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Opinion

Memo to Enbridge: Special Effects Don't Erase Risks

The pipeline company's promo video lowers peaks, vanishes islands in selling its project to the public.

By Rafe Mair 20 Aug 2012 | TheTyee.ca

Rafe Mair writes a column for The Tyee every second Monday. Read his previous columns here. He is also a founding contributor to The Common Sense Canadian.

We are treated by Enbridge to full page ads extolling the pipeline company's devotion to the environment and safety. 

They are, dear fellow British Columbians, not to be believed, as I propose now to demonstrate.

Using data from Enbridge's own reports, the Polaris Institute reports that 804 spills occurred on Enbridge pipelines between 1999 and 2010. These spills released approximately 168,645 barrels (26,812.4 m3) of crude oil into the environment.

That's more than one per week, an average of over 70 spills a year or one every five or six days!

Enbridge will no doubt say -- if they deal with the matter at all -- that some of these spills have been and will be very small. That, dear readers, is irrelevant because the issue is where will they happen?

If spills occur anywhere in our wilderness they are permanent. We have to get our heads around that. We're dealing not with risks here but certainties and they cannot be cleaned up. One only need look at the Kalamazoo spill, still not cleaned up after more than two years, to see what we're up against. This spill was pooh-poohed by a company spokesman as "not being a major spill." Much of the so-called cleanup has been putting turf over the mess as a fading tart puts make-up on or the bald man wears a rug. You can cover it up but you can't make the truth go away.

One need only look at a topographical map of northern British Columbia to see the terrain Enbridge would be dealing with in trying to clean up a spill. They would not be able to get machinery to the spill and if they could they couldn't clean it up anyway.

Tale of two videos

When large corporations want to win their way with the public, they can and do retain the biggest and best public relations companies. And while the resulting campaigns may make horse buns look like a delicacy off a gourmet's table' they still are and will remain barnyard droppings.

Take, for example, the way Enbridge has chosen the render the topography of B.C. It has done so with a video representation of B.C.'s landscape that does not accord with reality. Back in February of this year, my colleague, Damien Gillis, in The Common Sense Canadian did a column on the subject of Enbridge's propensity to play with the truth by altering visual evidence, but no one paid attention. As I told him, you can fart all day but no one will notice until you do it in church.

Now, just a few days ago, a citizen's filed complaint against Enbridge brought the company's altered cartography again to the fore.

I'm speaking here of a video Enbridge has made and circulated far and wide to demonstrate the North Gateway pipeline project's route from Alberta to Kitimat, making it look safe and doable, including sending the diluted bitumen forth in tanker ships out of Douglas Channel. That Enbridge clip, which they call their "Route Animation" is here:

However, opponents of the Northern Gateway pipeline have created their own video showing how the Enbridge video grossly misrepresents the logistical challenges, and risks, of building the massive project. Enbridge has, you can see, altered the overview of Douglas Channel down which tankers will, if we're dumb enough to let them, go from Kitimat to the Pacific. After the clip passes the Rockies rendered as mere gently rolling foothills, you will see, Enbridge takes us down Douglas Channel and manages to erase most of the islands!

The opponents' video shows what the overland route and channel really looks like. Have a look:

Go away

To sum up, we have, from Enbridge's own records, proof that spills are to be expected from this project. And we have a presentation of the proposed pipeline and tanker route which is, at best, a shameful misrepresentation.

And this is the company that takes out full page ads in the daily newspapers telling us about their dedication to safety and the environment.

What sort of people do they think they're dealing with? Social misfits that don't care about their province? A public that doesn't know bullshit when they see it? Did they really think they could get away with this? 

I close with a warning. 

Enbridge is simply the taxi cab in these arrangements. Already the industry, smarting from the reaction of British Columbians, is looking at other ways and routes to get their gunk to market. Let us remember that railway cars tip over as we have seen right here in B.C. with CN Rail. A railway trip to Prince Rupert -- now being bruited about -- would be along the Skeena River, one of the world's last greatest salmon rivers.

British Columbians must simply say to Enbridge and any other proposed transit of tar sands gunk the international words for "Go Away!"

The only way we can preserve our precious heritage is for the gunk to be transported outside B.C.  

And, that's the truth of the matter.  [Tyee]

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