Editorial: Pipeline posturing doesn’t help

Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline won't go through despite political show

VICTORIA – The B.C. Liberal government is taking its new hard-line approach to federal environmental hearings on the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline proposal in September.

Environment Minister Terry Lake has filed the B.C. government’s notice to cross-examine Enbridge, one of the world’s biggest pipeline operators. Lake outlined the “tough questions” B.C. representatives will ask about spill response capacity on land and sea, tanker escort tugboats, pipe wall thickness, and Enbridge’s sluggish response to a pipeline rupture in Michigan.

That’s all fine, and to be expected after Premier Christy Clark’s high-profile confrontation with Alberta Premier Alison Redford going into the recent premiers’ meeting in Halifax.

Clark’s demands for “world-leading” safety and spill response, as well as meeting the constitutional obligation to consult and accommodate aboriginal groups along the route, are mostly a statement of the obvious. Her call for a “fair share” of proceeds from exported oil to reflect B.C.’s risk has been assaulted from all sides.

Pipeline opponents seized on Clark’s suggestion that a major oil spill might be tolerable if there was enough money in it for B.C. NDP leader Adrian Dix picked up the theme as he conducted his own belated tour of the proposed route to reiterate his opposition.

There had been earlier hints from Alberta that B.C. might need further rewards for the risk. But when Clark made the “fair share” demand public, Redford was moved to channel Margaret Thatcher, declaring: “The Premier of Alberta is not going to blink on royalties.” The lady’s not for blinking, but neither is B.C.’s Iron Snowbird, as Preston Manning dubbed Clark this spring.

All this political theatre doesn’t amount to much. I’ll stand by my January prediction that the Enbridge proposal is unlikely to proceed, mainly due to the tangled state of aboriginal claims. Wealthy U.S. foundations that view the B.C. North Coast as their 500-year eco-experiment will be happy to help fund a decade of legal challenges, while continuing the media-spinning and protest support they are doing now.

Even if some way can be found to levy a B.C. tax on revenues from the Northern Gateway pipeline, it’s no solution. For one thing, it would confer an advantage to the Trans-Mountain pipeline that has been shipping Alberta oil to Burnaby and the U.S. for more than 60 years.

The competing expansion proposal by Trans-Mountain’s current owner, Kinder Morgan, shows the inconsistency of opposition to pipelines. Does anyone really believe that a new pipeline built to the highest standards ever would be too dangerous, while a 60-year-old pipeline is acceptable?

Protesters have an easy target in Kinder Morgan. With a tenfold increase to 25 tankers a month proposed to sail under the Lions Gate bridge, a heavy oil spill from Second Narrows to Stanley Park would be catastrophic to Vancouver’s environment and economy. Tankers have made that trip safely nearly 100 years, but the congested modern shipping lane offers more threat of collision, and clearing Burrard Inlet for near-daily tanker transits would disrupt the rest of B.C.’s shipping trade.

An Angus Reid poll last week showed as many as half of respondents remain open-minded about the costs and benefits of new oil pipelines across B.C. Unlike B.C. politicians, they seem interested in learning more before making up their minds.

Dix and the NDP ran to the front of the anti-pipeline parade early, as they did with the carbon tax and other issues. Clark began the Northern Gateway discussion with a principled position to wait for the result of the federal review, but that’s apparently out the window with an election looming.

Tom Fletcher is legislative reporter and columnist for Black Press and BCLocalnews.com

tfletcher@blackpress.ca

 

 

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The B.C. Supreme Court ruled Feb. 26 that the estate of deceased Sooke man and Hells Angels prospect Michael Widner is to be divided between his wife and his secret spouse. (Black Press Media file photo)
Estate of deceased Hells Angels prospect from Sooke to be divided between wife and secret spouse

Michael Widner’s 2017 death left a number of unanswered questions

Sooke resident Nathan Hanson popped both his driver’s side tires on a pothole near a construction site on Sooke Road. Hanson said he was following a line of traffic and was just before the 17 Mile Pub when he drove over the pothole. (Photo contributed/Nathan Hanson)
Driver blows two tires on pothole near construction site on Sooke Road

