EDITOR’S NOTE: Former Newfoundland Premier Brian Peckford, now residing in Qualicum Beach, offers his perspective on the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project.
In May, 2010 the Northern Gateway Pipelines Limited Partnership filed an application to the National Energy Board to build a pipeline to carry bitumen to the coast of British Columbia for export to markets overseas.
From January to July 2012, the NEB heard oral evidence from 393 participants in 17 communities. After all of that, the Joint Expert panel ruled in favour of the project, subject to 209 conditions. On June 17 the government of Canada approved the project as proposed by the NEB. In other words, the project is approved subject to the 209 conditions imposed by the NEB.
There is substantial opposition in British Columbia given that most of the pipeline is in B.C., plus the terminal at Kitimat.
There seems to be little recognition that this is a national project involving directly two provinces and many other provinces in its construction and its value to assist the nation in its substantial trade that benefits the whole nation.
History seems lost to many in B.C. as to the way the national railways provide great benefit to the province in that those railways bring to port many resources from other parts of Canada and make Vancouver the largest port in the country.
Here are some facts: Including indirect and induced effects, in round numbers, the total impacts of ongoing operations at businesses related to Port Metro Vancouver across Canada are: 98,800 jobs $9.7 billion in Gross Domestic Product $20.3 billion in economic output $6.1 billion in wages $67,000 average wage for direct job, vs. $44,000 average wage in Canada Although all of this is not due to the rest of Canada, a large part is as a result of the delivery of products from other parts of the nation and it is the railways that makes it possible and in which all Canadians invested historically. This is valuable to producers in the rest of Canada and to Vancouver and B.C. in providing the port. Everyone benefits.
It often seems to me that in the Lower Mainland of B.C. such large resource development in our province is somehow viewed as new and is just not green enough to pass muster. They forget that the province’s largest export is coal, producing 20 to 30 million tons each year (10 producing mines). No other province produces this much coal.
The Roberts Bank Superport facility near Delta has both a container terminal and a coal terminal. Its coal terminal is the busiest single coal export facility in North America. Where are the protests to both producing and transporting coal, and sending it to China?
Besides coal, B.C. produces natural gas, another hydro carbon, and lots of it. With new shale and tight gas discoveries of the Horn River Basin and the Montney Basin, natural gas is abundant and is carried by pipeline around the province, even by pipeline under ecologically sensitive Georgia Strait to Vancouver Island.
When one hears people talk of Northern Gateway you would think that we are new to the game of pipelines carrying hydrocarbons.
The BC Oil and Gas Commission regulates 39,000 kilometres of oil and gas pipelines in this province. There are over 100,000 kilometers of oil and gas pipelines across Canada. Canada’s first gas pipeline was in 1853!
Under our constitution, pipelines that travel across provincial boundaries are federal. There is a substantial number of B.C. residents who feel that somehow this project is different. However, very few ever make reference to the gas pipeline from Aiken, B.C. that travels through Alberta, Saskatchewan, and the states of North Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa and into Illinois, bringing B.C. gas to the US.
Bitumen One often hears statements of how more dangerous bitumen is to transmit through pipeline than regular oil. I have never heard hard evidence of this.
First, bitumen has been traveling through pipelines for 30 years from Alberta to the U.S. I have not heard of any particular problems over those 30 years.
Secondly, and more to the point, however, is the fact that last year a special study was done on the transport of bitumen. It was conducted by the National Academy of Sciences in the USA. It was entitled: TRB Special Report 311: Effects of Diluted Bitumen on Crude Oil Transmission Pipelines.
It found: “The committee that produced the report did not find any pipeline failures unique to the transportation of diluted bitumen or evidence of physical or chemical properties of diluted bitumen shipments that are outside the range of those of other crude oil shipments. The committee’s comprehensive review did not find evidence of any specific aspect of the transportation of diluted bitumen that would make it more likely than other crude oils to cause pipeline releases.”
Aboriginal Issues These are very important and must be addressed in an honourable, respectful, and comprehensive way.
When the company made application to the NEB it was revealed that 29 of 40 aboriginal groups had accepted the company’s offer of a 10 per cent equity stake. In the 209 conditions of the NEB’s decision, numbers 76, 77, 93, 94 and 135 136 specifically address aboriginal matters.
The 209 Conditions These are often glossed over and I have yet to see an detailed examination of them. These are real and substantial and legally binding on the company.
Those who complain about a rush decision or this being pushed down their throats would do well to read these conditions. In doing a rough arithmetical calculation, it turns out that we are really looking at approximately 350 undertakings.
So the approval by the NEB is anything but a slam dunk, and much work is yet to be done to meet these important undertakings.
Summary This is a national project and all parties: First Nations, industry, provinces and the federal government, need to co-operate.
There are risks, of course, and historically if today’s environmental rules applied to the building of the railways I suspect they may not have been built.
But we are a mature democracy that can use technology and common sense to advance our economic, financial and cultural interests. That means mitigating the real concerns of new resource developments. To objectively determine if the benefits out weigh the risks.
In this present project, due diligence and objective measures have been applied.
To sustain our present standard of living, to say nothing of making it even better, we must develop our natural resources. That’s how we achieved our present prosperity.
It is interesting to note that the four provinces who are ‘have’ provinces today are all oil and gas producers. Who then will pay the equalization payments for the other ‘have not’ provinces?
Renewable energy remains very expensive compared to coal, oil and gas and nuclear generation. And when the wind does not blow and the sun does not shine, what then?
Germany is using more coal today than it did three years ago, according to the Institute of Energy Research. In closing down their nuclear plants they were unable to replace it with reliable base power through renewables. And Germany leads the world in renewable energy.
Is it just coincidence that Spain, California, and Ontario have very serious financial difficulties and these are three of the most active renewable energy developers?
The latest BP Energy Review for 2013 shows global energy consumption by source: Oil 33 per cent, coal 30 per cent, gas 24 per cent, hydro seven per cent, nuclear four per cent and non hydro renewals three per cent. And coal grew more than oil or gas, globally. That is the reality and Canada is posed to respond to this demand.
On balance, then, as the NEB has said, this is a project in the national interest and should proceed if all the conditions have been met.
Former Newfoundland Premier Brian Peckford now resides in Qualicum Beach.