Northwest MLAs and MP Travel Proposed Oil Supertanker Route

from the offices of MLAs Gary Coons, Robin Austin, Doug Donaldson and MP Nathan Cullen

For immediate release

July 24, 2009

Northwest MLAs and MP Travel Proposed Oil Supertanker Route

United federal-provincial voice opposing Enbridge pipeline project


— An historic first meeting between all currently elected provincial and federal representatives in northwest BC took place in Hartley Bay on the traditional territories of the Gitga’at First Nation July 20 to highlight widespread concerns over Enbridge’s proposed oil pipeline, the associated oil supertanker traffic that will result and the growing environmental disaster of the Alberta tar sands.

Provincial MLA’s Gary Coons (North Coast), Robin Austin (Skeena), Doug Donaldson (Stikine) and federal MP Nathan Cullen (Skeena-Bulkley Valley) travelled the proposed oil supertanker route from Kitimat to Hecate Strait and attended a community meeting in Hartley Bay on a fact-finding mission during a two-day visit.

“It was important to actually travel the route these enormous crude oil tankers plan on taking and meet with the Gitga’at so we can speak from experience on this issue,” said North Coast MLA Coons. “It’s ludicrous to assume that with the amount of supertanker traffic expected if the pipeline project goes ahead in such treacherous waters that a major oil spill won’t happen. It’s not a question of if it will happen; it’s a question of when. An oil spill would mean total devastation on the North Coast.”

The fact-finding team heard during the trip that using Enbridge’s own numbers a projected 64,000 oil supertanker trips through narrow passages in dangerous seas on the North Coast will take place during the life of the tar sands. Considering it can take 20 minutes to bring one of these loaded supertankers to a stop, many believe the risk of a disastrous oil spill is too high.

“We heard from the Gitga’at how ineffective the response by the provincial government was, and continues to be, when the Queen of the North sunk just outside of Hartley Bay in 2006,” said Skeena MLA Austin. “They still haven’t pumped the thousands of litres of diesel fuel from that wreckage. One can only imagine the catastrophe to all forms of sea life when a supertanker carrying 2 million barrels of oil goes aground.”

Many First Nations and residents from across northern BC and Alberta have expressed grave concerns and opposition to Enbridge’s proposed pipeline that would fill supertankers at a port in Kitimat with crude oil from the tar sands. Most recently the people of Kitamaat Village in Haisla territory did not re-elect their incumbent chief councillor who is a supporter of the pipeline project.

Stikine MLA Donaldson said, “the pipeline proposal is a key to both the supertanker issue and increasing dirty oil production in the tar sands. The Wet’suwet’en have strongly stated they oppose the pipeline crossing their territories for environmental reasons. Many in the northwest are worried about ruptures of the pipeline and oil contamination of important salmon-bearing streams and rivers. History in other jurisdictions in North America show that spills from pipelines are a regular occurrence. Salmon unite us in the northwest from headwaters to the ocean. Pipeline and oil tanker spills will take place under this proposal. Most people are saying the risk is too high for the price locals will pay on such an important resource as wild salmon.”

At the head end of the proposed pipeline that will travel 1,170 kilometres across northern BC and Alberta is the tar sands industrial site. Further expansion of production will depend on delivering crude to customers other than the United States due to anticipated carbon emission legislation under President Barack Obama. The proposed Enbridge pipeline could serve expanding energy markets in China and India.

Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen who is the federal NDP’s natural resources and energy critic said “the trip to Hartley Bay confirms what we are hearing all along the line from First Nations about the unacceptable risk this project presents. The tar sands are an environmental disgrace. You can see the toxic tailings ponds from outer space they are so large and now First Nations from Fort Chipewyan downstream of those tailings lakes are developing rare forms of cancer. We don’t want to see that kind of damage to our land and ocean ecosystems in northwest BC. There are alternatives to energy development that don’t pose such a threat.”


Stikine MLA Doug Donaldson, 250 842-2200, 250 505-7785 Skeena MLA Robin Austin, 250 975-0715 North Coast MLA Gary Coons, 250 624-7734 Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen, 1 888 622-0212