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article imageOp-Ed: U.S. report of 2010 spill missing at Northern Gateway hearings

By Ken Hanly     Aug 11, 2012 in Business
Victoria - A scathing report by the U.S. National Transportation Board into the 2010 Enbridge oil spill into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan has not been included as evidence in the company's assessment of the risks associated with the pipeline.
In an interview with CBC Radio B.C. economist Robyn Allan claimed that even though the negative report was published back in July Enbridge the company seeking approval for the Northern Gateway project has not tabled any information about the spill. The Northern Gateway project is to build a pipeline that would carry oil from the oil sands of Alberta to a port in northern BC. The oil would then be shipped to Asian markets. Allan argues that by excluding the Kalamazoo spill in its risk assessment Enbridge's calculations underestimate the risks posed by the pipeline. Allan said: "So far, it's as if Kalamazoo never happened."
The Kalamazoo spill leaked an estimated 877,000 gallons (3.3 million liters) of oil into the Kalamazoo river in July 2010. The NTSB said that there was a complete breakdown of safety at Enbridge. The company failed to realize the pipeline was leaking and continued pumping oil for some time. The cleanup costs are estimated to run at about 800 million U.S. Joe Oliver the Canadian Natural Resources minister said that it was an issue that should be learned from. Oliver said:"There obviously also has to be a management culture of safety and it has to permeate the organization...We feel that the company [Enbridge] has to focus on some of these management issues and the NEB which has direct oversight responsibility is very much attuned to that and is going to pursue it in an objective, independent, and scientific way. "
When however Oliver was asked if the U.S. report should be tabled as evidence before the group looking into hearings on the project Oliver refused to confirm that the report would be put forth as evidence. He said:"I don't want to in any way get into the specifics of what the panel is looking at. First of all, it's inappropriate and it's also a slippery slope. I think it's up to the NEB, to the chair who oversees it, and to the panel to make these decisions." Given the importance and relevance of the report one would think that it would definitely be included. You would think that the government might at least suggest that. However, this is the Harper government and it is most anxious to have the project approved.
Stephen Harper the prime minister earlier claimed that the pipeline was in the national interest. Oliver himself however said that he had not ever said the pipeline should go through. But Oliver then went on to praise all the economic benefits of the pipeline although he insisted that safety came first. Oliver went on:"On the assumption that the project is safe for Canadians, safe for the environment, we think it's very important to proceed because there are enormous economic benefits for the country from coast to coast to coast,"
Enbridge has been running a number of ads touting the positive safety records of oil pipelines. Enbridge took out full page ads in major newspapers in B.C., Alberta, and Ontario.
Enbridge noted the company's 99.999% safety record and stressed its commitments to preventing any oil spills.
Allan the economist said that Enbridge should table the findings of the NTSB report rather than carrying out a public relations campaign with expensive ads. Allan remarks."You'd think that for a company that continuously claims to meet or exceed standards of practice or legislation that the polite and responsible thing to do would be to table all of the NTSB findings... that they would actually take action and make sure all of that documentation was on the table instead of spending time writing ads." No doubt Enbridge sees the situation as a battle for public opinion and is simply using money to paint a positive picture of its safety record rather than publicizing a report that makes them look foolish as well as showing little concern about safety.
I have included a TV ad by Enbridge that stresses the value of the pipeline. There is a spoof of the ad here.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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