of Spills, Vol. 7B, Northern Gateway Website):

  • The Kitimat River could be shut down to fishing for four or more years to replenish fish mortality. The public would have to travel to their next preferred location at their own expense.
  • Camping and boating could be closed to the public immediately after the incident, and could last for long periods of time.
  • If the hydrocarbon in the watercourse sinks into the sediment, (which it did in your Kalamazoo, Michigan spill), contamination at depth would remain indefinitely.
  • With mitigation and emergency response measures, soil contamination may last two to ten years in portions of the riverbanks and shorelines.
  • Oiled birds are not usually cleaned unless they are species at risk; euthanasia is considered the most humane treatment.

This proposed oil pipeline is enormous, with key critical components reliant on humans to interpret, and react in abnormal operating conditions. For this reason human error can and will occur. A full public inquiry should have been undertaken. Instead Enbridge and the Federal Government opted for a Federal Environmental Assessment. Unfortunately, Environmental Assessments are designed to mitigate environmental damages, after the spill has occurred. The bigger question is should we be introducing large oil infrastructure to begin with, to the Kitimat Watershed and BC’s Northern Coastal Waters?

I would like to inform you that human error has already occurred in the Prepared Spill Response Control Points listed in the Northern Gateway Website.

Pages 193-199 of the River Control Points for Oil Spill Response Technical Data Report Appendix C.11: Kitimat, makes four references to Highway 25 Bridge that crosses the Kitimat river? Mr. Caruthers there is only one highway leading to and from Kitimat- Highway 37. You would have driven right past the signs on the side of the highway.

This is a simple item that I was able to pick out in the tens, if not hundreds of thousands pages of documentation. What else has been missed in your avalanche, landslide, geotechnical, erosion etc. assessments? We are in an awkward position of having to trust Enbridge and assume that there have been no errors on critical assessments.

We have established that trust needs to be earned. Unfortunately, your behavior to date, has not served you well. From what I have experienced and read, I cannot trust that your company will not cause an environmental disaster in our beautiful North Coast.

So if we can’t trust Enbridge, your application, and the Federal Environmental Review process then I suggest that this application is ours to decide on. It should not be the decision of the Joint Review Panel, Stephen Harper, or Jim Flaherty. Our communities, our risk, our decision, because at the end of the day, we bear the consequences of the resulting oil spill.

Manny Arruda
Kitimat, BC

1 thought on “An Open Letter to the President of Northern Gateway Pipeline From a Resident of Kitimat

  1. Go Haida Gwaii!
    When I saw the size of the tanker in your picture on the ‘About Us’ and tried to picture how long 500 meters is in real terms I could hardly believe it.
    Tar sand doesn’t exactly float and it doesn’t exactly sink either, thought tar coated sand part will sink to the bottom of Douglas Channel – the most likely place for a huge spill – so it will be impossible to clean up. Anyway, when did any oil company ever properly clean up a big oil spill when it was far cheap to hire lawyers?
    There are masses of reasons why this pipeline cannot go through – Not the least of which is that 80% of BC is against it – but when did our government ever listen to us?

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