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BC's 'gateway' for Alberta oil

Conservation groups celebrated news this week that Enbridge Inc. shelved a pipeline expansion in Ontario -- and attention has now shifted to a project still in the works for British Columbia.

The Northern Gateway Pipelines project consists of two pipes, 1,170 kilometers long, linking Alberta to the northern B.C. coast.

One pipe would carry tar sands-produced petroleum from Edmonton to Kitimat, where it would then be transported to tankers. The other would carry condensate, a compound used to thin petroleum, from Kitimat back to Edmonton.

Both pipelines and a new marine terminal would be owned and operated by Enbridge.

Forest Ethics is one of the groups opposed to the project. Climate change director Merran Smith said northern communities need to understand the risks of oil pipelines and tanker traffic to ocean and salmon stream eco-systems.

"The pipeline in and of itself will be crossing hundreds of salmon streams. If it were to break…that would have severe impacts on wild salmon," she said.

"There's a very strong economy in the northwest based on the health of wild salmon."

Kitimat mayor Joanne Monaghan said a series of public consultations were already held in December, and the community is looking to Enbridge to hire up to 4,000 construction workers for the project.

"We have to keep our people busy, keep them off welfare. People need to feed their families," she said.

Monaghan said she is not concerned about the potential of oil spills because tanker technology has improved.

But some of Enbridge's shareholders are concerned. In December, five of them partnered with the Dogwood Initiative to request that Enbridge’s board investigate the liabilities and risks associated with the Gateway.

According to Enbridge's 2008 Corporate Social Responsibility Report, the company had 65 reportable spills in 2007, with an average of 67.4 spills per year from 2003 to 2007.

This month, one of its oil storage facilities in Alberta spewed out 4,000 barrels of oil, and Enbridge also settled a $1.1 million prosecution brought by the state of Wisconsin for violating wetland and waterway permits there.

Steven Greenaway, vice-president of Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipelines, said he met with Dogwood representatives recently and a quantitative risk analysis would be part of its National Energy Board application -- which is expected to be filed in mid-2009.

He said ten pumping stations along the pipelines will be designed to fully contain spills, and said previous spills should be considered in context: 5,560 barrels spilled from more than 750 million barrels of petroleum piped by his firm in 2006.

Colleen Kimmett is a regular contributor to the Hook.

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