EDITORIAL: Pipeline may be the best alternative

Editor of the Northern Sentinel considers if pipelines should be embraced against growth in oil by rail.

I’m starting to think pipeline opposition has had it all wrong right from the start.

As much as I’ve quietly been unsure what the eventual fallout would be from such strong opposition to pipeline development in B.C., the answer is beginning to materialize.

This week I’ve been reading about oil by rail, following a report released by Greenpeace that CN Rail may be looking at delivering oil to Prince Rupert in the same quantity that the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline would deliver to Kitimat.

In this particular case though it’s not Enbridge but Nexen which is involved in the research into oil by rail to Rupert.

But Greenpeace researcher Keith Stewart said in Canadian Press reports that it appears to look like a Plan B in case Northern Gateway doesn’t go through.

This has me thinking to myself if I’d rather my house had a rail line through the backyard or a buried pipeline.

A pipeline wins that question by a long shot.

The stiff opposition to pipelines has now seemingly gotten oil companies looking more at rail than pipeline. Rail is cheaper to develop (since the rails are already there), you don’t need the intensive environmental permitting to ship oil like with pipeline construction, and clearly they can just about match the capacity of other ‘troubling’ pipelines.

Meanwhile, CN Rail has been significantly growing its oil shipments company-wide, based on numbers I received from the company this past March. Not to the west coast yet, though, but they moved 30,000 car loads in 2012, versus just 5,000 in 2011.

They think they can double that in 2013.

So while people have been saying ‘no to oil’, trains have been quietly stepping up their transport this whole time. (Again, not yet through this area.)

Clearly oil will get out of Alberta somehow.

So perhaps the question should never have been “do we want pipelines or not” but rather “how can we do this better, to get better benefit?”

Because I’d argue that the benefits we’d see from a pipeline to Kitimat is greater than we’d see with more trains. Especially if Prince Rupert gets the lions share of that transport.

If the option is going to be pipelines or trains, lets change the narrative on pipelines from ‘no oil’ to ‘responsible transport.’

We absolutely should be holding companies to a high commitment of safety and economic benefit. They can’t have free reign through the wilderness, that’s for sure. Regulations and, most importantly, enforcement is a must.

So lets ask for that, instead of turning our backs to the whole notion of oil pipelines entirely while train whistles blow in the distance.

Cameron Orr