LETTER:Way too many oil pipeline risks


Even though the Enbridge Northern Gateway project was approved by the federal government, as an energy policy master’s student I see many problems still exist that should stop the project. One major issue is the risk of a spill of diluted bitumen—a risk far greater than Enbridge cares to admit. According to an independent analysis by SFU professor Tom Gunton, the risk of a tanker spill greater than 10,000 barrels rises to 89 to 99.9 per cent over the project life of 50 years. Enbridge appears to be applying a biased environmental assessment by using faulty biased models and not including possible expansions of pipeline infrastructure through merely adding more pumping stations, something which would require no public hearings or environmental assessment. So much for the responsible resource development promised by the Harper Government.

Another problem is that Enbridge has had great difficulty cleaning up spills of a similar diluted bitumen in the United States. Even the supposedly technologically up-to-date Enbridge was unable to detect a major oil spill of 3.3 million litres in Kalamazoo, Michigan for 24 hours, even when local residents complained of an oil smell. To add insult to injury, 20 per cent of the heavy toxic oil sunk to the bottom of a nearby river, requiring dredging.

Finally there is the issue of climate change. While solving climate change is challenging, the cost of doing nothing is far more in terms of economic damage and risk to national security due to climate-change destabilization (e.g. Syria). Solutions also exist today: The cost of electric vehicles is falling dramatically as battery technology improves. We should be phasing out fossil fuels over the next few decades, not building dangerous megaprojects that put our environment at risk.

Thomas Cheney


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