Private landowners and First Nations across B.C. are set against the idea of a bitumen pipeline running across their land, but the most vocal resistance to the Northern Gateway pipeline is rooted in deep concern for B.C.’s coastal environment and linked economy, and deep fear of the damage an oil spill would cause. Not an unfounded fear as the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska in 1989 and the BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 clearly demonstrate; but the pro-pipeline side argues that technology for transportation and cleanup has never been more effective and sophisticated.
Kitimat was chosen as the location for the marine terminal that will transfer the bitumen from land to sea because it’s more inland, and consequently, easier for a pipeline from Alberta to reach. But, by being so inland, supertankers will have to navigate treacherous channels to gain access, and it’s for this very reason that so many are opposed. Prince Rupert to the north is the more logical port, and an option Enbridge has said it will consider if it can’t have Kitimat.
When the federal government announced its approval of the Northern Gateway pipeline on June 17th, press releases began pouring into newsrooms across the province. Here at The Valley Echo, almost 40 statements from various stakeholders were received in three hours by the time the working day was over at 5 p.m. A quick transfer of the “for” and “against” positions to a spreadsheet revealed the numbers from either side of the fence were roughly on par, which led to the idea of presenting both sides in as balanced a way as possible.
Comments from nine groups or individuals from both sides of the debate were selected for the special two-page Northern Gateway section on pages 8 and 9, which also features a pro-pipeline from MP David Wilks as well as a news story on the opposition by Black Press legislative reporter Tom Fletcher. It’s an interesting read with some surprises.