Ministry of Transportation says keeping highways in good condition a priority

On Feb. 27, a construction vehicle remained on the site of the former encampment between the Pat Bay Highway and McKenzie Avenue as part a clean-up effort. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
Encampment between Pat Bay Highway, McKenzie Avenue cleared, all residents relocated

Efforts to disband encampment resumed after January fire

E:Ne Raw Food and Sake Bar is closing its doors until further notice after sexual assault allegations against an employee surfaced on social media. (Google Streetview)
Sexual assault allegations temporarily closing a second Victoria restaurant

Social media posts accuse an E:Ne Raw Food and Sake Bar employee of sexual assault

Valerie St. John and Heather Forbes hold up paintings by Sheryl Fisher that were auctioned off at the Bridges for Women Society’s 10th Annual International Women’s Day luncheon. (Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria event raising funds to support women facing violence, trauma

Bridges for Women Society will host its 11th annual International Women’s Day event online this year

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry head for the B.C. legislature press theatre to give a daily update on the COVID-19 pandemic, April 6, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. nears 300,000 COVID-19 vaccinations, essential workers next

564 new cases, four deaths, no new outbreaks Thursday

Free Reformed Church is seen as people attend service, in Chilliwack, B.C., on Sunday, Feb. 21, 2021. Lawyers for the British Columbia government and the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms are back in B.C. Supreme Court today, squaring off over the legality of COVID-19 rules that prohibit in-person religious services. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. top doctor has power to restrict access to a place during health hazard: lawyer

Under B.C.’s Public Health Act, Jacqueline Hughes says, Henry can restrict or prevent entry to a place

A vial of some of the first 500,000 of the two million Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses that Canada has secured through a deal with the Serum Institute of India in partnership with Verity Pharma at a facility in Milton, Ont., on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio - POOL
B.C. dentists and bus drivers want newly-approved Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine

BC Dental Association says dentists and their teams cannot treat patients remotely,

Surrey Pretrial in Newton. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)
B.C. transgender inmate to get human rights hearing after being held in mostly male jail

B.C. Human Rights Tribunal member Amber Prince on March 3 dismissed the pretrial’s application to have Makayla Sandve’s complaint dismissed

President of the BC Teacher’s Federation (BCTF) Teri Mooring is calling for teachers to be vaccinated for COVID-19 by summer. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Why it’s ‘urgent’ B.C. teachers get vaccinated from COVID-19 before summer

President Teri Mooring says not enough is being done to prevent virus transmission in schools

FILE - In this Jan. 18, 2014, file photo, endangered orcas from the J pod swim in Puget Sound west of Seattle, as seen from a federal research vessel that has been tracking the whales. A new study from federal researchers provides the most detailed look yet at what the Pacific Northwest's endangered orcas eat. Scientists with the NOAA Fisheries Northwest Fisheries Science Center spent years collecting fecal samples from the whales as well as scales from the fish they devoured. They say their data reaffirm the central importance of Chinook salmon to the whales. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
Study reinforces importance of Chinook to Pacific Northwest orcas

Data confirms how central the big salmon are to the orca’s diet year-round

Shiromali Krishnaraj arrives from India and receives a mandatory COVID-19 test at Pearson International Airport during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Monday, Feb. 1, 2021. B.C.’s approved rapid tests also use a nasal swab, with a machine to scan for COVID-19 antibodies. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
B.C.’s rapid COVID-19 tests have produced only two positive results

Tests deployed for exposures in schools, outbreaks in care homes, jails

BC Emergency Health Services confirmed that a call was received just before 10 a.m. Ground paramedics, as well as an air ambulance, are on the way to the area. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
UPDATED: 2 people in serious condition after helicopter goes down on Bowen Island

Unclear how many passengers aboard and unclear where the helicopter was going

(Black Press Media file photo)
POLL: How’s your butter?

Recent reports have some Canadians giving a second look to one of… Continue reading

Most Read